Letters from the Front: A Digital Collections Transcription and Annotation Project as Engaged Pedagogy

This panel describes, and offers examples from, the capstone project for a graduate English Research Methods class which allows students to demonstrate advanced research skills developed throughout the semester while also offering a modest publication opportunity and providing service to the institution. The panel will begin by describing the project: transcription, research, and annotation of previously unedited Civil War letters in Western Carolina University’s Special Collections. These letters are of particular note given the author was a Tennessee Union soldier taken captive, held in Cahaba Prison, and ultimately dies in the Sultana explosion, which remains the worst maritime disaster in US history. Presenters (grad students from the class) will then present their letters and results of their research which led to publication of their editions alongside the digitized copies of the letters. As an example of a high-impact practice, this project (easily scaled to an undergraduate classroom) addresses teaching, research, and service and has proved beneficial to the students, to the institution, and to the discipline in many ways. The students receive a modest, online, publication. The institutional repository benefits from good, annotated transcriptions of primary materials for expansion of its online digital collections. And the course/program receives evidence of primary student learning outcome goals for assessment purposes.

Attached are the final transcription projects.

Chair: Brian Gastle