World War I Centennial

Between the United States entering the First World War on April 6, 1917, and the armistice on November 11, 1918, more than 122,000 Wisconsin men and women served.

Museum’s First Story-Based Exhibit

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum marks the centennial of the Great War with the opening of a major new exhibit, “WWI BEYONG THE TRENCHES: Stories from the Front” featuring stories of veterans in their own words. Visitors will hear first-person audio recordings, see photographs, and read letters and journal entries that bring to life the humanity behind the history. This is the first story-based exhibit for the museum.

Hours, Location, Web Address

  • The exhibit debuts Friday, April 21 and runs through April 2019.
  • Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Entrance is free.
  • The museum is located at 30 W. Mifflin St., directly across from the State Capitol.
  • The website is

Featured Profiles

The stories of 20 veterans are included in the exhibit, including these four featured stories:

  • Helen Bulovsky of Madison, an Army nurse serving at an Evacuation Hospital just behind the front lines.
  • John Isermann of Kenosha, who joined the Coast Guard on the eve of the war and was shifted to the Navy to rescue ships in waters where German submarines posed a constant threat.
  • Arthur Cantwell of Shawano, an 18-year-old fresh out of high school whose first brush with death came when his troopship sank on the way to England.

Mortimer Lawrence of Beaver Dam, an aerial observer who earned an unlikely place in the footnotes of American military history for the last US aerial victory of the war.

Audio Recordings

Drawing from the museum’s extensive oral history collection, visitors will be able to hear the words of four veterans:

  • Scott Cairy, born in Iowa in 1889, helped form a National Guard unit from Platteville where he lived and worked at the time. His unit was organized into the 32nd During one battle he was knocked unconscious by artillery shell and spent eight months in a hospital. He lived the rest of his life in Platteville. In this recording, Cairy explains how he narrowly missed being aboard the Tuscania during her fateful voyage in February 1918 and how he learned of the ship’s sinking.
  • John Pavlik, born in Michigan in 1901, enlisted in Milwaukee on April 3rd, 1917, at the age of 16. He served in the 125th Ambulance Company attached to the 32nd Infantry Division. After his discharge he worked for the Milwaukee Fire Department. In this recording, Pavlik describes the extreme happiness in felt coming home and the appreciation the soldiers received from the homefront.

Be Certain Not to Miss

The addition of oral histories to this exhibit

About the Wisconsin Veterans Museum

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum dates to 1901 when it was established as the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall in the Wisconsin Capitol. It is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs to commemorate, acknowledge, and affirm the role of Wisconsin citizens in American military history, past and present. It is also a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate which gives it access to the Smithsonian’s unparalleled collections and scholarship.

Within the museum’s 10,000 square feet of exhibit space are dioramas consisting of life-size figures and painted murals that realistically and vividly portray events in which Wisconsin veterans participated. There are even aircraft suspended from the ceiling, a functional submarine periscope poking through the roof providing a view of downtown Madison and the State Capitol, a tank, and more.

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum’s Oral History Collection contains more than  2,000 interviews chronicling personal stories and military experiences of Wisconsin-connected veterans from the Spanish-American War  to present day. Its Object Collection consists of more than 26,000 objects collected by Wisconsin citizens over the past 150 years, from flags carried in battle by Wisconsin’s Civil War regiments to equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both collections vividly illustrate the state’s role in shaping global history.

The museum also offers educational programs and operates a research center where archival collections can be accessed.

Each year museum staff members educate more than 30,000 schoolchildren and welcome some 100,000 visitors.

For more on the Museum’s main gallery exhibits, collections and events, log on to

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