The summer of 1914 marked the beginning of a war that would subject an entire continent to unprecedented pain, suffering and death for years to come and, for the first time in history, spill onto a global stage.
Now, a century later, a joint project between HistoryMiami, the Knight Foundation, Florida International University, the Wolfsonian-FIU, the University of Miami and Miami-Dade County Public Schools aims to capture the importance of a war that often takes a backseat to its more prominent brother but would go on to shape the rest of the 20th century.
The free event, “World WarI: A Century Later,” will take place at the New World Center from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday and features a presentation by Dr. Michael Neiberg, a professor of history at the United States Army War College and author of Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World WarI, a panel discussion led by scholars from UM and FIU, World WarI music interludes, Q&A sessions with the experts and a reception.
“The essence of what we want to capture are two things,” said Ramiro Ortiz, president and CEO of HistoryMiami. “One is, what were the geopolitical dynamics that caused the world to go to war? It was a lot more than just the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
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“And then what we want the audience to get out of it is that World War I basically is the platform that set the entire 20th century. So it’s an incredibly important topic.”
The event came about in a coincidental manner.
“We had just finished our Abraham Lincoln symposium last January at HistoryMiami museum,” Ortiz said. “And then afterwards we’re out on a cup of coffee, Alberto Ibargüen of the Knight Foundation, David Lawrence, your former publisher, and myself, and we started coming up with ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to do a forum on World War I? It’s the 100th anniversary.’ That was the spark and the start of this whole project.”
So far, nearly 1,000 guests have registered, including 120 students and 10 teachers from Miami-Dade public schools, prompting organizers to open another room to accommodate the scores of history buffs and curious visitors. Registration and tickets are required.
The high demand for tickets does not surprise Ortiz.
“The misconception is that Miami is only about South Beach, party and booze,” Ortiz said. “I think there is a real demand in Miami for history and for serious history. And as we’ve done our market research here at HistoryMiami, all the research that we’ve done tells us that the market being Miami has a thirst for lifelong learning and that they’re just looking for these kinds of opportunities.”