Gunnery invests in WWI museum exhibit
At the beginning of the school year, retired former history chairman Willie Smith identified and briefly researched the 187 Gunnery alumni and faculty who were in some way involved in World War I, both at home and abroad.
Then, eight senior students -- Darrion Bunce, of Canada; Alexander Cornell, of Washington; Brandon Garzione, of Cornwall, N.Y.; Evan Hirsh, of Monroe, N.Y.; Tom Malooly, of Turner's Falls, Mass.; Marshall Millette, of Watertown; Stanley Wolpiuk, of Trumbull and Henry Palmer, of Watertown, -- stepped up to do research.
They homed in on the servicemen who interested them, learning to use government enlistment and service registers and genealogy service ancestry.com to identify descendants in the area, plumbing the depths of the museum, and working with the publications, photos and correspondence in the school's archives.
"Our class was not only interesting," said Hirsh, "but incredibly engaging, allowing us to do our own work, and do it hands on, handling century old letters and newspapers."
"My class and I have found great satisfaction and curiosity in uncovering the lives of World War I soldiers," Cornell said, "who have served as leaders in our local community and how they have impacted and shaped our school."
The class spent a good part of the school year working with the museum's curator, Stephen Bartkus, and Gunnery history chairman Bart McMann to find out what is involved in the preparation of an exhibit.
They prepared a marketing article for the museum newsletter, worked with the school's visual arts department to prepare the photographic and text visuals for their portion of the exhibit, and wrote and rewrote essays about the soldiers, to try to effectively depict their stories.
"It is extremely humbling to know that I am walking in the footsteps of these soldiers that I have spent so much time researching," said Malooly.
At the exhibit's recent opening, the students gathered to explain their subjects' roles for the visitors while surrounded by recreations of the battle scenes: a wall mural of the John Singer Sargent painting "Gassed," a trench with gas mask and machine gun, re-enactors in full dress and a meeting of officers (depicted by mannequins in uniform) to plan strategy.
The students recounted the fate of "their" soldiers and the horrors and deprivations endured during the war.
"Many of the alumni from The Gunnery volunteered for the war instead of being drafted," said Wolpiuk. "Some of them wrote back to The Gunnery and, from the words of the valiant Romeyn Benjamin, `I lay all my success to The Gunnery.' "
The exhibit may be viewed Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. at the Wykeham Road museum through Jan. 18, 2015.