Through collaboration with the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia, the Valley of the Shadow Letters and Diaries collection has been coded in Extensible Markup Language (XML), making them completely searchable. A few collections include digital images of the letter or diary. The personal papers collection on the Valley of the Shadow primarily includes letters and diaries written between the years 1855 to 1870, but include documents as early as 1840 and as late as 1873.
Most of the letters and diaries on the Valley of the Shadow site were either written by or to a resident of Augusta County, Virginia, or Franklin County, Pennsylvania, or discussed events in either of the two counties. The Valley also includes a number of letters and diaries written by men and women who shared similar experiences with Augusta and Franklin residents. For example, you may find letters and diaries written by soldiers who served in military units with Augusta and Franklin men.
To ensure accuracy between the original handwritten manuscript and the digital document, the final version of each Valley of the Shadow letter and diary has been proofread by two separate individuals.
The personal papers pages are arranged chronologically into three main sections for each part of the Valley of the Shadow: Eve of War, War Years, and Aftermath. Within each part, the personal papers pages are divided by county and then ordered alphabetically by collection name. Each collection entry includes a brief description of the family or individual and a summary of the available documents.
You may search either letters or diaries. Valley letters and diaries have been tagged with keywords for the prewar, wartime, and postwar periods that highlight social, political, cultural, and economic life for residents of the two counties. Keyword tagging provides additional searching capabilities for Valley of the Shadow users. For example, having the category “African Americans” saves users from performing separate searches on “slave,” “colored,” and “negro.” In addition, keywords provide a modern vocabulary for nineteenth-century concerns. For example, residents of Augusta and Franklin were unlikely to use the words “Race Relations” to describe the constellation of interactions encompassed by the keyword.