Digitising Experiences of Migration: The Development of Interconnected Letter Collections

This paper reports on the project entitled ‘Digitising experiences of migration: the development of interconnected letter collections’. It was funded by the AHRC’s research networking scheme from April 2013 to July 2014, and falls under their ‘Digital Transformations in the Arts and Humanities’ theme.

The project brings together scholars from different disciplines currently working with historical emigrant letters as a primary data source. It explores how letters are being used across the disciplines, identifying where there are similarities and differences in the transcription, digitisation and annotation practices being applied. Through developing a system of markup, specifically for emigrant letter collections, as well as exploring how digital technologies might be used to retrieve, search and visualise this markup, our aim is to initiate the process of interconnecting resources to encourage cross-disciplinary research.

In this paper we look specifically at the meta-information relating to author, recipient, location and date, within and across three large emigrant letter collections. First we will discuss how TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) markup was used to standardise this meta-information so that the collections could interconnect, and then we will demonstrate how visualisation tools were used to explore the meta-information in new and creative ways, for example by using GIS tools to map letter writing networks.

For further details about the project, please visit our blog: http://www.lettersofmigration.blogspot.com