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About the Bosworth Letters Project

Central to digital humanities (DH) is the desire to increase the public’s access to print documents through digitization efforts. Although this desire to digitize print texts may seem very “first wave” DH, I believe it is a very worthwhile endeavor because it helps ensure the vitality and accessibility of texts. Such efforts help contribute to the pool of texts that digital humanists can mine for data, an important goal for DH because, as Rosanne Potter points out, “Until everything has been encoded … the everyday critic will probably not consider computer treatments of texts” (Jockers 175).

Nevertheless, even once historical documents have been digitized, they still may not be completely accessible to the public for a variety of reasons. For example, sometimes handwritten documents are difficult for modern readers, who are used to reading typed characters, to discern. In addition, individuals may not have the historical knowledge necessary to make sense of such documents.

This project aims to overcome such accessibility issues through transcription and contextualization. These efforts will animate the documents presented in this project, ensuring their “afterlife” once they enter the archive (Burdick et al. 48). Digital media are well-suited for facilitating a text’s continued life because they incorporate a “user-centered approach” with a “multiplicity of use-scenarios” (Burdick et al. 48). These practices contribute to the accessibility of texts because they provide individuals the opportunity to add meta-data and interpretive content to raw texts.

This project provides access to selected letters from the “Squire Bosworth Papers” collection (1848-1892),  which Virginia Tech’s Special Collections recently digitized. While these documents are now available worldwide, the letters will be difficult for most people to read because they are handwritten and discuss non-contemporary topics. Therefore, this project carefully presents and transcribes selected letters from this collection.

I selected these 19th century documents because they include correspondence dealing with social issues from the Civil War, such as southern women marrying Union soldiers, as well as difficulties stemming from Reconstruction.

Overall, the “Squire Bosworth Papers” offer intriguing insight into life in Randolph County, Virginia (now West Virginia) during a critical moment in American history, but these documents are not easily accessible to the public in their current state. I hope to not only make this collection accessible worldwide, but I have also couched these documents within historical data in order to contextualize them. This approach will allow users of my project to perform a close reading of these documents and “zoom out” of them in order to view their broader, historical significance.

My project includes:

  1. PDF copies of these documents, presented in conjunction with accurate transcriptions and contextual information.
  2. Maps of the locations described in these manuscripts.
  3. A timeline of the events mentioned in the documents.
  4. And selected images.

*Please browse the letter collection and supplementary materials presented in the menu at the top of your screen. 




*Burdick, Anne et al. Digital_Humanities. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2012. Print. *Jockers, Matthew L. Macroanalysis: Digital Methods & Literary History. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013. Print.