Migrant Connections

"Migrant Connections" launched!

March 23, 2022

The German Historical Institute launched its new digital research infrastructure Migrant Connections for historical research on German migration to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries with an online symposium on March 23, 2022. The aim of Migrant Connections is to foster research on mobility, spaces of knowledge production, and transatlantic communication systems. The new portal welcomes researchers and visitors to participate, discover, and share.

The launch event included remarks by the deputy director of the German Historical Institute, Axel Jansen, congratulatory messages from the embassy of Germany in the United States and the Goethe Institut, which helped to sponsor and oversee the “German Heritage in Letters” project through the “Wunderbar Together” initiative, and a preview of the new website.

This introductory section was followed by a roundtable with a cross-section of participants illustrating how Migrant Connections draws on both traditional academic research as well as the new possibilities of citizen science.  Ursula Lehmkuhl of the University of Trier explained the importance of immigrants’ letters as sources for historical research into “everyday” lives. Carl-Henry Geschwind, whose great-great-grandfather’s letters are part of the project, discussed the role of family historians as researchers of their immigrant ancestors’ past. Bettina Hess, librarian of the German Society of Pennsylvania, discussed the collections the library has shared with the project and the library’s online, binational “Transcription Tuesday” citizen science group. Citizen scholar, Regina Kunz, of Homburg, Saarland, discussed her work with a self-organized group of colleagues to transcribe several dozen letters of the Fischer family of Württemberg, and University of Oldenburg student Clara Willmann discussed how she has combined transcriptions of a collection of letters sent to an immigrant family in California with local research in northwestern German archives to learn more about the impact of migration on families on both sides of the Atlantic.

A full video of the launch event can be found below (and viewed on Vimeo).