PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (WRBL) — Every few months, the Chipley Historical Center opens a new exhibit. Their most recent exhibit is a collection of items from World War I (WWI), with a local twist.
All of the items in the exhibit were donated by locals or already part of the museum’s permanent collection. Some were donated by Charles Koone, a military artifact collector. According to museum Cindy Bowden, the most important thing she wants visitors t to take away from the exhibit is the impact of WWI on Harris County.
“These people were very young,” said Bowden, noting few of them had ever left the state before deploying, much less traveled to Europe. She continued, “They were drafted … And, you know, they came back, they came back as different people from what they had been exposed to.”
The exhibit includes a variety of items once used by Dr. Ellis Williams, a Harris County-native who served in the war and continued to offer medical services upon returning.
There are also WWI-era bayonets, some shiny and other dull. Bowden explained the difference in appearance is not so much the age of the items but a strategic decision made by Americans who realized glints from the shiny blades gave away their position to enemy forces.
In a case on the side of the room, German and U.S. helmets sit on shelves next to WWI Army service uniforms. Another display holds hardtack boxes once used by American soldiers.
According to Bowden, over the course of the war, the Army switched from paper to metal cases for food items in order to prevent contamination from mustard gas which could seep through the paper. Both types of containers are in the museum’s exhibit.
On the ceiling, models of WWI-era German and American planes hang from the ceiling. At the time of WWI, flight was still-relatively new, Bowden noted.
“Keep in mind that airplanes had only been around for 11 years,” she said, referring to the inaugural flight of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s plane in 1903.
An archival photo in the exhibit shows a WWI pilot behind the barrel of his plane’s machine gun. Bowden explained, different from modern configurations, WII-era pilots were in charge of flying their planes and discharging ammunition.
Since it opened in September, the exhibit has about 100 visitors. Bowden encouraged community members to make a trip to the museum, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Saturday. The WII exhibit will be open until March next year.
Bowden emphasized it is not just modern current events which have shaped peoples’ lives. She referred to the lasting impact of WWI on the Harris County community and said, “There are things in the past that made us who we are today.”