Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Exhibiting World War II at Central

We’ve been really pleased with the new exhibition developed by our Museum Studies graduating senior Kevin Sodano '12, No Place Untouched by War: The Second World War and Central Washington College of Education,” now on view on Barge Hall’s fourth floor.  The show concentrates on the the 314th Army Air Forces College Training Detachment, stationed at CWCE (the forerunner of Central Washington University) from March 1943 until June 1944.  The show ingeniously develops themes from Kevin’s senior thesis on the training detachment, written under History professor Dan Herman.   The show explores, among other things, isolationism on campus before Pearl Harbor, the early efforts by CWCE President McConnell to bring the training program to campus, and the everyday wartime experiences of cadets on campus (including Kadet-Koed dances!) In addition to thoughtful text incorporating Kevin’s original research and images unearthed in the university archives, the installation includes a period-appropriate Army jacket, a folded 48 star American flag, and several fascinating original letters written by wartime cadets, discovered some years ago by historian Ken Munsell in a crawlspace in Kamola Hall, the residence hall that housed the cadets.  Our hat is off to Kevin for all his hard work, and to the students who helped out with installation in Barge, under the able supervision of my colleague Hope Amason.

Exhibition opening (6/8/12)

We had a delightful opening event for the exhibition on Friday, June 8, the day before Commencement. Kevin was asked to address the Board of Trustees at their final meeting of the academic year; he was joined by WWII veteran combat pilot Jerry Mason, a lifelong resident of Kittitas County, who flew 243 missions in the Pacific in P-38s.  Mr. Mason’s brother in law was a cadet in the 314th program, and he is himself the grandfather of Todd Mason, the president of CWU’s alumni association. ( In the picture to the right, Board of Trustees chair Sid Morrison converses with me and MCE board chair Kathleen Barlow.)

Barge turns out to be a very appropriate setting for the show; its slightly faded walls and wooden features rather nicely evoke a bygone era. A final panel appropriately directs visitors to the striking Roll of Honor on the building’s first floor honoring faculty and students who served in WWII. The roll features a striking wooden relief sculpture, depicting images of the Homefront and all that for which those from Central fought, including wisdom and common humanity. It is a fascinating assemblage, and we hope at some point that it will be properly restored, with some accompanying interpretive signage.  Perhaps a future project for a Museum Studies intern?


  1. The exhibit is a wonderful addition to Barge. Kudos to Kevin, et al., for the thoughtful and well-designed display. It would be great if this exhibit could be available to various Kittitas County institutions so more people could see it. It would certainly be a hit at the Kittitas County Fair!

  2. I must really thank Kevin for teaching us all so much about the brave men and women who served in our community. Also, I am so pleased to know about the Honor Roll on the first floor of Barge; the wood carving is breathtaking. A definite must-see on the CWU campus. Restoration would be so wonderful.