I have been gushing about the University of Iowa Special Collections’ Civil War Diaries & Letters Transcription project since I found out about it a year and a half ago. Crowdsourcing is a great way for archives and special collections to publicize collections, increase the visibility of archival repositories, and particularly to get users involved with historical documents. I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, but I’d say the transcription project and companion exhibit have been successful.
Yesterday I found out that the University of Iowa Special Collections has started a new blog related to the project. The blog, Joseph F. Culver Civil War Letters, follows Union soldier Culver and his wife Mary. Staff post Culver’s letters (some of which were transcribed as part of the crowdsourcing project) 150 years later to the day on the blog. Readers can follow his journey much as Mary did a century and a half ago.
Here’s an excerpt from the about page:
“J.F. Culver was engaged in banking, insurance, and the practice of law in Pontiac, Illinois, before the war. An honorable and religious man he was inspired to leave his pregnant wife of less than a year behind to “walk in the path of duty” as a volunteer to serve with the Illinois 129th Infantry Regiment, Company A (August 1862-June 1865), first as a lieutenant and later as captain. Culver so desired to keep in close contact with his new wife that he wrote detailed letters multiple times each week sharing the events of his day, news items, and the stories of the men in his company, also men from Pontiac and Livingston County, IL, for the duration of the three years of his service.”
Staff also maintain a timeline of events on the blog, and are using Google Maps to track his journey. What a great way to use social media and to highlight a successful crowdsourcing initiative! Kudos to the Special Collections staff for their well-planned and well-designed digital outreach.