Yellowstone star Kevin Costner is all about history. It’s part of his persona. He talks about it all the time. Costner’s favorite stories to tell revolve around Western expansion post-Civil War.
But he’s also a buff for another era of history. That’s the history of World War I. Eleven years ago, the board of the World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City appointed Costner as an honorary member. And he’s taken an active role.
First, since we’re talking about our favorite Yellowstone star, if you want to do a Kevin Costner project any justice, you need to give its history. The World War I Museum was first opened in KC as the Liberty Memorial in 1926. That was eight years after the war ended. However, fundraising for the memorial started within months of Armistice Day in 1918. The ground-breaking ceremony, attended by 200,000 people, was in 1921. Honored guests included Vice President Calvin Coolidge and Gen. John J. Pershing, along with military leaders from Great Britain, Italy, Belgium and France. Harry S. Truman, a local businessman and future president, presented flags to the leaders.
President Coolidge Helped Dedicate WWI Memorial in 1926
President Coolidge helped dedicate the monument on Nov. 11, 1926. Flash forward to 2004. Congress declared the memorial as the official museum for World War I. It added another significant chunk of space to the museum. So a decade later, then-President Barack Obama signed legislation dedicating it all as the National World War I museum.
By this time, Kevin Costner, who still was years from playing John Dutton on Yellowstone, was involved with the project.
Before Starting Yellowstone, Kevin Costner Helped Chair Museum Fundraiser
Costner is an active member. He co-chaired a campaign to raise $25 million to expand the museum. That included $5 million for an exhibition gallery.
Costner visited the museum last year and talked about what he saw and how meaningful it was to him.
“I just visited the exhibition war remains,” he said in a video posted to the museum’s social media feed.. “And to say I was taken aback would be an understatement. As one who loves history, I knew I’d be thrilled, but I never thought I could be overtaken with the level of emotion, the immediacy, the reality that this experience provides.
“It’s necessary that we understand this war,” he said. “It’s obvious that the memory of this (war) would die in some way. But what happened is that this museum, (these) people have refused to let that happen. They refuse. … They make this experience not one of just memory, but one of immediacy, one that touches your heart and makes your blood race from the moment you’re lodged in what can only be someone else’s hell.”
Costner continued: “I’m eternally grateful for the historical spirit of this museum and the people who come here every day trying to create a better experience for their fellow citizens and people around the world.” Costner said folks should “find a way” to visit this museum. He added that he will bring his wife and kids to visit the museum and memorial.
Costner Visited KC Museum Last Year
The museum also posted more photos of Costner taking a tour of the exhibits. The caption on the photos:
“A long-time friend of the Museum dropped by this weekend! We enjoyed hosting Kevin Costner once again in the galleries and in conversation (pictured here with our President). We’re grateful for his ongoing support and encouragement of our mission for over 12 years.”