KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With its doors closed during stay-at-home orders, the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, stayed busy.
The staff has been transcribing letters and diaries from WWI so that they will be available digitally for generations to come.
"We were able to at that time transcribe more than 6,000 pages of letters," said Stacie Petersen, the museum's exhibitions manager.
They have many, many more to go, with Petersen adding, "we have thousands upon thousands of pages left to be digitized."
The museum recently received a gift to help that mission.
"For us to receive a $125,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities is huge," said Mike Vietti, the museum's communications manager.
The objective of the gift is to grant wider access to the collections.
"That information is more readily available to the public, historians, educators, anyone that wants to fall down that rabbit hole of research and read historical primary sources," Petersen said.
Those primary sources transport readers into the hearts and minds of those who lived through the Great War, like a gentleman named William Steeg, who wrote, "My dear Dorothy, your last letter came directly after I had mailed my letter to you. Because I was delighted to hear from you again."
Kansan Florence Hemphill was a nurse with the American Expeditionary Forces, and wrote, "I expect you will think I have forgotten you. I haven’t written to anyone for the last two weeks. It seemed like the fates were against me."
William McCartney is another, who coded a letter to identify his Middle East location while serving, since explicitly stating so was a violation of policy.
"Look up the Bible at the Acts, 8th Chapter at the 26th verse and you’ll see where we are, where Philip was sent," he wrote.
Even the staff are enchanted by the project.
"Anyone from across the world can access those first-person accounts of what took place during WWI," Vietti said.
"You definitely become connected to them," Peterson added.