Francesco and Mary Giambelli Foundation Lecture Series: Donna Gabaccia
Francesco and Mary Giambelli Foundation
“Sambuca: A Digital Return”
University of Toronto
Vast claims have been made for the revolutionary potential of the Digital Humanities but few have subjected such claims to intense scrutiny. This talks revisits research conducted in Sicily and the United States in the 1970s (the foundation for From Sicily to Elizabeth Street, 1984; Militants and Migrants, 1988). Transforming information compiled from traditional archives about 3,500 migrants from Sambuca di Sicilia into a digital, relational database has not, to date, suggested any radical revision of the two books. Nevertheless, the ready availability of digital archives, including Ancestry.com, along with the impact of new digital communication tools, have not only inspired a significant upsurge of citizen, roots-seeking researchers but also has opened new possibilities for scholars to collaborate with the families and descendants of Sambuca’s migrants. Bringing together the demographic and social historical concerns of an early generation of scholars with digital citizen researchers’ familial and identitarian concerns could produce knowledge that will significantly alter both groups’ understanding of the past.