digitizing wwii

When I first arrived at SFU, someone mentioned a cache of French World War II documents housed in Special Collections. At the time, I was a brand new faculty member trying to finish a dissertation on another historical period and get my footing in the classroom. I forgot about the collection and didn’t think about it again for years.

A few months ago, I decided to teach a summer intensive seminar on France during the Second World War and I remembered these documents. I got in touch with Special Collections and (thanks to Melissa Salrin!) had a look through what turns out to be an AMAZING set of posters, pamphlets, newspapers, and other sources from Vichy,  the French Resistance, and the Liberation. I’m now very excited about using some of the materials with my seminar this coming term. Many of my students are unable to read French, so the posters will be especially useful. I’m also planning to apply for some funding to have a number of these sources digitized (with translations and annotations) so that they might be accessible to other instructors, students, and researchers.

If you’d asked me in 2001 (when I first heard about these sources) whether I’d be talking about digitizing them one day, I would have said ‘What do mean “digitize”?’ I also never imagined at the time that I’d teach this particular seminar, or that I’d be as interested as I’ve become in working on pedagogy and a variety of forms of scholarly activity. Technologies shift. Our own interests and ideas about what kinds of work we want to do change. And isn’t that a good thing…?