About the Project
In 2003, Dr. Sylvie Dubois published an article entitled “Letter Writing in French Louisiana: Interpreting Variable Spelling Conventions, 1685-1840” in Written Language and Literacy, 6:1, 31-70), which demonstrated the research potential of materials held in LLMVC. The “Francophone Heritage of Louisiana” (FHL) corpus began with the same manuscript collection used in Dr. Dubois’ study. Through extensive and careful research in the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections (LLMVC), Dr. Carole Salmon selected one hundred letters, representing 55 of the more than 390 collections in LLMVC that include French language manuscripts. Dr. Salmon considered multiple factors in order to select letters that will be useful to a wide range of scholars and researchers in fields such as history, sociology, economy, geography, and linguistics. These factors are reflected in the information provided for each document:
- author’s name;
- author’s gender (21 letters from women, hence 21% of the corpus);
- author’s profession (when it was possible to determine, ranging from military to planter, judge, teacher, priest, nun, schoolgirl, doctor, governor, shopkeeper, seamstress, etc.);
- author’s social class (often a guess based on information about the collection provided by the curators);
- author’s place of origin (when known);
- letter’s place of origin (only letters written in Louisiana could be selected);
- date of the letter (from 1729 to 1877);
- type of document (personal letter, business, love, break-up, complaint, official letter, etc.); and
- length of the selected document (from 1 to 15 pages).
Hamilton D’Aquilla scanned each document. Benjamin Forkner, Marianne Halloran, and Sirirath Kéobounsouk-Tardiff, doctoral candidates in LSU’s Department of French Studies, created meticulous transcriptions of the manuscripts, rendering hand written documents into easily readable and searchable texts. Rachel Bergeron, a graduate student in the School of Library and Information Science, cataloged the digital images, aided by Dr. Salmon’s original notes on selection of the works, and loaded them and the transcriptions into the Louisiana Digital Library, where they can be accessed worldwide, facilitating use by scholars. Bergeron also created a website to facilitate access to the corpus.
The Louisiana Board of Regents provided funding for the project. Elaine Smyth, Head of Special Collections, and Dr. Bernard Cerquiglini, former Director of the Center for French and Francophone Studies served as co-Principal Investigators for the project.
Conceived as a pilot project, FHL will serve as a model and a springboard for providing further electronic access of French-language manuscripts in LLMVCLSU Center for French & Francophone Studies
LSU Libraries Special Collections