As Kansas City's Liberty Memorial has gained acclaim with its World War I museum, the flow of donated artifacts has also greatly increased.
But officials are reeling from the immensity of a recent gift from the widow of a lifelong collector. A semi-trailer truck was needed to haul in the roughly 1,700 items, most of them related to the ferocious machine guns of that era.
"It was like getting a whole other museum," said Eli Paul, vice president of museum programs at Liberty Memorial.
It will take months, if not years, to fully absorb the material.
Just recently, archivist Jonathan Casey was astounded to open a German souvenir/reference album of color prints from shortly after the war with topographical views of the battlefields of the Western Front. Each has a rice-paper overlay showing the positions of various villages and fighting units. It is beautifully and meticulously assembled. And the Germans lost.
"Where also are you going to find this book?" Casey asked. "They're going to have one copy, maybe, in Germany."
Then there are the film negatives from a camera that was attached to an airplane-mounted "machine gun" and used by aviators for training purposes in mock dogfights. Liberty Memorial officials simply haven't had time yet to look at the images.
You might suppose it takes something special to get these history wonks excited. After all, a couple of years ago they acquired an actual World War I tank.
But they are greatly impressed by the collection amassed over the years by the late Carl H. Hauber, whose father served in the Great War.
"He collected like a curator," Paul said. "He was collecting the world of the machine gun. Not just the object but the context."
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