A new Armistice Day memorial exhibit comes to the Lucretia Vaile Museum in Palmer Lake in time for the 100thAnniversary of Armistice Day and the Treaty of Versailles. The exhibit is devoted to World War I and the treaty that ended the war, signed on June 28, 1919.
Roger Davis, Museum Director, has been involved with the museum and historical society for 20 years. His grandmother, Marian McDonough, was an area history writer and “author of history-related books for juveniles” who started the Palmer Lake Historical Society. He lives in the house in Palmer Lake he inherited from her, which was built in 1897.
Davis had an interest in the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day in France, which led to efforts to establish the new exhibit.
The anniversary of the cessation of hostilities between the Allies and Germany during World War I took effect the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” of 1918 and has been observed since 1954 as Veterans Day in the U.S. The Treaty of Versailles was signed seven months later.
The new exhibit seeks to tell a story “rather than just facts,” Davis said.
The exhibit showcases “artwork, postcards, posters, magazines and more circa 1918.” Visitors are promised photographs and a Doughboy uniform, as well as a live recording, “The Minute the Fighting Ceased,” made during the “War to End all Wars.”
The storyline, Davis said, starts off with asking the question, “Why did we get into the war — the justification used — for getting into WWI.” There is an article written answering that question and available as a handout.
Accompanying written materials offer additional personal and political information, including that 9 million combatants, 7 million civilians and 8 million horses, burros and donkeys were killed in the Great War. 2nd Lt. Rogers M. McDonough is featured, on his way to France in early 1918. Sgt. Allan Mark is featured with his uniform, gas mask, helmet and many other possessions and documents.
Davis shared some of what it took to originally put together and professionally display items for what he terms “the best kept museum secret in the area.”
“We didn’t know anything about museums, zero — but we were smart enough to know we didn’t know,” Davis said.
He and others partnered with the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum “to learn and get suggestions.” The group worked with Leah Davis Witherow, curator of history as a mentor. Otherwise, “by acquiring a library of manuals and how-tos we taught ourselves.”
The museum has been evaluated by a program that examines museums and received high marks, Davis said.
The Vaile Museum is currently open on Saturdays and Wednesdays for limited hours, with other tour times available by appointment.
The historical society does not have paid staff and are therefore limited by the number of volunteers that can perform museum docent duties. At this time there are not enough to expand regular hours to a full day or open up on another day.
However, Davis said, “We’re a full-service historical society. The museum is part of the historical society.” The group holds once a month programs, publishes various materials and maintains archives for upper El Paso County history.
The exhibit and museum admission are free and open to all. A ramp offers accessibility. The museum shares a building with the Pikes Peak Library district Palmer Lake branch.
Lucretia Vaile “loved the mountains and she loved reading,” according to an article by Cathleen Norman at chautauqua.palmerdividehistory.org.
Vaile helped found the Colorado Mountain Club in 1912 and was also a “life-long librarian” who spent many summers and several retirement years in Palmer Lake. Her bequest in her will to the town “for cultural purposes” provided part of the funds needed to establish the current Lucretia Vaile Library and Museum that opened in 1983 across from the town hall.