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State Library Hosts World War I Symposium Marking the Centennial of the War's Start

June 26, 2014

LANSING – Four decades of European conflict ushered in the brink of World War I, and the tipping point lay in the decisions of generals and statesmen during a crisis caused by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. 

The couple's assassination by Gavrilo Princip, an ethnic Serb and Yugoslav nationalist, followed diplomatic clashes between France, Italy, Germany, Britain, Austria-Hungary and Russia, and resulted in World War I's start on July 28, 1914. Before it ended, the war claimed 16 million military and civilian lives and 20 million wounded, including 5,000 dead and 15,000 injured soldiers from Michigan.

Now, 100 years later, the Library of Michigan (LM) is commemorating this centennial anniversary of huge historical significance and global consequences with a day-long symposium, “The War That Changed the World,” on Aug. 1, 2014.

“So many people sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy today,” said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. “The fact that the symposium is being held on the 100th anniversary of the war’s start makes this an especially poignant event.”

Kicking off the event, a panel of experts from the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn examines the war in the Ottoman Empire and its affect in Michigan. Helen Zoe Veit, author of a new book, Modern Food, Moral Food, a finalist for the 2014 James Beard Foundation Book Award, gives the closing talk.

Throughout the day, patrons may attend sessions on topics such as aviation, troops, transportation and the war industry in Michigan.

Martin Walsh from the University of Michigan and Erin Smith, chief of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic Team at Ann Arbor Veterans Administration Hospital, will talk about shell shock, as it was called during the war. Also, a special guest from the Michigan Historical Museum discusses the care and identification of uniforms.

Meanwhile, on display in the Library of Michigan’s Rare Book Room will be Joe Sacco’s “The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme,” a 24-foot-longpanorama. Sacco's work illustrates, in minutely-detailed black-and-white drawings, events just before and during a summer day when the British army suffered more than 57,000 casualties – its greatest single-day loss.

“The war was so large and complex, everyone will walk away having learned something and then maybe go on and expand their own research,” said State Librarian Randy Riley. 

To register for the event online, visit

Registration the day of the event is from 8:20–9:20 a.m. with light refreshments. Admission is $20.00 per person – $10.00 for veterans with identification. A box lunch is included. Parking at the Michigan Library & Historical Center, located at 702 W. Kalamazoo St. in Lansing, is $1 an hour or $8:00 a day.

For more information, contact Edwina Murphy, Library of Michigan’s Michigan Collection Curator, at (517) 373-1300.