Workshop 1: Utrecht

The first workshop took place at Utrecht University on Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th May 2013. Details of the workshop can be found below.

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Workshop theme: Working with letters: a cross-disciplinary perspective

Workshop objectives: to understand and map the linguistic, structural, discoursal, contextual and physical properties of the letters that each stakeholder group is working with, identifying where there is overlap and/or scope for cross-disciplinary research, and any issues surrounding privacy and property rights.

In this workshop we anticipate exploring at least some of the following questions:
  1. What do different researchers use correspondence collections for?
  2. What features of the letters do researchers consider to be important and what common language can be used to express these concepts?
  3. What possible barriers are there to increased interconnectivity between correspondence collections and increased collaboration across disciplines, and how might they be overcome?
Details of the workshop programme can be found here.

In preparation for the Utrecht event, workshop participants were asked to carry out a transcription exercise using the letter shown below. Specifically, they were asked to a) transcribe the letter and b) annotate their transcription for features which might be considered important/salient in their particular discipline. When completing the task, participants were asked to consider how they use letters in their research now, as well as how they would like to search and visualise letters if they had access to a fully digistised, interconnected resource of emigrant correspondence from around the world. Examples of the different approaches to transcribing the letter, together with ideas regarding the annotation of emigrant correspondence can be found under point 5 of the 'Workshop Topics' section below.



The letter above (used for the transcription exercise) belongs to the Lough Family Letters, housed at Kerby A. Miller's archive at the University of Missouri.

Workshop Topics

The following topics were covered in the workshop. Where relevant, you'll find links to the presentation slides. 
  1. What do different researchers use correspondence collections for?
  2. Background to the project and research aims (Emma Moreton, Coventry University)
  3. 'The simple joys of interdisciplinarity' (Patrick O'Sullivan, Glucksman Ireland House). To begin his talk, Patrick read out a message of support from Michael D. Higgins, the President of Ireland. A copy of the letter can be found here.
  4. Interconnecting emigrant letter collections: an introduction to the Text Encoding Initiative (Peter Stadler, Universität Paderborn) - presentation slides  
  5. Towards a model of best practice: some observations from the transcription/annotation exercise (Emma Moreton, Coventry University). The presentation slides can be found here. Examples of some of the workshop participants' transcriptions can be found below:
    Transcription 1
    Transcription 2
    Transcription 3
    Transcription 4
    Transcription 5
    Transcription 6 
  6. Representing the emigrant letter: an interdisciplinary perspective. What features of emigrant letters do researchers consider to be important and what common language can be used to express these concepts?
  7. Possible barriers to increased interconnectivity between correspondence collections and increased collaboration across disciplines: how might barriers be overcome? (Donna Gabaccia, University of Minnesota)
  8. Developing a schema of markup and annotation for emigrant letters: modelling metadata and letter content (Peter Stadler, Universität Paderborn). In this part of the workshop, Peter talked through the markup he'd used for the transcription activity. A copy of the xml file can be found here.
  9. Issues concerning accessibility, intellectual property rights and privacy: the challenges of developing open-access, interconnected resources across disciplines and cultures (Donna Gabaccia, University of Minnesota)
  10. Issues concerning transcription practices: developing a set of best practice guidelines for transcribing historical letters (Tony Fairman, Anita Auer, Mo Gordon (the LALP team), Utrecht University)