Contemporary history of Luxembourg

Transcribing, Curating and Researching War Letters in the Digital Age

War letter
A short report of the 2nd ‘War Letters’ workshop in Belval, Luxembourg.

Initiators Milan van Lange (NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies), Sarah Maya Vercruysse and Nina Janz (Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History, C²DH) summoned colleagues from different backgrounds to reflect on how to work with historical war letters.

Participants from the Netherlands, Finland, and Luxembourg continued the fruitful exchange, discussion and expert panel on different war letter projects from the first workshop in January. Even though the projects differ in terms of layout, content, and research analysis, we were able to contribute and learn a lot in the round.

As organisers, we are happy to experience that these workshops have become a unique opportunity where colleagues from different backgrounds, such as researchers and archivists, meet to discuss shared challenges while offering solutions. We shared experiences and expertise in working with Transkribus, for example, about creating ground truth transcriptions and training and creating computer models, and dealing with specific problems regarding ego documents such as the war letters.

In the other panels, we discussed the research workflow with the metadata needed according to the document type of the war letter and the data protection and copyright challenges that come with studying ego documents and personal data.

This workshop series will be continued in smaller working groups and on more specific topics, such as 1) challenging paper types, forms and text layout in Transkribus and 2) dealing with legal issues such as privacy and copyright legislation.

We want to introduce short and regular meetings; on 14 September 2022, the War letters in project WARLUX will be presented and discussed online. We will also use the lunch meeting to discuss the future of our platform.