This digital project delves into the unpublished letters of the everyday soldier from both the First World War and Second World War. Should we always rely on the famous people who published their letters in book form? Could we asked if there might have been an agenda to selectively publishing only a certain portion of letters? What can we glean from using digital tools to data mine the collection of forgotten letters found in attics or shoe boxes? This personal project is a journey into discovering what these letters hold and how to pull their messages out.
Using digital tools in research, such as Voyant-tools.org, can add value to traditional methodology by assisting in finding trends or repetition in word uses and word choices of the letters' authors, and delving deeper into understanding text by prying apart a vast data collection of these letters. The goal of this project is to support argument for my own personal thesis work, that published letters in book form during the war maintained a strong connection to the battlefields, and urged readers, who may be soldiers, to endure the fight. I feel that this was not the pulse of reality on the front lines, and with using digital methods with traditional research, a clearer picture of what they were actually thinking emerges when data mining the unpublished letters of soldiers.
A paradox existed as organizations such as the Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A. created areas in the camps which resembled domestic spheres, and made sure that every soldier wrote home. This establishes that there was a vital link to the home front rather than the battlefield, and the letters that soldiers wrote home did not talk of valor or sacrifice for their country, but instead, spoke of home and those of the home front.
The collections of letters that I have gathered, along with images and pictures associated with each set, will eventually become an archive that all students will be able to access, so that future generations can also study the words written in these unpublished letters of the everyday soldier.