In addition to numerous letters from various individuals, the collection includes two complete sets of correspondence from the family archives which enable research into the history of everyday life: the correspondence between »aleksandrinka« Felicita Koglot Peric and her husband Franc Peric, and the correspondence of the Kremenšek family, which includes not only letters from family members, but also letters from nuns of the Catholic order of the Sisters of Nôtre Dame, as well as letters from family friends and acquaintances. The collection also includes the correspondence of the literary network of Slovenian women writers (Ivanka Anžič Klemenčič, Elvira Dolinar, Vida Jeraj, Zofka Kveder, Marica Nadlišek Bartol, Ljudmila Poljanec, Marica Strnad, Kristina Šuler) from the »moderna« period (1890-1918) and the letters from male authors (Anton Aškerc, Ivan Cankar, Josip Murn Aleksandrov) with whom they corresponded. These letters are kept in the Manuscript Department of the National and University Library of Ljubljana.
The electronic collection PISMA is being created as part of the programme group "Historical Interpretations of the 20th Century" (P6-0347) and the project "Transformations of Intimacy in the Literary Discourse of Slovenian 'moderna'" (J6-3134). It is a participatory project, as the transcription of the letters is also being done by volunteers. The following metadata are collected from the letters: Sender, Recipient, Location the letter was sent from, Location the letter was sent to, Date the letter was received, Gender of the sender, and Gender of the recipient. For all letters, we indicate up to five topics from the list which currently consists of the following words: antifeminism, aleksandrinstvo (economic migration of Slovenian women to Egypt), reading, censorship, home, patriotism, sociability, Vienna, World War II, diligence, double moral standards, eroticism, feminism, theatre, economics, household, education, agriculture, cuisine, culture and art, cultural mediation, literary journals, literary criticism, love, migration, male friendship, customs and festivals, clothing, personal relationships, childhood, country life, politics, marriage, travel, Prague, World War I, flora, religion, self-censorship, Slavophilia, death, sexuality, happiness, parenthood, sports, topophilia, Trieste, teaching, editing, weather, Zagreb, marriage, health, women's magazines, women-men friendship, women friendship, animals.
The study and processing of correspondences as important documents for
understanding the intellectual and emotional horizons of the representatives
of a particular era are an important part of (cultural) history and literary
scholarship. Letters are important sources due to their dialogical relationship
(nature?) and their embedding in social and communicative networks.
The results of correspondence research enable a broader, deeper, and more precise
understanding of various social and cultural historical phenomena, processes, and
Letters, then, are not only a medium, a channel of communication, but they are associated with various ways of understanding literature and culture at the time of their creation and reception. Letters which could be described as »anonymous, as they were written by people who were not public figures, are also important and valuable because they give us insights into the history of everyday life, especially the history of emotions that cannot be fully explored through historical sources such as civil status records and other similar documents. Indeed, letters from the past reveal the origins of our cultural identifications, dilemmas, and even problems, and exploring them can help us confront and overcome the problems we face (today).
Researching letters is challenging because assembling the scattered letters, even from a single person, can be an extremely arduous process that sometimes requires a lifetime of work by a team of experts. This is another reason why it is important that projects of this kind are carried out by a large and interdisciplinary team of researchers, especially in the field of digital humanities. Modern technology makes digitization possible. However, digitized letters must be edited, so that they can be explored and preserved in such a way that they are fully accessible to the research community and, as much as possible, to the general public.
The design of the collection was tested with the first electronic database created as part of the project "Digitization of the Cultural Heritage of Primorje and Inner Moravia" in the programme scheme "Project work with the non-economic and non-profit sector - Innovative Student Projects for Social Benefit 2016-2020" (http://sipk-pisma.ung.si/). The next implementation took place in 2021-2022. Maksim Gojković, a student of the Faculty of Economics and Technology at the University of Nova Gorica, under the guidance of Associate Prof. Dr. Aneta Ivanovska and Prof. Dr. Katja Mihurko Poniž, developed a new electronic database in which letters from the first database were included, and several new letters were added. The uploading and annotation of the new letters have been primarily done as part of the project Transformations of Intimacy in the Literary Discourse of Slovenian »modern«a, which uses the electronic collection as a virtual research environment. While creating the electronic collection, we expanded the number of topics as researchers found that they needed new topics when uploading letters. After each change, users tested the collection and provided their feedback. All of the letters from the initial electronic database were transfered in the new one, and again we found that it was helpful to add new keywords and set up the ability to update the person (the person in question?, morda tako jasneje?), as it became apparent that certain data could not be retrieved until after the initial entry and therefore the ability to correct was necessary. We also found that it was helpful to add some information that was not included in the first database, such as the gender of the sender. In the last third of 2022, we redesigned the database in collaboration with designer Matjaž Tomažič and added new search options.
The University of Nova Gorica is located in an environment that houses a rich cultural heritage, much of which has not yet been digitised. The problem we are solving with our projects is how to use contemporary approaches in the field of digital humanities to make historical sources available to the public and to researchers, to make them accessible through artistic digital practises, and to use them in teaching and learning.