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Four Questions for Douglas Mudd

"A greater appreciation for how WWI has shaped our world"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

There is a fascinating & unique new WWI exhibit that opens on May 18th at the Edward C. Rochette Money Museum in Colorado Springs. This show focuses on coinage, money, and medals of the World War I period. The exhibit title is "Trenches To Treaties; World War I in Remembrance" It will run from May 18, 2017 thru November, 2018 at the American Numismatic Association's Edward C. Rochette Money Museum located at 818 N. Cascade Ave, Colorado Springs, CO . Exhibit is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10:30am to 5pm. We had a chance to speak briefly with Douglas Mudd, who is the Curator / Museum Director.
You have a great new WWI-themed exhibit coming up. Tell us about it. How did it come about?

doug1Douglas MuddYes, we do have a great exhibit coming up! We starting planning for it about two years ago to commemorate the upcoming centennial of the U.S. entry into the war. Rod Gillis and I had been talking about World War I ever since he began work on the commemorative coin project - I believe 4 years ago. I personally have been interested in World War I since I was about 10 years old. I was fascinated by the airplanes and the aces who flew them and started scratch-building them with cardboard and toothpicks. Since then, I have studied the war avidly, so having the opportunity to do an exhibit on the topic was a natural.

My approach to exhibits at the Money Museum is to use history as the starting point - most people have some familiarity with history, but relatively few know much about money or medals. We can teach people of all ages more about money by showing them how money and medals are history in your hands - if you know how to interpret the words and images on them.

What will we see? What is the scope of the exhibit - it is money only, or will it include military medals/memorial plaques as well?
Money ExhibitTrenches To Treaties will present an outline of the history of World War I illustrated using money and medals to cover a number of themes ranging from financial to propaganda, art and commemoration. Some of the topics covered within these themes are the personal side of war, the story of the Lusitania, satirical medals, the Red Cross and so on. A favorite case is on Trench Art - coins and debris of war converted into souvenirs and mementos by and for soldiers. They range from love tokens to memorials of individuals to utilitarian items such as match box covers or utensils made from bullets. - another case features postcards and personal items from several individuals - emphasizing that war is intensely personal for those involved in it - not just a series of sanitized impersonal political and military events as presented in most history books, a point that I believe is especially important to make about World War I since the passing of the last of the veterans. Highlights of the exhibit will be a life-size recreation of a trench along with many stories and interesting facts about the war.
Great topic for research. What did you learn from the process of putting this exhibit together? What images /artwork/ stories stuck with you?

In the course of my research I was intrigued to learn more about the world before WWI - and its relevance to us today because of the parallels to our own modern world. I have been convinced for many years that the "War to End All Wars" involved a loss of civilization that we haven't yet recovered from (in particular the general acceptance of total war with its attendant callousness towards civilian casualties, etc.) My more recent research has made me more aware of just how "modern" the world was in 1914 - the first age of globalization (modern terminology) was at its peak - communication, travel (including emigration - especially from Central and Eastern Europe to the Americas) and financial exchanges were faster and cheaper than ever before through telegraph, steamship and increased international trade. World literacy, health and prosperity were at an all-time high. World War I and tits aftermath would change all that - economic stability and world prosperity levels would take decades to recover, repressive governments set new standards for oppression and levels of world trade as a percentage of world GNP would only reach pre-war levels in the late 1990s...Ana Money Museum 71898The Edward C. Rochette Money Museum in Colorado Springs.

At the same time, there were flies in the ointment - anarchists were attacking governments worldwide - assassinating officials across Europe and in the United States, labor unrest was on the rise resulting in violence and the Balkans were a constant source of political friction - described by some as a powder keg waiting for the right spark to ignite a general European war. Meanwhile, many scholars and intellectuals believed that such war involving the major powers was impossible - the modern world was too civilized and too closely connected socially and economically to allow for a war to last more than a few weeks - the cost alone would be too much to bear...familiar refrains today - just replace the Balkans with the Middle East, Anarchists with Islamist terrorists and so on...

What do you hope your audiences will take from experiencing this exhibit, and seeing these coinage artworks from WWI? Why are the coins & medals from this period important?

In the end, I hope people will take away a greater appreciation for how WWI has shaped our world, a fascination for money and medals based on the stories that they can tell and how harrowing modern war can be while still appreciating the sacrifice and suffering of the individuals who had to live through it.

 

Noriko

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