Exhibits at the National Archives at Kansas City
Welcome Center and Theater
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June 24, 2014 – October 25, 2014
The Nazi Party developed a sophisticated propaganda machine that deftly spread lies about its political opponents, Jews, and the need to justify war. But Nazi propaganda was much more complex than that. For the Nazis to achieve power and pursue their racial policies and expansionist war efforts, a much more nuanced picture had to be painted – one that would appeal to broad swaths of the population, not just a fanatical extreme.
Featuring rarely seen artifacts, State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda draws visitors into a rich multimedia environment vividly illustrating the insidious allure of much of Nazi propaganda. The exhibition opens at the National Archives at Kansas City on Tuesday, June 24 and will be on display through Saturday, October 25, 2014.
“Adolf Hitler was an avid student of propaganda and borrowed techniques from the Allies in World War I, his Socialist and Communist rivals, the Italian Fascist Party, as well as modern advertising,” says exhibition curator Steven Luckert. “Drawing upon these models, he successfully marketed the Nazi Party, its ideology, and himself to the German people.”
The exhibition reveals how shortly after World War I, the Nazi Party began to transform itself from an obscure, extremist group into the largest political party in democratic Germany. Hitler early on recognized how propaganda, combined with the use of terror, could help his radical party gain mass support and votes. He personally adapted the ancient symbol of the swastika and the emotive colors of red, black, and white to create the movement’s flag. In doing so, Hitler established a potent visual identity that has branded the Nazi Party ever since.
After seizing power, the Nazi Party took over all communications in Germany. It marshaled the state’s resources to consolidate power and relentlessly promoted its vision of a “racially pure,” utopian Germany that needed to defend itself from those who would destroy it. Jews were cast as the primary enemies, but others, including Roma, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and mentally and physically disabled persons, were also portrayed as threats to the “national community.”
As Germany pushed the world into war, Nazi propaganda rationalized Germany’s territorial expansion as self-defense. Jews were depicted as agents of disease and corruption. The Nazis’ actions against them, in Germany and occupied countries, were promoted as necessary measures to protect the population at large.
Group tours are available and free to the public, but must be arranged in advance. School groups are welcome to schedule during daytime hours. Additional curriculum details are available for schools. Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and those touring with a docent/guide will receive an email confirmation to bring with them for the tour. Groups who have not made a reservation with a docent/guide are welcome to tour the gallery at their leisure. To schedule a group tour call 816-268-8013 or email email@example.com.
State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda is produced by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, presented by the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, and hosted by the National Archives at Kansas City. State of Deception was underwritten in part by grants from Katharine M. and Leo S. Ullman and the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, with additional support from the Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibitions Fund established in 1990 and by Dr. and Mrs. Sol Center. Kansas City Presentation Sponsors include: Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany; Sosland Foundation; Donna Gould Cohen; Hall Family Foundation; Sprint Foundation; Annette & Sam & Jack Swirnberg Charitable Foundation, Bank of America, Trustee; H&R Block Foundation; Community Legacy Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City; Oppenstein Brothers Foundation; Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Charitable Trust; Arvin Gottlieb Charitable Foundation, United Missouri Bank, N.A., Trustee; Kansas Humanities Council; and Hunt Midwest (in kind). Bus subsidies for schools are provided by the following funds of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City: J-LEAD; Earl J. and Leona K. Tranin Special Fund; and Flo Harris Foundation.
September 2, 2014 – January 7, 2015
The National Archives at Kansas City will open a new exhibit titled, “Say It With Snap!”: Motivating Workers by Design, 1923-1929, on Tuesday, September 2. Can posters inspire employees to improve their work habits and increase productivity? This exhibit highlights historic work place posters created by the Chicago-based Mather & Company in the 1920s. These posters answered the needs of a rapidly changing American work force through the use of dynamic color and catchy slogans designed to cajole, coax, and even admonish employees to perform at their best. The exhibition will be available for viewing through January 7, 2015.
“Say It With Snap!” surveys the visual strategies and thinking behind Mather & Company posters from 1923 through 1929. The exhibition shows how the direction of the graphic messages changed over time, shifting from incentives targeting white-collar workers and their managers in the early years to a greater focus on factory workers. The exhibition also illustrates the transformation of the Mather posters’ graphic style. While the designs adhered to a standard format of a three-part message and a single image, the palette and use of visual motifs became more colorful and dramatic in the late 1920s, culminating in a set of vivid pink, green, and black creations in 1929 featuring animals such as a tiger, a porcupine, and even a vulture (with the ironic header “HUNGRY!”), an eerie precursor to the stock market crash and Great Depression that would bring Mather’s business to a close.
Mather tapped into veins of popular entertainment such as sports, music, and the circus to craft dramatic posters that both motivated and schooled employees in appropriate workplace behavior. During the company’s most successful years, in the late 1920s, Mather claimed his business supplied more than 40,000 firms nationwide. While the content of some of these posters – such as “Do You Explode?,” or “What Are Loafers Paid?” – may seem naïve today, they captured a moment in time not unlike our own: when changes in society and employment trends upended the relationship between workers and management.
Although the theme of workplace motivation may not seem like an inspirational topic, co-curator Dulce Roman of the University of Florida’s Harn Museum sees Mather’s images as signposts of a unique kind of optimism. Such posters, she observed in a New York Times review of the Harn’s collection in 2010, “reinforce the idea that life goes on in spite of great economic hardship.” She added, “I hope viewers will consider the radically different economic times experienced between the boom … of the 1920s and the hardship of the Depression … and realize that these periods are cyclical.”Such reminders remain relevant today.
Admission, hours, and additional information
“Say It With Snap!”is a free exhibition and will be open through January 7, 2015. The National Archives at Kansas City is open Tuesday-Saturday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. for exhibits viewing and research. To schedule a group tour please call 816-268-8013 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Free parking is available for National Archives visitors.