Robin Camille Davis
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Project: Grandma's letters

August 30, 2011
Tags: books, curation, history, library, wistful

In cleaning my grandmother's garage, my relatives found a cardboard box filled with love letters she wrote to my grandfather during their courtship and early days of their marriage (c. 1943-1950). He lovingly saved them all, numbered them in a certain order in his beautiful calligraphic numbers, and tied them into bundles.

Often, she was writing to him when he was away at war. He was a soldier and mechanic in the Army. He served primarily in Hawaii, but he was also shipped abroad to places like Guadalcanal. (Sorry the photo is blurry. Still getting used to my lens.)

While he was in the Army, she had to send the letter through the examiners in San Francisco.

She sometimes sent him pages torn from newspapers and magazines, pictures of dream houses or advice columns about happy marriages. I confess that I cried a few times reading about their dreams for their life together.

They were married for 57 years, together until my grandfather passed away in 2007.

I have only read a few of the letters. I don't want to get them out of order until I have a good workflow for cataloging them and storing them. I'm taking a class in Administration and Use of Archival Materials this semester, so I'm hoping to put some of what I learn to immediate use in preserving these treasures.

This envelope was lifted from the Army mechanics office. It has columns for parts requirements and labor time tickets.

I'm a little embarrassed about the storage conditions of these letters. I've moved them to different boxes with padding, but I'm browsing the Demco site to find acceptable acid-free document housing.

I'm also fortunate enough to be in possession of my grandma's diary from the year 1943, when she was 16 years old. This was also the year she met my grandpa. Reading in her diary and letters about the early days of their love, and remembering their happy life together as they grew old, gives me an unshakable faith in the power of love and the strength of commitment two people can promise to each other.

The plan is to store this collection properly and, eventually, to read through and catalog/describe all of these letters so that my family can browse through these gems. I'll blog throughout this project to give updates on its progress.