The "Honoring Our History Tour" is coming to the Fort Douglas Military Museum in Salt Lake City on Saturday. The traveling museum explores the huge scope and individual realities of World War I.
My grandfather, James Thomas Wright, was a World War I draftee -- that's why I was interested enough in the tractor-trailer full of exhibits to step inside.
I was in California last month for my aunt's 100th birthday party, when the "Honoring Our History Tour" was set up in the parking lot of my hotel, The Queen Mary.
The artwork on outside of the rig was well-designed, with a line of soldiers in the foreground, and an aged flag behind. There is a large awning in front of the trailer when it's parked, where visitors can see a short video. The tour is sponsored by Waddell & Reed, but no one degraded the museum experience by asking me if I wanted to know more about the business. There are, however, opportunities to donate money, with funds split between the World War I museum in Kansas City, and the hosting museum.
The inside of the trailer was well-designed, and I was impressed with the quality look of the exhibits.
My biggest tip for visiting the exhibit is to give yourself plenty of time.
Because I was in California for other reasons, and didn't know in advance about the exhibit, I didn't have enough time to truly explore it -- and it does take time because there's a lot to see. A few people stood in front of some exhibits for so long that I finally had to move on without a close-up look or reading the accompanying text.
You also need to allow time to stand in line, because not many people can fit in a trailer at a time. During my visit, there was no line waiting to get in, but I assume that depends on the interest of locals and time of day.
My other tip is that if you're claustrophobic, this may not be the venue for you. Although I do think the designers did a marvelous job of fitting exhibits into the space without making it cramped, it is in a trailer and therefore not as open as a regular museum.
On the other hand, the close quarters may add to your experience in the trench room. In addition to talking about trench warfare, the traveling museum has a section built to look like the high walls of a trench, with wooden frames. The close walls of the trailer, I felt, gave a better feel for the soldiers' experience than a wall in an open museum would have.
My family lucked out. My grandfather was often told he was about to be shipped overseas to fight, but in the end was sent to the East Coast where he served as an M.P. But reading his letters home has made World War I more real to me, and opened my eyes to how it affected individuals and families.
The "Honoring Our History Tour" added to that with a glimpse into the global impact of the conflict.