This exhibit, originally created by the students of English 54.002 in fall 2014, showcases the historical documents from World War I available in the Southern Historical Collection of UNC’s Wilson Library.

Delving into the wide range of materials held in Wilson, each student selected a letter, diary entry, or other materials from the papers of U.S. soldiers and nurses of WWI. As would be expected in Wilson’s holdings, these men and women all have some North Carolina connection; all were born here, and many spent their whole lives and careers here. The students’ research and analysis interpret the stories of these individuals and offer us historical context through which we can understand their experiences and emotions.

Wilson Library, UNC campus. Photo by Matthew Koester, UNC Chapel Hill.

Wilson Library, UNC campus. Photo by Matthew Koester, UNC Chapel Hill.

English 54 student Jack Bondurant writes, “World War I, the first major conflict which incorporated countries from every part of the globe, is well known in the farthest reaches of the world, but the stories of the individuals are not so. Naming the battles of the Somme, Marne, and Verdun is not a difficult task, but the stories of the soldiers participating in those events are shielded in [the] unknown.” The fine work of these students brings the experiences of a wide range of individuals, from drafted men to high-ranking officers, into a single exhibit that sheds new light on the U.S. military experience.

As the U.S. did not enter the war until relatively late, these documents are concentrated in 1918, with a few from 1917 and some that mention life in France after the Armistice on November 11, 1918. By navigating with the menu on the left, you can view exhibit entries from each time period of U.S. involvement in WWI. The exhibit can also be viewed organized by topics of interest.