By Giorgina S. Paiella
I created this project to map Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s The Turkish Embassy Letters with digital humanities tools. From 1716 to 1718, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu traveled to what was then the Ottoman Empire with her husband, Edward Wortley Montagu, the British ambassador to Turkey, as part of his position to keep trade running smoothly and attempt a truce between warring nations. This project examines Montagu as a literal and figurative world-maker, not just in offering a glimpse of a world that had not yet been seen through the lens of a British eighteenth-century female aristocrat, but also calling attention to the ways in which the writer and traveler is always engaged in fictional world building. Through this interface, I explore the overlaps between epistolary world-making and digital world-making.
I worked with ArcGIS technology to allow for interactive map work. I aim to reconcile historical maps with present-day maps—while I wanted to maintain fidelity to the land as Montagu herself would have encountered it, I also wanted to place her travels in the context of current territories to visualize how these borders have shifted over time. To build a map for this project, I overlaid several historical maps with current-day ones to allow entry points into both worlds, then layering on her tour points. The interface features her letters alongside contemporary images of landmarks, people, and places that Montagu encountered during her travels.
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