Friday, July 11, 2008

World War I Photographs Being Digitized

The Special Collections Department is currently working to digitize a collection of portraits of soldiers in World War I. This collection, which numbers about 8,000 photographs, was given to the library by the Boston Globe. Most of the photographs in the collection seem to be professional portraits taken for military record displaying the soldier’s name, rank, unit and division. If the paper published a story about a soldier (usually if he had been wounded or killed), the photo is accompanied by a "cut slip" with more information on the soldier's service and the article that appeared in the Globe.

There are also a few candid snapshots in the collection. Some of the photos are also accompanied by a metal plate used for printing the picture in the newspaper. Each picture represents one of the many stories to be told about soldiers in the Great War. When the collection has been scanned, the State Library will create a website where patrons can search for soldiers by name and hopefully discover previously unseen photos of relatives who were soldiers in the Great War.

As a library Page I am quite honored to work with a collection such as this, and as a recent graduate who studied history in college I am thrilled. For me each photo holds its own unique story and life that is woven into the story of a nation at war. Having studied both World Wars in great depth, I am excited to help preserve the faces of the men who proudly served our country. As a history major I learned how some the great historical mysteries were pieced together, this collection is another mystery. Some days I feel as though I am a detective who is trying to find the answers as I scan each picture. The face of each soldier who has left behind a story, a family, a life for someone to discover makes this collection exceptionally moving.

-Shawna Smith, Regis College 2008, Library Page