Fun with World War I digitization

Quick summary of the day: digitization was a blast and the exhibition of World War I propaganda posters at the Bruce Museum was a gem.

The first thing we did was register with the immensely courteous, enthusiastic and efficient digitization crew from the Connecticut State Library. We sat for a few minutes waiting for a specialist to become available, enjoying a variety of quality cookies and coffee. The wait was minimal. I don’t think I got 3 sips down before our digitization pro was ready for us.

A veteran himself, he was very interested in the medals from France and the Red Cross that the formidable ladies had been awarded in 1919. He asked my relative everything she knew about them and she filled in all the information she could while we looked up the online census data for details like date of birth and death. He was particularly fascinated with the certificate that accompanied one of the awarded medals. It was in Cyrillic letters, but a variant, not the standard ones you see today.

The certificate was cracked and torn and in very delicate condition, taped to white poster paper in a most precarious way. Project manager Christine Pittsley came over and was so intrigued by the certificate that she took a photo and uploaded it to Instagram in the hope of enlisting the power of the web to identify and translate the wording.

No answers so far on what the certificate is saying. We were able to identify the medal and language as Serbian — talk about being in the thick of things — but it would be so great to know the reason for the medal. We know she and her sister volunteered for the Red Cross and worked building orphanages during the war. They were also in France at some point.

The certificate and all of the medals were scanned in a high-resolution tiff scanner and professionally photographed with one of those cool blazing lights-black umbrellas setups. The staff were so conscientious and careful with these treasures, making sure there would be no harm done in the process of documenting World War I family memories.

I asked the person at the registration desk how the day had gone and she said there was a great turnout, with people coming in a brisk pace as soon as the event began at noon. We were at the museum checking out the exhibitions until it closed at 5:00, and the staff were still packing up even though the scanning period ended at 4:00. It was a real joy to see people so dedicated to preserving memorabilia and memories and residents so enthusiastic about keeping their family histories alive.

Coming up tomorrow, the Bruce Museum’s small but impeccable World War I poster collection.

10 thoughts on “Fun with World War I digitization

  1. A Russian friend of mine (who knows Serbian) gives the following translation:
    Under high protection of His Majesty King of Serbia Peter I.

    with regard to the merits for [?] Society and the wounded soldiers, awards:
    Mademoiselle Alix Causse
    [giving her a] SOCIETY CROSS

    No 6966.
    Belgrade 19.XI.1919

    2 Secretaries
    of the Main Committee
    [Illegible signature. Mark and Leko???]

    of the Main Committee
    Saniraty Colonel

    1. Felicia, thank you and many thanks to your friend for this translation. I am thrilled to bits and will email it to the project manager so it can be include in the archive’s digitization record.

  2. Glad to hear that the event was a success. However -in plain or not so plain English- Instagram links are an outright pain in the ar** :angry: – Thus, I wonder, why the document was not ‘documented’ completely (the left bit is missing) and posted as picture (as usual on here and highly welcome :notworthy:).

    The letters are not that complicated, as you can clearly read the words “druschky” and “druschko”, i.e. “[SR?]rpsko druschko tschrksnog krsta”. Unfortunately, I don’t have a dictionary at hand, and I don’t speak any of these languages. My initial guess would be that this was issued by some sort of Eastern European, probably Serbian, Orthodox church bureaucracy.

    PS: I remember that, a couple of years ago, I met two elderly ladies in Cyprus, and they were not able to properly read the ancient letters on their medieval Orthodox frescoes (which a surfer dude from abroad like me was -miraculously- able to), and the letters looked VERY similar to the ones on this document.

    1. I thought the letters looked like a stylized, almost decorative version. My Greek grandfather, who came to the US in the 1910s, had a passport from the Ottoman Empire which we are fortunate enough to still have and it is written in a very beautiful, elaborate script that was the standard for imperial documents but which is not legible for readers of regular Arabic today. I’m happy this certificate is more easily cracked. 🙂

  3. Great – you did it already !

    Indeed, Црвени крст seems to be the ‘Red cross’. …

    Felicitaciones to Felicia and her friend.

  4. My friend mistyped at the end:
    Saniraty should be Sanitary

    Frank: The letters do look _very_ similar to the ones that you see in Orthodox churches. I (being able to read modern Russian somewhat) could clearly make out “Peter I” and “крст” looks so much look “cross” in Russian that I didn’t even notice the missing letter.

  5. One thing to consider in making sense of awards of this period is that there was a lot of cross recognition between the Allies. A Serbian award does no necessarily mean that the recipient performed services in Serbia or even with Serbian troops (e.g. Salonika). In promoting inter-allied amity, particularly after 11/11/18, various allies would give awards to deserving individuals in other countries. This may be an example of this.

  6. The UK’s Foreign Secretary is related to Anna Catharina Bischoff, his preserved great-great ..great greatgreat ..great- great- grandmother from Switzerland, to somebody from Bavaria and to a Cherkessian gentleman from the Ottoman Empire (his great-grandfather).

    The Turks, however, i.e. including their language, have their roots somewhere in the Eastern *Steppe. The region of origin of the Turkic peoples is Mongolia, southern Siberia, Xinjiang and East Central Asia, or possibly somewhere in between.

    Of course, Turkish and Arabic are different languages. That Arabic speakers (and readers) cannot interpret the Ottoman Turkic in Arabic script, i.e. the standard back then, is not really a surprise.


    *“Horse” in ..Mongolian: адуу (aduu), Tuvan: аът (a’t), Tatar: ат (at), Turkish: at, Turkmen: at, Uyghur: ئات‎‎ (at), Yakut: ат (at), Azeri: at. Surprisingly, the Arab word is likewise آت‎‎ (āt), but that might only indicate where their horses are from. If you look up “Cat”, the difference becomes a bit more obvious: Turkish: kedi, pisi (obsolete), Ottoman Turkish: کدی‎‎ (kädi), Turkmen: pişik, Arabic: قِطّ‎‎ (qiṭṭ)

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