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The Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University has received a $15,000 Michigan Humanities Council grant for a multi-faceted commemoration titled “World War I Remembered.” It will consist of dozens of public programs and exhibitions connected to the history of WWI and Upper Peninsula communities.
A half dozen communities will lead cemetery tours in each town featuring the stories of WWI soldiers who either passed away in the conflict or had a specific contribution to the war. There will also be interpretive exhibits at museums throughout Marquette County, concerts, dances, symposiums, art exhibitions, tours of historic sites, memorial services and film series. A re-created trench will serve as an interpretive program for children to learn about the nature of battle conditions for the soldiers.
The grant will fund the following: two major exhibitions at the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center and the Marquette Regional History Center; promotional materials for the commemoration; and specific events such as a dance featuring WWI music at the Peter White Public Library and bus tours of cemeteries around Marquette County.
In December, the Beaumier Center will roll out a new website with information about all of the events and exhibitions featured as part of the commemoration. It can be found at worldwarIremembered.nmu.edu.
The Beaumier Center's exhibit, “Soldier Stories: the U.P. in WWI,” will be on display Feb. 1-June 15. The center s working with historical societies and families in the Upper Peninsula to collect the stories of individual soldiers, including their personal histories and experiences in the conflict. One part of the exhibit will focus on the formation of the American Legion and the individual posts that were established in the Upper Peninsula. Most were named after a soldier from the community who was lost or gained distinction in the conflict.
The exhibit will also feature U.P. soldiers who served in the Northern Russia Expeditionary Force during the conflict. This little known and poorly understood part of WWI impacted several dozen soldiers from the U.P. In 1918, as a response to a cease fire between Germany and Russia, there was an alliance of British, French, Canadian and U.S. troops who were sent to Northern Russia and Siberia to fight against the newly formed Bolshevik government troops. Nearly 100 men from the U.P. served in the “Polar Bears,” the nickname for these units. Some were highly decorated and some gave the ultimate sacrifice.
The exhibit, World War I Remembered: How Marquette County Served, will run from Jan. 16-June 10 at the Marquette Regional History Center (MRHC). The exhibit will examine why the Great War was the most significant event of the 20th century and how it continues to shape our world a century later. Visitors will learn of the events leading up to the war, the legacy left in its wake and the impact of the 32nd Division, whom the French named Les Terribles. They will read first-hand accounts of soldiers and sailors from Marquette County and discover the role of the local Red Cross and life on the homefront during the war.
Military historian John Moshetti will present “The Great War” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, at the MRHC. The outcomes of The Great War set the stage for the rise of the communist and fascist dictators, World War II, The Cold War and the current chaos in the Middle East and Balkans. It also had a major impact on the members of this community as it was the first time large numbers of young men would leave this area to take part in a war.