Digital Scholarship Tools: Immigration Stories and #ImmigrationSyllabus

February 1, 2017 / By: John Heintz, E-learning & Data Services Librarian

Immigration Stories and #ImmigrationSyllabus are developed by our our colleagues at the University of Minnesota and both are available for St. Thomas faculty to use. 

Immigrant Stories

The Immigrant Stories project seeks stories from
first generation immigrants, their children, and grandchildren. Participants write their own text, record it in audio form, and select images (personal photos, family documents, and original music) to create a brief video using a browser-based video editing software application.

Immigrant Stories helps recent immigrants and refugees create digital stories: brief videos with images, text, music, and audio about a personal experience. The IHRC shares and preserves these digital stories for future generations through the Immigration History Research Center Archives, the Minnesota Digital Library, and the Digital Public Library of America. Over 200 stories representing more than forty-five different communities are now part of the Immigrant Stories Collection. A National Endowment for the Humanities grant is now helping us collect stories across the country.

The project provides training and workshops on how to create digital stories and add them to the collections. There are also curriculum guides for using Immigrant Stories in college classes or workshops. 

Sample Immigrant Stories:


#ImmigrationSyllabus provides “essential topics, readings, and multimedia that provide historical context to current debates over immigration reform, integration, and citizenship.” The syllabus is an online resource guide to materials supporting the study of immigration history in the United States.  The guide was created by immigration historians affiliated with the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, and hosted by the University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing and eLearning Support Initiative.

The guide provides a chronological and thematic exploration of immigration history, including book, journal article, primary source document, and multimedia materials.

Topical Outline (from the web site):

Week 1: Why study immigration?

What does the study of immigration reveal about U.S. history and which stories we tell about ourselves as a people?

Week 2: Settlers, Servants, and Slaves in British, French, and Spanish Colonial America

How does inequality, the freedom to move, and access to citizenship have its roots in the colonial period?

Week 3: Global Migrations, 1830-1930

How did dramatic political, economic, and social changes during the 19th century transform and encourage migration to and within the United States? What were the consequences of U.S. military, territorial, and economic expansion for indigenous peoples, slaves, immigrants, colonized peoples, and native-born and naturalized Americans?

Week 4: Historical Origins of Contemporary Nativism and Xenophobia

Why has immigration been a topic of perennial debate in the U.S.? How has the fear of foreigners and the desire to define and protect an “American” identity evolved over time?

Week 5: Mass Migration and the Rise of Federal Immigration Law

How did policy makers increasingly use race, class, political ideology, health and ability, gender, and sexuality to favor the entry of particular groups and restrict others? How did immigrants and their American-born children persevere during an age of restriction?

Week 6: The Closed Gate (1924-1965)? Migration, Immigration, and Citizenship

Who settled in the United States during the 'era of exclusion'? How did the ‘era of exclusion’ change Americans’ ideas about belonging, citizenship, and labor?

Week 7: World War II and the Cold War:  The Geopolitics of Immigration Reforms

How did international conflicts lead the United States to diminish the rights of individuals categorized as “enemy aliens”? How did foreign relations influence the reform of immigration and naturalization laws for groups who had faced near exclusion from the U.S. and had been denied access to citizenship?

Week 8: Family, Gender, and Sexuality

How does immigration impact gender and family relations? How has immigration policy, gender inequality, and discrimination against LGBT immigrants affected the freedom to move and the immigrant experience?

Week 9: The 1965 Hart-Celler Act and the Remaking of Immigrant America

Which groups of immigrants did the new law privilege, and what contradictions did the new law produce? What was so new about the “new” immigration following the 1965 Hart-Celler Act? 

Week 10: Refugee and Asylum Policy

How are refugees and asylees different from immigrants? Why does the United States prioritize their admission? How are they selected? How is U.S. refugee resettlement policy shaped by U.S. international relations?

Week 11: How Globalization Produces Migration: Immigration Law, Economic Policy, and Global Markets in Skilled and Unskilled Workers

How do immigration restrictions serve corporate interests? How do immigration laws benefit "skilled" workers and disadvantage "unskilled" workers?

Week 12: Undocumented Immigrants / Immigrant Rights

How did immigrants become “illegal?” What does it feel like to live in the shadows? How have immigrants and their allies fought for rights, protection, and belonging?

Week 13: Border Walls & Border Policing

Why do nation-states build walls and police borders? What impact do walls and border policing have on individuals, families, and communities? How do they shape our views of immigrants and our neighbors to the north and south? Why are borders more permeable for some people -- and goods -- than for others?

Week 14: Post-9/11 America

In the wake of the terrorist attacks and the U.S.-led War on Terror, how did concerns for national security affect immigration policy? How did the terrorist attacks - and the U.S. response - influence American attitudes towards immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers? How have the long-standing fears of invasion by populations considered “unassimilable” justified the continued expansion of border controls in the name of national security?

Week 15: Deportation Nation

Who has been targeted for deportation throughout United States history, and why? How has expulsion shaped who is considered to be an insider and outsider, and who is considered to be deserving and undeserving? How does the history of deportation challenge the United States' reputation as "a nation of immigrants"?

Each week’s section includes a bibliography of contextually appropriate materials.

Note: the bibliographies include links to journal articles and books that point either to Google Scholar or Google Books. UST may or may not have access to the journals or books listed. You can follow their instructions on configuring Google Scholar to access articles through UST, or better yet, use the default Summon search on the Library home page to search for the citations.

These and other digital scholarship applications can be found on the Libraries’ Digital Humanities Research Guide.