About Migrant Connections

Migration is a well identified societal challenge in Europe and abroad. Its historical and contemporary complexity cannot be addressed without the collaboration of every concerned citizen. Migrant Connections is a digital research infrastructure for historical migration research on German migration to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its aim is to foster research on transatlantic communication systems as well as spaces of knowledge production and mobility. The platform focuses on the integration and linking of different digital theories and methods for developing, linking, analyzing, and publishing large amounts of historical data to enable different modes of reading. Migrant Connections brings together the following sub-projects and collections – from the United States and Germany representing a variety of materials, from letters and diaries to poems and news articles. By including different sources of/by/and about emigrants & those who stayed at home, women & men, young & old, Jews & other denominations, the platform’s objective is to use hidden and neglected sources to and gain new insights into relational perspectives and explore how people from different social, religious, or ethnic backgrounds experienced migration-related social, political, or economic challenges. The platform’s component projects include:

“Mobile Lifeworlds in German-American Letters,” a crowdsourcing and citizen science digital project collecting letters sent from the German-speaking lands to immigrants in the United States. Together with the Deutsche Auswandererbriefsammlung (DABS) and in collaboration with the Research Library Gotha, the Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek (ThULB), and the University of Trier, this collection provides one of the pillars for a digital corpus of transatlantic correspondence throughout the long nineteenth century. The collection is created (transcription, translation, and metadata) through web publication platforms, deep learning methods, and citizen scholarship.

“Traveling Texts in German-American Newspapers” is one of the research outputs of “Text Mining America’s German-Language Newspapers, 1830-1914: Processing Ger(wo)manness,” a research project at the German Historical Institute by Jana Keck. Using digitized C19 German-language newspapers from Chronicling America (Library of Congress), the project examines reprinting practices and genre conventions in German-American newspapers to study popular newspaper literature and the migrant networks they created. The project combines different theories and methods from digital history such as text mining to detect texts, which were reprinted across states and decades; supervised and unsupervised machine learning methods to automatically classify newspaper texts into diverse genres; network analysis to study geographical and temporal patterns and relations between publication locations; and corpus linguistics and as well as close reading to examine textual and visual differences of texts.

“Writing Across Borders: Diaries and Journals as Narratives of Migration,” is one of the pilots in COESO (Connecting Research and Society), which is an endeavor to bridge collaboration between the European social sciences and humanities community, the citizen science community, and as well as the open scholarly communication community. “Writing Across Borders: Diaries and Journals as Narratives of Migration” will empower citizen scholars with new skills while creating a network of researchers who are interested in working with historical documents and participating in machine-learning activities. The main focus of the initiative is to describe, transcribe and interpret materials gathered by the GHI Washington project “Mobile Lifeworlds in German-American Letters.” While the emphasis of the “German-American Letters” project is on the interchange of information across the Atlantic, the “Writing Across Borders” initiative focuses on diaries and other forms of ego-documents. These sources show how migrants reflected on their transit and chronicle shifting perspectives during their journey from one continent to the other. The ego-documents unveil the networks, practices and knowledge needed to cope with often vastly changing environments. Unlike family letters, which are often difficult to access without knowledge of extensive family networks, diaries are usually more self-contained. This makes this genre especially suited for the involvement of citizen scholars. As an interactive and exploratory research platform, Migrant Connections develops a methodology for engaging stakeholders with a variety of backgrounds in migration research, administration, and policy making, in addition to educators and citizens with or without migration backgrounds. Our goal is to inspire and contribute to transatlantic dialogues between people and groups dealing with knowledge and migration who do not usually interact or meet.