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An enormous potential of digital humanities for humanities resources


Four questions for Michael McGuire, guest researcher at the Centre for Digital Humanities.

With a background in humanities, programming and social sciences, Michael McGuire has a broad competence. During the early summer, he was a guest researcher at the Centre for Digital Humanities, and assisted in setting up a new server for the research project Moravian Lives.

The Centre for Digital Humanities is currently serving as the central hub for the worldwide collaborative Moravian Lives Project.
“The project is getting its own dedicated server and this is an exciting upgrade that will allow the project to grow. In the future, we plan to extend the project to include data visualization, linguistic corpus searching, an upgraded more interactive map interface with multiple layers, and more” says Michael McGuire.

The main purpose of the Moravian Memoirs Project is to scan, transcribe, and make digitally available the many thousands of memoirs of the Moravians.
“Virtually all Moravians have written memoirs as it is considered a personal and religious obligation. The memoirs describe an individual’s personal life and relationship to God and the church, and these individual ‘inner journeys’ that are documented in memoirs become a fundamental part of the ‘inner church’ and the ‘universal history of the church’” says Michael McGuire.

Memoirs were written with equal frequency by both men and women and by people from all classes and races who belonged to the church.
“The memoirs provide a unique opportunity to study history from a perspective not usually seen. Researchers in many different disciplines will benefit from this material including linguistics, history, literature, religion, gender studies, and anthropology” says Michael McGuire.

He has also done work on the Selma Lagerlöf project that deals with a collection of personal letters written to Selma Lagerlöf from people all over Sweden and all over the world. When McGuire was in Sweden in the fall of 2017, he created a database out of information associated with scanned images of the personal letters.
“At some future point, we are hoping to further develop this project and make the metadata (author, location, date, subject matter, etc.) information publicly searchable and where possible, also allow people to read the letters” he says.

Michael McGuire first became interested in digital humanities when he attended the BUCLD Conference in 2015. He was intrigued by the enormous potential of DH for humanities resources and also the computational challenges involved.
“Digital humanities seems to be a great fit for my skill set since I have a previous background humanities, social sciences, and computer programming.”

Since May 2016, he has been working at Bucknell University on DH projects. As an undergraduate student, Michael McGuire worked in Library & IT at Bucknell. Then he went to Indiana University as a graduate student in linguistics. At Indiana University, he studied several different languages in addition to working on various kinds of computational and experimental linguistics projects. He also spent about two years as a visiting researcher at University of Debrecen in Hungary. This was his third visit to Sweden and the Centre for Digital Humanities, and he really likes the work environment.

“I think the Swedish work environment has several advantages and in many ways is a more productive and collaborative atmosphere. I think part of this is because hierarchy is flatter and decisions are made more on the basis of group input and consensus. Of course, people do have official titles and there is some hierarchy but the overall structure is much more egalitarian. I think it is nice that people address each other by first name and the dress code is more relaxed. Swedes also seem to be much better at work-life balance.”