The World War II History Center is a museum and research library dedicated to World War II. The Center includes information about the entire war on the European, Pacific and Home Fronts, and how the entire country pulled together to help win the war. Not only does the center feature the American perspective, but it also highlights the efforts of the Allies and the Axis alike. The purpose is to provide one of the most comprehensive facilities on the subject of World War II in the United States, and potentially the world.
To remember a generation, to honor their sacrifices, and to educate future generations.
The mission of the World War II History Center Foundation is to facilitate a museum and resource facility dedicated to the history of the World War II era. The center will strive to educate all generations about the reasons for the war and the profound impact WWII had on the world.
To be a valued contributor of cultural opportunities for the Wichita Metro area, as well as the surrounding communities.
To partner with area schools and colleges offering research opportunities, outreach programs, K-12 educational programs tied to Kansas State Standards, adult lecture series, summer programs, and internships.
To be a nationally recognized, regional-level museum and resource center, offering research capabilities, interactive exhibits and educational programs.
History of the Foundation
The World War II History Center Foundation was envisioned by founder Allen Cooley. Allen was a co-creator of the Kansas World War II Historical Society, a group of individuals that shared the same passion for preserving the history of World War II. After a few years of setting up displays of memorabilia at Veteran's Day events, local fairs and other outlets, Allen decided it was time to proceed to the next step of creating a permanent museum. It was clear that with so many people involved in the war effort, that there was a vast number of descendants that wanted to learn more about their family's service during the war. After doing some research on World War II museums across the country, Allen was shocked discover that there were so few that focused entirely on the war, and even fewer that covered the whole war. There are many museums in this country that touch on the war, or that cover a portion of it, but there are always visitors to these places that feel left out or forgotten. Allen's intent early on was to create an all-inclusive museum and research facility that even covered aspects of the Axis side of the war.
Allen learned about the process of create a non-profit organization, a necessary step in developing a museum, and set out to recruit people willing to serve on the board of directors. After a few short months in April of 2006, the World War II History Center Foundation was established as a corporate entity in the State of Kansas. By June that same year, the Foundation was recognized as a 501(c)3 non-profit by the Federal government, allowing the Foundation to raise funds with a tax-exempt status.
Support for the Foundation grew as members of the original Board of Directors recruited members and volunteers. By the end of 2007, the Foundation had found a home for the organization as well as enough space to set up basic museum operations on the 4th floor of the Commerce Bank building in downtown El Dorado, Kansas. This was a big step for the Foundation because it gave the organization a physical location that members, volunteers, and potential funders to visit and learn more about the World War II History Center and its capabilities.
Prior to the creation of the Foundation, Allen had created the World War II Research Database on his home computer in November of 2005. He created the database of military personnel, units and naval vessels of all combatant nations that served during the war as a way to help people find information that sought regarding a loved one's service during the war. Allen had always been an avid reader of World War II history, but often thought about the amazing stories he read about servicemen and women that would likely never be known by their descendants. So, Allen created a website and began cataloguing his small collection of books and magazine articles on the war. This website became the World War II History Center's website, and the Research Database became a unique and on-going service provided by the World War II History Center. Initially, research requests regarding information in the database were completed free of charge. However, by the middle of 2007, so many requests were coming in (4 or 5 per week) that they could not be completed timely enough, and it was decided to begin charging a small fee for completion of the research. This service continues today and the Center received over 500 requests in 2008 alone.
At the end of 2007, the Foundation was forced to find a new home because its location at the Commerce Bank building was going to be no longer available. It was at that time that the Foundation worked out a deal with the owner of another building in downtown El Dorado that had been vacant for almost 2 years. The building needed a lot of work, and needed to be brought up to code before it could be used, but the owner (Nita Whiteman) allowed the Foundation to lease the building rent-free for 18 months while renovation work was completed. By the fall of 2008, a majority of this work was complete and the World War II History Center officially opened in its new location at 119 W. Central on September 27th, 2008. The Center now includes a Tribute Gallery, Research Library, Gift Shop and several exhibits. It also has the capability to host guest lectures and a regular movie night event. The Center began keeping regular operating hours in November, 2008 and since then has seen an average of 7 visitors per day. In September, 2010, the Foundation was able to purchase the building it had been leasing for the previous two years from owner Nita Whiteman. The purchase was made possible by funds raised by the Foundation as well as two large grants from the Stone Family Foundation and the K.T. Wiedemann Foundation, Inc. The achievement of this goal was the largest accomplishment to date by the World War II History Center Foundation and it secured a home for the foreseeable future which allowed the Center to focus on developing and improving the museum and its research services.