DAYTON — The Dayton Art Institute is looking back at two world wars with a pair of special exhibits that take a different perspective. “Call to Duty: World War Posters” and “Tears of Stone: World War I Remembered, Photographs by Jane Alden Stevens,” are on display through Oct. 4
“Call to Duty” features more than 80 original posters from World War I and World War II, including pleas for enlistment as well as the efforts to be made by men, women and even children back on the home front.
“The exhibition demonstrates how all Americans, including children, played active roles during the war. Every citizen was a soldier, whose collective efforts were advertised as patriotic and would lead to victory for the soldiers overseas. With a focus on the efforts at home rather than the efforts and struggles overseas, this exhibition has a strong narrative, yet does not overtly reference many of the tragic realities that occurred during the wars, but focuses rather on the creative spirit of those involved, both on the home front as well as the front lines.”
Those posters were to be seen everywhere during the wars, prominently displayed in post officers, train stations, bus stations, businesses and public spaces. They covered such topics as recruitment, of course, but also war support efforts, such as buying war bonds, rationing programs, food conservation, growing gardens, recycling, women in the workplace, the importance of taking care in casual conversations to protect information about troop movements, and campaigns by such organizations as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, Red Cross and Salvation Army.
The theme of women in the war effort is strong in the exhibition. Housewives were called upon to be responsible for food rationing at home, for growing gardens to feed their families and buy less at the market so that food could be diverted to troops. There are posters recruiting young women to enlist for training as nurses to help the troops and be educated for a career after the war. There were posters encouraging the women at home to volunteer their sewing skills for mending of troop clothing, and making hats, scarves, blankets and more to be used both by soldiers serving overseas and children at home.
Many of the posters represented some of the earliest conservation and recycling efforts that are ubiquitous today but were practically unheard of at the time. The appeals were simple: the less you use here, the more can be sent there; the tin cans from your kitchen can become the bullets they use to stop the enemy.
Although there were many posters appealing to fear, more of them featured themes of hope, support and patriotic duty.
The Dayton Art Institute also partnered with the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force to borrow objects to supplement the exhibition, including World War I squadron insignias, trench art made by POWs during World War II, an infantry helmet worn by the Wright Brothers’ nephew during World War I and other items. In addition, uniform items from the Dayton Chapter of the American Red Cross, and other original items such as signed photographs of five-star general and war bond books with local connections are included.
The “Tears of Stone” exhibit features the photographs of Jane Alden Stevens, remembering the First World War not through photographs of battle or devastation but with photos of the monuments, memorials, battlegrounds and cemeteries commemorating the wars and serving as the final resting places of those who made the ultimate sacrifice — on both sides of the fighting.
“With the Dayton area’s longstanding connection to the armed forces, these two exhibitions are sure to resonate with young and old alike, throughout our community,” said DAI Director and CEO Michael R. Roediger. “I’m especially pleased that we are able to partner with the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the Red Cross and others to help further connect ‘Call to Duty’ with the region’s contributions to these 20th-century war efforts.”
Admission to the two special exhibits is free for museum members; $14 for adults; $11 for seniors 60 and older, students 18 and older with student ID, active military, and groups of 10 or more; $6 for youth age 7-17; and free for children 6 and younger. Prices include both special exhibitions and the museum’s permanent collection. Tickets are available by phone at 937-223-4278 or online at www.daytonartinstitute.org, as well as at the door.
Reach the writer at 937-569-4354 or on Twitter @RachelLloydGDA.