A young hotel clerk in Manitoba who enlisted to fight in the First World War might not have been famous enough to get a chapter in a history book, but his story – and other stories like his – are important to Paige Fehr, a history student at Vancouver Island University.
One of six VIU students and three volunteers working alongside history professor Stephen Davies on the Canadian Letters and Images Project, Fehr has spent more than two years as a research assistant digitizing letters and photos, ticket stubs, menus, postcards and telegrams, amongst other materials, and transcribing letters exchanged between soldiers and their family and friends.
“This project brings these stories to life and reminds us that everyone who participated was an individual, they had a past, they had a family that was deeply affected by the war,” said Fehr. “These individual stories are important to remember.”
Fehr is not the only one whose interest and imagination has been captured by letters and images found in the vast archives, which Davies began in 2000. With more than 18,000 individual digitized and transcribed letters from wars fought by Canadians, word on this valuable free national archive is spreading.
Many of the stories are delivered to the project by the finders and keepers of letters who understand the importance of keeping the story alive, said Davies.
The individuals, families and organizations sharing their original letters, photos and other materials are promised their collections will be returned once they have been digitized for the archive, he added.
The project will partner with the Victoria Symphony in the Wednesday (Nov. 12) performance at the Port Theatre titled Lest We Forget. The concert features enlarged images and letters.
To learn more, please visit www.canadianletters.ca.