A sizable collection of World War I posters are currently available for observation at the Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives, located on the fifth floor of The Valley Library.
The collection is stored away in archives for safekeeping, but anyone interested in seeing the posters can request to do so at the front desk of Special Collections and Archives. Once acquainted with the artifacts, the vibrant colors and historical significance in which they represent is a reminder of the tragedies of WWI.
Because of the posters’ significant nature, OSU archivists are determined to preserve the story they tell.
According to Special Collections Archivist Rachel Lilley, the preservation process is distinguishable in accordance to each object within the archival collections.
“The approaches that archivists take to preserve and conserve materials are different from collection to collection, and are predicated on a number of factors. At a minimum, we try to re-folder and re-box materials that are not currently stored in archivally-safe containers into acid-free containers,” Lilley said via email.
According to Lilley, some of the posters are preserved with a mylar enclosure to protect them from any further damage brought on by age or constant handling.
Many posters reflect the propaganda of the time, when the war was raging and both American men and women were encouraged to join the effort.
“Our collection of posters is rich in context and data,” Lilley said.
During the war, the quantity of posters along with their exposure aimed to convince young men to join the Armed Services without painting a full picture of the realities of the battlefield. Over 100,000 Americans perished in WWI, according to the Governments’ National Archives.
Many men who returned from the war, suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and found adjusting back to everyday life to be exceedingly difficult. PTSD was an unfamiliar illness at the time and there was little knowledge regarding the condition and few resources to control and reduce it.
According to present-day veterans, there can be struggles for soldiers returning to normal life after experiencing the reality of the military.
“A lot of veterans have difficulty adjusting back into society,” said Navy Veteran and Manager of the Office of Veteran Services at OSU, Anthony Minniti. “It’s pretty weird returning after years of being in the military,” Minniti said.
Minniti, who has been out of the force for over three years, has worked at OSU since the summer of 2018 and often interacts with other veterans who, like himself, tend to express a feeling of disconnect with society once returning.
“It’s been very isolating,” Minniti said.
Like many soldiers who experienced the horrors of WWI, men and women often come back from today’s battlefields with PTSD and have to adjust to a society that has no understanding of what it means to go through such traumatizing events, Minniti said.
Warren McClane, a member of the OSU Student Veterans Association, said soldiers tend to act and perceive the world in a very different way than those who have never experienced military life.
McClane, who was deployed in Afghanistan during 2017 and 2018, said that many people often forget to individualize soldiers, and perceive them as being almost robotic, and attributes such mentalities to the isolation that many soldiers experience once returning home.
“In society, people tend to take advantage of each other, but in the military, there is a level of comradery,” McClane said.
Although there are many complications as well as adjustments for today’s returning soldiers, life post WWI offered very little comprehension regarding the difficulties of battle, as well as the trials and tribulations that come with returning to civilian life with very little resources for healing.
There are far more resources available in modern society for the men and women who have returned from combat to study at OSU.
At this time, many resources are currently available to help guide and support these academically-driven veterans through the complications surrounding their adjustment back into a normal life since, according to Assistant Registrar–Athletic & Veteran Compliance, Autumn Landis, as of Fall 2019 the enrollment summary counted 1,253 veterans that are registered at OSU.