I have always been intrigued by history, fascinated with historical treasures, inspired by historical accounts. History research has become one of my deepest passions and as a student in archival studies I value the care and importance given to primary documents. For my final project to complete my Masters in Archives at New York University, I chose to do something a bit different. Unlike a traditional thesis paper, which attempts to address an idea, this thesis is a digital historical editing project which attempts to document as opposed to prove. As such, this project is at an intersection between historical editing, family history, and digital archiving.
The feature of this digital editing project is a primary source diary which documents the personal experience of William H. Hale, my grandfather, and a radio operator in the 101st Airborne division of the United States Army Air Force during World War II. Covering December 17, 1944 – December 23, 1944, this diary not only supports the accepted historical record of the first week of the Battle of the Bulge but adds a human dimension to the story of this encounter as well as the whole of World War II.
As the 21st century drifts further from December 1944, it is easy to slowly distance ourselves from the historical impact of World War II, the significance of this one battle, and the significance of one man. By contextualizing the experience of William Hale, as accounted in the diary, within the larger recorded history of the battalion he served in and the battle which he describes, I hope that his story can contribute to the overall understanding of human reaction in the midst of war. Furthermore, this project will ultimately demonstrate how similar stories and diaries can still find a place in history and accrue meaning beyond their initial purpose.
Creating a digital archive of this diary and combining it with elements of a traditional historical editing project such as transcription, annotation, and contextualization, the diary will grow in historical dimension while also offering history a more personal dimension. As such, the primary goals of the project are first, to take a piece of history and fit it into the broader narrative and second, to take the broader narrative and make it more personal by adding one accounted experience.
Intended as a digital project, this web archive features a high resolution digital reproduction of the diary. The images are coupled with textual transcriptions of the content to clarify legibility and separated into pages based on entry. Additionally, the diary is annotated using hovering footnotes to provide background context to places, people, and events mentioned in the diary that are represented within the broader history of the battle.
Although the”Diary” is the main feature of the project, a biography “About the Man” will assist in humanizing the document. Original “Photographs” and other primary objects related to William Hale supplement the facts and add visual elements to each page. An “Before the Siege” description and “Timeline” are included to expand upon the event beyond what the diary covers in the first week or the time known as the Siege of Bastogne. Several pages share other surviving “War Correspondence” between William and relatives, official “Military Documents,” military patches, and other “Memorabilia” to complete the story. Finally, the “Memories” page shares family members’ contributions to the project by offering stories and tributes to the man which this project honors.
This project is also intended to serve as a research resource for other individuals seeking information about World War II and particularly the Battle of the Bulge. Therefore, a bibliography of “Resources” is included with book publications and external links to web sources that offer more detailed information or serve as further search devices for tracing the involvement of other veterans in this war.