Online exhibit features posters from Museum Center collections
May 15, 2014
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CINCINNATI - Cincinnati Museum Center debuted a new online exhibit featuring World War I propaganda posters on May 12. The exhibit, World War I Propaganda Posters: Art That Shaped History, includes digital images of fifteen posters drawn from the Cincinnati History Library and Archives at Cincinnati Museum Center. Propaganda posters were used as a means of communication during World War I on a mass scale never seen before. The exhibit is accessible online.
In an age before commercial radio and television, posters served as an important method of communicating with and influencing a mass audience. Entering World War I after nations in Europe had already been fighting for three years, the United States needed to mobilize men and resources in a short period of time. Just as countries in Europe on both sides of the conflict utilized posters to manipulate public opinion, the United States took similar steps.
"Posters were used extensively by both sides during the war to encourage enlistment and promote support for the war effort," says Scott Gampfer, director of the History Library and Archives at Cincinnati Museum Center. "They were also used to galvanize public opinion by depicting the enemy as brutal, sadistic and inhumane while also emphasizing the strength and morality of one's own side."
Some posters in the exhibit depict American soldiers in heroic poses and scenes to encourage men to enlist or others to buy liberty bonds. Other posters depict the menacing threat of "The Hun" to American soldiers or U.S. soil. Use of the term "Hun" conjured up the centuries-old idea of Huns as invading barbarians. There are also posters that show the many and changing roles of women during the war, including women tending to families and working in factories at home and also women overseas as military switchboard operators and nurses on the frontlines.
"It's fascinating to look at these posters and see how social roles were changing in this time of crisis," says Gampfer. "These posters give us a less a sense of what's happening on the front lines and more of what is going on at home during this period, which is a critical piece of history."
During the war, the U.S. Office of Public Information had a Division of Pictorial Publicity that brought together a group of talented artists and illustrators to design approximately 3,000 different posters over the course of the war. World War I Propaganda Posters features fifteen digital images of posters from Cincinnati Museum Center's collection of over 300 World War I posters. Many of the posters were produced by local lithograph companies including Cohen & Company and the Strobridge Lithographing Company. The posters in Museum Center's collections were acquired through donation and include examples produced in France, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Canada and the United States.
To visit World War I Propaganda Posters: Art That Shaped History online, visit www.cincymuseum.org/exhibits/world-war-I-propaganda-posters.
World War I Propaganda Posters: Art That Shaped History is presented as part of "Cincinnati Remembers World War I," a citywide series of events commemorating the centenary of the First World War and anticipating Cincinnati Opera's production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night in July 2014. For more information, please visit www.cincinnatiopera.org/WWI.
About Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution as well as national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight and inspiration, Museum Center was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Our Union Terminal has been voted the nation's 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within Cincinnati Museum Center include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, the Museum of Natural History & Science, the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater and the Cincinnati Historical Society Library. Recognized in Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, Cincinnati Museum Center welcomes one million plus visitors annually. Cincinnati Museum Center gratefully acknowledges operating and capital support from the taxpayers of Hamilton County and the State of Ohio. For more information, visit www.cincymuseum.org.