An earlier version of this post appeared HERE.
At the beginning of last summer I began a social media experiment, to bring people into the Center for American War Letters Archive with me (and my collaborator Doug) virtually, via FB Live, to share some of our findings from WWII letters. I had no idea what to expect from this experiment, whether it would flounder or fly. Doug and I committed to trying this experiment for 12 weeks, but it ended up running for nineteen. Here are some reasons why:
- For the fun of it. Hands down, this was my favorite part of my work week, to have a conversation about the War Letters. That it was a regularly scheduled commitment, with viewers, means that it happened no matter what other chaos is occurring in my/our work week.
- For the reach of it. Facebook tells me that our social media engagement with these sessions is in the hundreds. It would be very difficult for us to bring even a dozen people into the archive physically, so having this kind of reach is deeply satisfying. It has been surprising to see that many of the people in my FB circles who have engaged with these sessions are not scholars or historians, but they find the War Letters meaningful for other reasons.
- For the productive conversations. Often it wasn’t until Doug and I started talking about some letters that the insights about the letters start happening. Between the two of us we were able to make connections that we wouldn’t be able to alone. Those times that we’ve been able to add visitors to the sessions have added even deeper insights for us.
- For the scholarship. Diving into these Letters has aided so many other War Letters projects that we’ve been engaged with. It has helped us to author grants, to attract donors, and to garner the attention of students who want to join in the effort. (And on a related note, here is an article about our work with some fun “behind the scenes” images)
You can watch each of the episodes we created last summer on our Facebook Page, Voices from the Archive.
So now, we’re in the midst of planning several writing projects related to our work in the archive. If you’d like to keep updated on how that’s going, please “Like” us on Facebook and follow along.