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Human migration is a complex and sensitive issue. The body of information and cultural heritage it carries is further complicated by the means through which its information is gathered, documented, archived and ultimately shared.

Trying to understand the historical activity of people moving from one region to settle into another requires a comprehensive approach. The ultimate goal is to reconstruct the life course of migrants highlighting their differences with that of hosting populations.

Ultimate efforts were recently directed towards the creation of a comparative digital framework that would intersect and absorb home and hostland data.

As an interactive process, this new digitally approach constitutes an appropriate tool to better reflect the mutual cultural heritage and the dual right belonging to the migrating people.

Based on a pilot study of 180,000 Deutsch migrants to Australia, it became clear that  migrating data offered an invaluable instrument to assess the formation of cultural identities beyond the inheritance of the two worlds that people carry with them throughout their life courses. But it also raised new challenges and issues mainly pertaining to the consolidation of a multitude of data sources and their archival processes, particularly with regard to untapped cultural heritage materials . Digital preservation should remain the key to address the aforementioned issues.

Unlike the life a of sedentary people, the life of migrants is characterized by ruptures and new starts that render the identification of a linear behavioral pattern particularly   challenging. The digitization process to analyze these patterns have opened the way to interactively connect and link aspects of migration that offered a more refined understanding of migratory life patterns including social habits, cultural traditions or religious practices. Not only this interactive approach swerved away from the customarily use of static data (whether micro or macro focused) anchored in points of time, but created a new research framework, namely a new template that has the potential to be applied to other migration or population behavioral studies.

The potential impact of this fairly new digitization of data is far reaching with substantial bearing on the life of a population, from identification records to access to healthcare and other social services. For example, the Government of Australia issued a government apology in 2009 to forgotten Australian and child migrants. The Government’s action, combined with its formal commitment to continue to invest in a better understanding of the lives of migrants, created a National Find and Connect Web Resource Project that will bring together historians, archivists but computer and digital experts as well. This project – once fully mastered beyond the technical challenges it faces – could be exported with similar implications globally, particularly in countries with a strong migration history.

In summary, the sensitivity and complexity of migration studies require a thorough understanding of migration patterns that traditional/static research has fallen short in fully explaining. The digital humanities approach has opened a new laser focused view on migration that could be – once fully technically grasped – could be easily extended to other migration research themes with broader implications and improved data preservation for future generations.


References

Developing a Sustainable Model in Mutual Cultural Digital Heritage Nonja Ivonne Peters, Curtin University, Australia; Jason Donald Ensor, University of Western Sydney, Australia;

Ruptured Life Courses: Institutional and Cultural Influences in Transnational Contexts Marijke van Faassen, Huygens ING, Netherlands, The; Rik Hoekstra, Huygens ING, Netherlands, The;

Scaling Up Digital Public History: Lessons Learned From The Find & Connect Web Resource Project Michael Alastair Jones, The University of Melbourne, Australia; Rachel Tropea, The University of Melbourne, Australia;

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