The Missouri Humanities Council (MHC), the state partner of the NEH, supports humanities programming throughout the state. In 2021, a grant from MHC helped the Cass County Historical Society develop an exhibition that highlighted the organization’s collection of historical military uniforms. The exhibition was extremely successful in illuminating a range of military experiences and helped the historical society develop closer ties with the community.
The military uniforms had been in the historical society’s collection for some time but had never been featured in an exhibition because of a lack of space. Grant funding from MHC allowed the society to purchase two museum-quality display mannequins, one male and one female, that would be used to display the uniforms. The exhibition was on display for over a year, with organizers periodically switching out the uniforms to ensure that the entire collection was featured. Each uniform was accompanied by its wearer’s biography, as well as glass display cases featuring information and artifacts from the war in which they served. For Jennifer Reed, executive director of the historical society, the exhibition “fully showcased what Cass Countians have sacrificed in war,” and spurred discussions about what patriotism is and what it means.
The exhibition helped deepen connections between the historical society and the community. Several visitors enjoyed the display so much that they donated loved ones’ uniforms and military memorabilia—in fact, the last two uniforms featured in the display were such donations. The exhibition was also the subject of an article in the local newspaper, raising the profile of the historical society and helping publicize its work.