UVa-Wise student Dakota Mullins wanted to remind people that soldiers from Southwest Virginia made a difference in World War I, so he focused on that topic when he worked with the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park to create an exhibit.
The exhibit, “Valiant Virginians: Servicemen in World War I,” focuses on area soldiers in the Great War. The display, in the Special Collections section of the UVa-Wise library, includes original objects on loan from the museum.
“I decided to focus on World War I as it is a topic in American history that is often just passed by with only a few mentions when in fact it was so much more,” Mullins said. “I just wanted to see if I could spark an interest in individuals about the topic, as well as commemorate the centennial of the United States involvement in the war during 1917 and it’s end in 1918.”
Mullins decided to explore the war through the artifacts of soldiers that were from Southwest Virginia. He found plenty at the museum. He was fascinated by what he learned about a Southwest Virginia native’s role in the war.
“One of the soldiers I covered in the exhibit, Rhea Mullins, was an airplane mechanic for the military when airplanes were still somewhat a new invention and a new form of warfare,” Mullins said. “The fact that he was able to perform such a duty in a war that is known for its first use of aerial combat is amazing to me. Overall this exhibit helps me understand that individuals from this area are able to make a lasting impact.”
UVa-Wise history professor Jen Murray echoed her student’s thoughts.
“The Valiant Virginians exhibit offers an opportunity to explore the contributions of men from southwestern Virginia to the Great War,” she said. “Unfortunately, while the Great War is too often overshadowed in American history, Dakota’s exhibit reminds us that World War I reached many parts of the globe, including our region in southwestern Virginia. “
Murray said Mullins was well suited to design the exhibit.
“He is a distinguished History major with a public history concentration, and his excitement for history is contagious,” she said. “Through his efforts we all have a chance to view the impact of World War I on these ‘Valiant Virginians.’”
The exhibit will be open for viewing each Friday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. through July 31 in the Special Collections room in the library. It is free and open to the public.