At the beginning of summer I started a social media experiment, to bring people into the Center for American War Letters Archive with me (and my collaborator Doug) virtually, via FB Live, to share some of our findings from WWII letters. I had no idea what to expect from this experiment, whether it would flounder or succeed. Doug and I committed to trying this experiment for 12 weeks. We have since committed to keeping it going indefinitely. Here are some reasons why:
- For the fun of it. Hands down, this is my favorite part of my work week, to have a conversation about the War Letters. That it is a regularly scheduled commitment, with viewers, means that it happens no matter what other chaos is occurring in my/our work week.
- For the reach of it. Facebook tells me that our social media engagement with these sessions is in the hundreds. It would be very difficult for us to bring even a dozen people into the archive physically, so having this kind of reach is deeply satisfying. It has been surprising to see that many of the people in my FB circles who have engaged with these sessions are not scholars or historians, but they find the War Letters meaningful for other reasons.
- For the productive conversations. Often it isn’t until Doug and I start talking about some letters that the insights about the letters start happening. Between the two of us we are able to make connections that we wouldn’t be able to alone. Those times that we’ve been able to add visitors to the sessions have added even deeper insights for us.
- For the scholarship. Diving into these Letters has aided so many other War Letters projects that we’ve been engaged with. It has helped us to author grants, to attract donors, and to garner the attention of students who want to join in the effort. (And on a related note, here is an article about our work with some fun “behind the scenes” images)
For those of you who would like to see what we’ve been up to, here’s a list of our FB Live sessions with links. I welcome any and all feedback on this project and also would love to talk to other Chapman faculty who might want to try a similar social media experiment:
- Session 1: introducing Florence and Wally
- Session 2: Their relationship develops
- Session 3: A Furlough and increased intimacy between the couple
- Session 4: Florence’s health concerns
- Session 5: An unintended pregnancy and Florence’s solution to that problem
- Session 6: Doug & Anna discuss the poetry in the letters
- Session 7: We’re joined by Dr. Takaragawa
- Session 8: John Carlo Encarnacion join us to discuss the processing of archival materials
- Session 9: Rob Akscyn reads letters with us and shares his war experience
- Session 10: Wally’s departure to the Pacific Theater is imminent
- Session 11: Florence is an entrepreneur
- Session 12: Wally flies for President Truman