As you drive through the shopping mecca of Route 9 in Natick, Mass., you might not know you are also passing by the most comprehensive collection of World War II artifacts and memorabilia in the world.
As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing, the International Museum of World War II opens a special exhibition and welcomes students of all ages to explore the 7,000 artifacts displayed on the museum’s floor as well as over 500,000 papers and artifacts in storage.
To ensure that young people all over country have access to these treasures, WGBH, in collaboration with PBS LearningMedia, is working closely with the museum to translate its powerful immersive in-person experience into digital form.
“Bringing young people into contact with artifacts and primary sources—which are often profoundly personal in nature—can bring history to life in a vivid and compelling way and help students more readily imagine what it was like to live in the past,” says Elizabeth Gardner, a senior manager in WGBH’s Education program.
The first set of digital learning tools explores the role of propaganda in WWII. Rather than simply reading about how the Nazi ideology and symbols were incorporated into every aspect of daily life, students can see for themselves how the Nazis targeted young people with books and toys and how the use of propaganda was a powerful weapon of war that led directly to the Holocaust. Another set showcases the role of youth in WWII. Later this summer, a new set will explore the role of women in WWII and a final unit will guide instructors through the process of teaching with historical artifacts.
Each year, more than 3,500 regional middle and high school students file through the exhibits at the International Museum of World War II and explore such artifacts as a rare Enigma codebreaking machine, real uniforms from the major combatant nations, propaganda materials, parachutes, a complete tank, Hitler’s handwritten notes and his mustache trimming kit.
See media coverage here, and the museum learning resources here. PBS LearningMedia, a partnership of PBS and WGBH Educational Foundation, is an online destination that offers free access to thousands of resources from PBS stations and partners.