My Research Vision
I am especially interested in how historical ego-documents (personal letters, diaries and first person narratives) can help us to understand the lives and experiences of ordinary men and women, as well as providing new perspectives on social, cultural and economic issues of the time. My research focuses, in particular, on letters of migration and how new technologies can be used to analyse the content of large digitised correspondence collections, allowing the user to identify topics and themes in the discourse, or letter writing networks for example. My research falls within the digital humanities and much of what I do is driven by the desire to find new, cross-disciplinary methods for exploring this fascinating material.
Emma Moreton is a Senior Lecturer in Corpus Linguistics and Stylistics in the School of Humanities at Coventry University. She is currently involved in several projects that deal specifically with the digitisation, markup and analysis of correspondence collections. The common aim of these projects is to look at ways of improving interconnectivity between existing digital collections and to investigate new ways of organising, interpreting, and using the various types of information embedded within digitised correspondence.
In 2009 and 2010 Emma was awarded ARF and EDGAR funding from Coventry University, allowing her to establish links with scholars from a range of disciplines and institutions currently working with emigrant letter collections, including the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster American Folk Park Museum in Northern Ireland and the Immigration History Research Centre at the University of Minnesota. As a result of these initial meetings a research network was established and in 2013 Emma received AHRC funding to formalise these links. The project, 'Digitising experiences of migration', involved twelve partner institutions and provided a forum for discussing some of the challenges and opportunities of working with digitised migrant letter collections. Details of the project can be found at: www.lettersofmigration.blogspot.com.
Emma recently completed her PhD at the University of Birmingham. Her thesis, ‘The emigrant letter digitised: markup and analysis’, explores how metadata relating to migrant correspondence (information about the letters themselves, the participants involved and their locations) can be captured and represented in a standardised way, allowing letter collections from around the world to interconnect, thus opening up the research possibilities for working with this type of data.
- Digitising Experiences of Migration: The Development of Interconnected Letter Collections.The key aims of this project were to 1) improve interconnectivity between existing digital collections of migrant correspondence, 2) provide a forum to address the complex issues surrounding the accessibility, intellectual property rights and privacy of all those contributing to the creation of digital correspondence collections, 3) encourage and investigate new ways of organising, interpreting, and using the various types of information embedded within digitised migrant correspondence, 4) improve access to digital resources of interest to academics, the general public, and a broad range of cultural and creative industries and 5) promote international collaboration.
- New Connections: The BT e-Archive Project.This project was a collaboration between Coventry University, BT Heritage and The National Archive. The key aims of the project were to catalogue, digitise and develop a searchable online archive of almost half a million photographs, images, documents and correspondence assembled by BT over 165 years. As part of this project a research team was set-up to work specifically with the letter component of the archive. This involved digitising and marking-up 500 letters which could then be searched in various ways, allowing users to carry out diachronic studies of business correspondence, examining how the language and the genre evolves over a 100 year period.
- Adaptable and learnable user interfaces for research tools: The Word Tree Corpus Interface.The aim of this project was to develop a multi-dimensional Word Tree interface which would allow users to search and browse within documents and across a corpus, and access instant visual representation of the language patterns surrounding any given word or phrase. Our goal was to increase access and usage of corpus resources, both by corpus linguists and by language teachers and learners.
- Increasing interoperability between corpus tools.The aim of this project was to introduce corpus linguistics methods to research communities who are engaged in the study of language from different perspectives, and who have previously drawn on only a limited range of corpus software, or none at all. It explored ways of linking different corpus query tools so that users can investigate aspects of the same data in a variety of ways. The number of tools that can interlink depends on software configurations and the willingness of other software developers to incorporate interoperability features. For this project, we offered a prototype tool to link the WordTree, Intellitext, CQPweb and Wmatrix (four core tools developed at Coventry, Leeds and Lancaster).
- The development of a corpus of Irish emigrant correspondence. For this project I worked with Kerby Miller, Curators' Professor in the Department of History at the University of Missouri. Over the course of his career, Professor Miller has accumulated an extensive collection of Irish emigrant letters, memoirs, and narratives dating from the 17th to mid-20th century. The ARF funds allowed me to visit the University of Missouri to gather letters for a pilot corpus of migrant writing. This involved photocopying the original manuscripts, transcribing the letters into a digital format, and adding various layers of markup. Further EDGAR funds allowed me to visit the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster American Folk Park Museum in Omagh, Northern Ireland, and the Immigration History Research Centre at the University of Minnesota, to gather more data for the corpus.
- Moreton, E. (2016) ‘Letters from America: Themes and Methods in the Study of Irish Emigrant Correspondence’. In A Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Letters and Letter-Writing. Ed. By Bernier, C-M., Newman, J., and Pethers, M. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
- Amador-Moreno, C., Corrigan, K.P., McCafferty, K., Moreton, E., and Waters, C. (2016) ‘Irish Migration Databases as Impact Tools in the Education and Heritage Sectors’. In Creating and Digitizing Language Corpora – Volume 3: Databases for Public Engagement. Ed. by Corrigan, K., and Mearnes, A. London: Palgrave.
- Moreton, E. (2015) ‘I hope you will write: The function of projection structures in a corpus of nineteenth century Irish emigrant correspondence’. Journal of Historical Pragmatics 16 (2), 277-303.
- Moreton, E., O'Leary, N., and O'Sullivan, P. (2014) ‘Visualising the emigrant letter’. Revue Européene des Migrations Internationales, Special Issue: Traces of Dispersion 30 (3 & 4), 49-69.
- Moreton, E. (2012) ‘Profiling the Female Emigrant: A Method of Linguistic Inquiry for Examining Correspondence Collections’. Journal of Gender and History 24 (3), 617-646.