By Sarah Davis
Thanks to a grant from the Missouri Humanities Council, the Cass County Historical Society will unveil a new exhibit featuring military uniforms beginning March 1.
The society was the recipient of a $2,500 grant from the Missouri Humanities Council for “Uniforms in Conflict,” an exhibit that will feature a different set for uniforms each month for the remainder of the year.
Jennifer Reed, the society’s executive director, said Cass County’s history deals extensively with the Civil War, so it might be assumed the display would focus primarily on that era, but while it is included, the display is more diverse with and includes exhibits up until Operation Desert Storm which started near the end of the 1990s.
Reed said, “We cover quite a few decades. It is fascinating to see just how things have changed over the years. The two display pieces we have up now are from World War II and they were just very small back then. Their uniforms are also very durable, which is surprising, considering they wore these quite a lot. People are not the same now as they were back then.”
She notes it is important to remember this display is living history. Although most of the donations come from military members who have died, there is still a personal connection to be made while observing this exhibit.
Reed said, “We hope they (community patrons) take the personal story away from this. Maybe they don’t know anybody personally that did serve, but maybe they are related to someone who did and they can kind of see that connection with their ancestors through these kinds of displays.”
The exhibit will remain at the historical society for the remainder of the year. Everything in the collection comes from the historical society and the grants from the humanities council and Freedom Frontier National Heritage Area. Reed also said that MHC is what helped the Cass County Historical Society stay afloat during the Coronavirus pandemic.
It is always important to recognize history for what it is, Reed added.
“One of the problems of not recognizing history is that we don’t learn from what people did in the past, whether it was good things that we can build on, or bad things that we don’t want to do again,” Reed said. “Some of the uniforms we have and the conflicts they represent are not always going to paint the U.S. Military in the best light. But not recognizing where mistakes were made and where they can be fixed is, in my opinion, a weakness that historians need to avoid.
“If we only pay attention to the bright and shiny moments, we are only setting ourselves up to repeat bad moments again. While we will tell the story how they need to be told, we will be fair and open about them. We don’t intend to overlook any of the difficult points in history that might come along with it.”
The uniform exhibit will be available for self-guided tours at the Cass County Information Center, 400 E. Mechanic St., Harrisonville.
The display features uniforms donated by Freedom Frontier, VFW Post 4409, the Cass County VFW Auxiliary and Judy L. McDaniel.