The Great Exhibit: WWI on display in Watzek

Next to the exhibit stand (from left to right) Nicholas Read ’16, Emma Hoch-Schneider ’16, and Sen Eccles-Irwin ’16. (Photo by Maggie Coit)

100 years later, Watzek puts on display of historical artifacts researched by LC students in rememberance

By LESLIE MUIR

IT’S WARTIME, and the entire football team has enlisted. Seventy-six percent of the student body won’t be returning to classes next year, and Morgan S. Odell is already on the front line in Italy driving soldiers (just like your future self) to safety in an ambulance. This would have been your reality in 1917 if you attended Lewis & Clark College, then known as Albany College, during the First World War. To step back into this era of uncertainty, drama and carnage that prevailed across the globe all the way into our own college community, one needn’t look farther than the library.

Currently on display in Watzek is the exhibit ‘The Great War 100 Years Later: The College, the Country, and the World.’ This walk-through interactive display was researched, written and designed by Professor David Campion, Chair of the History Department . He was assisted by students Sten Eccles-Irwin ’16, Emma Hoch-Schneider ’16, and Nicolas Read ’16, as well as college archivist, Zachariah Selley. The artifacts, documents, placards and collection of Morgan Odell’s personal letters were brought together and annotated as a student research project helmed by Dr. Campion through the History Department as a way to commemorate the centenary of the war.

The emphasis of the exhibit is not just on the war itself, but on the enlistment of the college’s first president, Morgan S. Odell, and on then enrolled student’s involvement in war efforts. Albany College had a huge number of students enlist who reportedly suffered no loss of life throughout the conflict. At the time of The Great War, Odell would have been the same age as the students enlisting from the college, and his letters and diary on display show the mind of a young man doing his best to chronicle an immense historical undertaking.

“There were great moments of history that he captured. One of them is when he passed through the straits of Gallipoli which is one of the biggest battles and he wrote about how disastrous the attack was,” Eccles-Irwin said of the letters Odell wrote while overseas.

Preparing for this exhibit, the student researchers read through hundreds of Odell’s records to piece together his experiences during the war. “[This work] really showed me what it meant to do research and definitely made me like history more” said Hoch-Schneider about the time spent reading.

Bringing Odell’s letters into a larger historical context for the college and the world at large during World War I was the biggest help Professor Campion gave to the student researchers. “It wasn’t working under him, it was more working with him,” stated Read.

Good group dynamics were crucial in undertaking such a large project. “It was so cool working alongside Sten and Nicolas, and of course Professor Campion is so studious and such a badass,” quipped Hoch-Schneider.

Walking through the exhibit, one is immersed into an academic exploration of the impact World War I had on the college’s first president and the local and global community. Reading the placards and examining the objects on display reconstructs what the reality of life was like for LC/Albany students not too long ago. “One hundred years ago the war was going on right now and it’s really important to recognize that and commemorate that experience,” Eccles-Irwin pointed out when asked about the significance of this exhibit to the current LC community.

Other student researchers had similar sentiments. “Through the research that we’ve done, we realized how big of an impact World War I had on Albany College,” said Hoch-Schneider.

The Great War 100 Years Later, will be on display at Watzek Library until July of 2016, leaving plenty of time to walk through and explore the tumultuous world that fellow students, future leaders and the entire world found themselves immersed in just a century ago.

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