Trinity’s Letters of 1916 Research Project Calling on Public to Contribute Family Letters

Trinity’s Letters of 1916 Research Project

Trinity’s Letters of 1916 Research Project

Ireland’s First Crowd-Sourced Public Humanities Project to Capture Ordinary Life At Time of Easter Rising.

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin are calling for the help of Birmingham’s Irish. Have you ever come across a long lost love letter written by your grandfather hidden away in the attic? Or even a letter about the weather in New Ross from when you great-grandmother went home for a visit? If this letter is written between 1 November 1915 and 31 October 1916 you may be able to help us.

We are asking members of the public to upload old family letters and photographs to a new digital archive as part of this ambitious project to recreate ordinary life in Ireland around the time of the Easter Rising of 1916.

The Letters of 1916 project is the first public humanities project in Ireland. Its goal is to create a crowd-sourced digital collection of letters written around the time of the Easter Rising. The project includes letters held at institutions (in Ireland and abroad), alongside those in private collections.

The collection will include letters by private individuals, soldiers, and officials: be they letters that comment on the Easter Rising, literature and art, the Great War, politics, business, or ordinary life and will lead to the creation of an online archive of letters created by the public for the public, which will be launched in 2016.

At vital part of Irish history is the story of the people who went overseas for adventure or a better life and we want to ensure that the story of Irish emigrants is included in this project. With a large population of Irish or people of Irish descent, who knows how many letters Birmingham could uncover and how many forgotten stories while once again be brought to light.

People can also get involved in uncovering hidden stories by transcribing some of the 700 letters already contributed to the archive by public institutions, including, the National Library of Ireland, the National Archives of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin as well as the Medical Missionaries of Mary.

“Allowing letters from personal collections to be read alongside official letters and letters contributed by institutions will add new perspectives to the events of the period and allow us to understand what it was like to live an ordinary life through what were extraordinary times,” explains Dr Susan Schreibman, Associate Professor in Digital Humanities in the School of English and the project’s Principal Investigator.

“Through these letters we will to bring to life to the written word, the last words, the unspoken words and the forgotten words of ordinary people during this formative period in Irish history. Alltoo often our emphasis is on the grand narrative focusing on key political figures. But as we approach the centenary of the Easter Rising we want to try to get a sense of how ordinary people coped with one of the most disruptive periods in contemporary Irish history – from loved ones serving in the British Army and Dublin itself becoming a theatre of war, to the business of state carried out by Government.”

“It is these personal stories of hardship and love, great loss and great strength, which tend to be lost in traditional historical accounts. This project is reclaiming these lives for our generation and generations to come, allowing their stories to be heard alongside those that we are more familiar with. Digital humanities projects like this one open up the research process, giving everybody the opportunity to be a researcher. We are inviting the public to help us transcribe these precious letters – perhaps the last remnants of the lives of those who have passed themselves into history – as well as join us in tracking down obscure references in letters or locations in photographs.”

The project was launched on Friday September 27th, 2013 at 6pm at Discover Research Night, when researchers at Trinity College Dublin and the Royal Irish Academy invited the public to come and experience research in action. Members of the public brought family letters to the Trinity Long Room Hub to photograph and learned about how digital collections are created and got hands-on experience of digitisation, transcribing and digital humanities methodologies. Researchers and archivists were also on hand to answer questions about how best to preserve old letters.

The Letters of 1916: Creating History project is being carried out by students on Trinity College’s M.Phil. in Digital Humanities and Culture. Previous work by the students undertaking this M.Phil. group includes the Mary Martin Diary project – a digitised diary offering a candid insight into life for families of Irish soldiers during World War I.

www.letters1916.ie. Email: editors1916@gmail.com.