Diaries from the Fort Devens Museum collection.
Diaries from the Fort Devens Museum collection.

DEVENS -- The Boston Foundation has awarded Fort Devens museum a $4,770 grant from its Bruce J. Anderson Fund to digitize, transcribe, and prepare a print copy of several diaries written by World War I soldiers.

The announcement of the grant award especially excited the staff because this is the nonprofit organization's first receipt of an Anderson grant award. They may now begin the work of preserving six diaries dating from World War I written by three New Englanders, each of whom trained at Camp Devens. Two saw action in the Great War in France while the third remained at Devens and recorded impressions of the influenza epidemic as it affected the camp.

America's entry into World War I in 1917 actually brought about the creation of Camp Devens. Thus, the year 2017 brought with it both the 100th birthday of this fort's founding and the centennial of America's active participation in the war.

The museum's extensive collection of World War I artifacts and materials relates the story of Camp Devens people and their involvement in this war.

The museum's celebration of Devens' founding has encouraged visits from more people than ever seeking and/or sharing information about their grandparents and other relatives involved directly in the war. And nationwide, a surge has come about of interest in World War I and those involved and the seeking of ways to recover the past. Thus, such a grant-funded undertaking is especially important.


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Diaries can be powerful means of recreating the presence of individuals no longer there to tell their story in person.

The grant will includes funding for obtaining a high-resolution scanner, upgrading the museum's digital recording software to handle what is to be scanned, staff time to scan and transcribe, and archival and exhibit supplies. The museum's executive director, Kara Fossey, wrote the grant.

In seeking the grant, Fossey wrote, "At 100 years old, World War I seems old enough to forget, far enough removed by time and distance that it loses its brutal sting ... It is entirely up to us, then, to pick up these memories of camaraderie, loss, destruction, and hope; and shoulder the weight -- heavy as it is -- to hand off to those who will come next. Because no matter how much time passes, war never ends, not really."

This past year the museum received another first: A sizeable one-time "earmark" of funds in the state's fiscal year 2018 budget. This funding allowed especially for the purchasing of state-of-the-art electronic equipment for both lecture hall and office.