In three years, the U.S. will mark the 100th anniversary of its April 6, 1917 entry into the "Great War," later known as World War I. Family heirlooms, artifacts, keepsakes and other mementos gathered by relatives who served in that war in can help preserve the legacy of area veterans.

In a release, Sherryl Miller, director of the Lonoke County Museum, and Mike Polston, director of the Cabot Schools Museum of American History, announced a cooperative project to preserve the history of not only Lonoke County WWI veterans, but of anyone who served.

With the passing of the veterans much of the history has been lost forever; Frank W. Buckles, the last U.S. WWI veteran died Feb. 27, 2011.

Their stories are in danger of being forgotten, but much of their history remains intact with their letters, diaries and photos that are now preserved by loving family members, the press release notes.

"During the next few months the staffs of the cooperating museums hope to collect and preserve as much of this history as possible. Preserve it before it is lost forever," the press release said.

Families who are willing to share diaries, letters, documents, photos or stories of relatives who served in WWI are asked to contact the museums. While items from Lonoke County veterans are especially sought, any war items are appropriate.

"We are hoping that people will donate the original items to the museums," Polston said. "That way they can be cared for and preserved for future generations."

If families prefer not to relinquish their mementos, the museum can preserve copies of the items – diaries and letters would be transcribed and photos copied and returned to the original owners. The copies would then be available in the museum collections for future research.

Artifacts such as uniforms and war souvenirs will also be gladly accepted. Such artifacts would be added to the WWI exhibits already in place or used in future exhibits.

Plans are for new exhibits of donated materials, with at least one proposed exhibit solely of Lonoke County related items.

Lonoke County’s role in the war would be exhibited through photos of individual soldiers, Eberts Field and other war-related activities.

"We have not seen any photos of county patriotic activities such as bond rallies or parades" Miller said. "But we are sure they must exist." The photo exhibits would be displayed at each museum and perhaps a traveling display at other locations in the county.

"This is to be a county wide project and will be successful only if the people throughout the county will share their family’s history with all of us. Don’t let history fade away into a memory, become proactive and help preserve it," Miller said.

Anyone interested in sharing items can call Polston at 501-286-9665, or Miller at 501-676-6750