How do people talk about big feelings and everyday life? How do they experience and describe happiness and intimacy, but also separation, crises and suffering? To investigate this, citizens together with our team of researchers are reading, digitizing and researching a unique and hitherto inaccessible source of everyday culture: an archive of authentic private love letters.

The project Gruß & Kuss – Briefe digital. Bürger*Innen erhalten Liebesbriefe

The project is carried out as a cooperative project between the Technical University of Darmstadt (TUDa) lead by network coordinator Prof. Dr. Andrea Rapp from the Institute of Linguistics and Literary Studies, the University of Koblenz (UK) lead by network partner and founder of the Love Letter Archive Prof. Dr. Eva L. Wyss from the Institute of German Studies, the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences (h_da) with collaborative partner Prof. Dr. Stefan Schmunk from the Institute of Communication and Media, and the Darmstadt University and State Library (ULB) with collaborative partner and library director Prof. Dr. Thomas Stäcker.

Furthermore, Gruß & Kuss is a Citizen Science project and invites all interested citizens* to actively participate in love letter research!

What are the goals of Gruß & Kuss?

Love letters are particularly valuable sources containing information about everyday culture. Since there is no state mandate for archiving artefacts of this nature, they are also considered a particularly endangered source.

The Gruß & Kuss project therefore pursues four overarching project goals:

  1. Cataloguing and analysis of the love letters
  2. Processing and researching the love letters
  3. Participation of citizens in the research process
  4. Possibility of permanent research and preservation of the love letters in memorial institutions, such as archives and libraries

In the pursuit of these goals, Gruß & Kuss offers an interdisciplinary field of research through the study of love letters in particular.

What research questions does Gruß & Kuss aim to answer concerning love letters?

The project itself focuses on cultural studies and sociology, dividing main research interests into three thematic clusters:

Love in Crises and Conflicts

Field post letters from the two World Wars, letters and postcards from both post-war periods letters from prison camps and the post-war period, as well as e-mails and chats with Bundeswehr soldiers stationed abroad document a historical culture of remembrance, but they also chronical individual family’s stories of crises and conflicts that reach across generations into the present day, influencing future generations.

Love at a distance in the middle of life

E-mail, airmail, telegrams, and postcards from all over the world bear witness to the specific epistolary polyfunctionality in temporary phases of separation caused by e.g., the pursuit of education, work and travel.

The allure of secret love

Secret love messages, which are written with a typewriter or in secret script on postcards, are particularly fascinating and bear witness to extramarital, secret and socially (partly) unaccepted or even outlawed romantic relationships.

These three thematic clusters are both tightly defined and broad enough to allow for a variety of research questions to be formulated. The diversity of the material allows for generating new topic clusters, continuously updating (one’s own) research questions, and exploring new perspectives. The processing of the above-mentioned topic clusters is also linked to specific milestones, which go hand in hand with various participation opportunities for citizen researchers.