Friday 17 April 2015

Article Published: Visualising the Emigrant Letter

An article reporting on the first parts of the Irish Emigrant Letter projects has at last been published in the Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales (REMI)- there were many delays on the journal side, and the article finally appears with a 2014 publication date.

Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, 2014, 30 (3 & 4), pp. 49-69

Emma Moreton, Niall O’Leary and Patrick O’Sullivan 
Visualising the Emigrant Letter

ABSTRACT - see below..

The article, as published, is a compact summary of much discussion, and incorporates many different kinds of expertise from the research network - notably of course the expertise of the three co-authors...

Emma Moreton
Linguistics, digitalisation and annotation...

Niall O'Leary
IT/Digital Humanities Consultancy, Visualisation

Patrick O'Sullivan
Irish Diaspora Studies - for example at...

You can see some of Niall O'Leary's visualisations at

For me participation in the research network was part of the neverending quest for enlightenment - in this case, a better understanding of the Digital Humanities. I have written formally to Emma Moreton, thanking her for that.

So, yes, I wanted a better understanding of the technologies and the processes, but in the back of my mind there were two questions:

did the amount of effort that had to be put into a Digital Humanities project genuinely answer existing research questions, and explore research issues?

did that effort create new research questions and new methodologies for the traditional humanities?

The answer to both questions is, Yes.

This becomes very clear, easily clear, within Irish Diaspora Studies.

I am currently writing the more considered, 'Irish', version of the material, with a much larger word count, which can expand on the detail.  We like detail.

The journal, the Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, has made its entire collection, dating from 1985 to 2001, available online at Persé Since 2002 every issue published has been added to the free public portal,
funded by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Ministry of Research, and designed to be a home for the most prestigious French journals in the field of the Humanities and Social Science.  The latest issues published are available for online sale at, with a three year restriction. I am sorry about that - but at least the French are making an effort.

Patrick O'Sullivan

Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, 2014, 30 (3 & 4), pp. 49-69

Emma Moreton, Niall O’Leary and Patrick O’Sullivan
Visualising the Emigrant Letter

Emigrant letters are a rich resource for teaching and learning, transcending disciplinary and methodological boundaries. They are expressive and indicative of correspondents’ identities, values, preoccupations and beliefs, providing a powerful source of information about migration issues and shedding light on processes of language change and variation. Although many emigrant letter collections have now been digitised, not all are properly archived; some are reduplicated and others are in danger of being lost. The documentation and preservation of such letters is, therefore, a particularly pressing need. In 2013, an AHRC research network was established to look at ways of improving interconnectivity between digital collections of migrant correspondence. This paper reports on work carried out so far, focusing on how emigrant letter projects might move beyond the digitisation stage to exploit text content and enhance usability and searchability through the use of visualisation tools.

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