Sponsorship sends KC's World War I Museum on the road

The Kansas City Star

SponsershipsendKCWWI.jpgPhoto Courtesy of National World War I Museum

The Liberty Memorial will receive a priceless windfall of national publicity at just the right time with the approach of the centennial of World War I.

Waddell & Reed Financial Inc., the locally based financial services company, will mark its 75th anniversary by sponsoring a free, traveling version of the National World War I Museum.

A specially outfitted 18-wheel semitruck that expands into a mini version of the museum will hit the road after Memorial Day and visit at least 75 cities from coast to coast over the course of a year.

At each stop visitors will be introduced to the Kansas City museum -- which, under legislation pending in Congress, would be home base for the Great War centennial observances in 2014-18.

"It is immeasurable," Liberty Memorial President and CEO Brian Alexander said Tuesday of the gift from Waddell & Reed. "This is an important step in making this institution nationally known."

Waddell & Reed Executive Vice President Thomas W. Butch said the value of the traveling museum to the memorial would easily surpass $5 million, if it could be measured. But there is no sure way to calculate the value of the exposure and local press coverage, as well as the traveling billboard as the truck moves across the country.

Waddell & Reed will also use the opportunity to promote itself and meet with clients while partnering with local museums and schools across the country.

Chauncey Waddell and Cameron Reed, who founded the company in 1937, both served in World War I, and some of their possessions will be on display in the traveling exhibit.

"The confluence of our 75th anniversary and the approach of the centennial of World War I tied the two together nicely," said Butch, who is a member of the board of the Liberty Memorial Association, the private nonprofit organization that operates the memorial and the museum.

The traveling museum is being fabricated by a local company, Unchained Creative. The two sides of the truck will open, and a 20-foot canopy will shield visitors from the elements.

Inside, there will be videos and more than 60 artifacts from the museum's collection, including a machine gun and uniforms. There will even be a "trench" for visitors to pass through.

The Liberty Memorial and the local museums will share in money raised through various events. A similar tour for Waddell & Reed's 70th anniversary that promoted the United Service Organizations raised more than $400,000 for that group.

The traveling museum will be available for free tours during the Celebration at the Station in front of Union Station on May 29. The next day, Memorial Day, it will be at the Liberty Memorial.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-7745 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.