Dublin Branch, Western Front Association
Saturday 12 April 2014 | 2.30-4.00pm
National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, Dublin
TALK by Professor Susan Schreibman: ‘Hidden Stories of the Great War: The Letters of 1916 Project’
Paragraph from the Dublin Western Front Association website:
The centenary of the Great War coincides with an explosion of primary sources being made available online, with the vast majority of them freely available. This provides us with an unparalleled opportunity to revaluate the Great War from the perspective of the individual through the personal narratives left behind in letters, diaries, and journals. ‘Documents of life’ are typically not written for public consumption; rather they are private, written for one’s own self (in the case of dairies or journals), or for a small audience (often of one) in the case of letters.
Letters written by soldiers during the Great War were, by and large, censored, combatants unable (due to military censorship) or unwilling (due to self-censorship) to write about the conditions of war. Letters were constrained in other ways, such as the infamous British Field Service Postcard or those written on regulation cards by prisoners of war. There are also letters written to soldiers (again, highly censored, typically not to worry those at war), or written between family members, creating a picture of how life on the home front was effected by the separation.
There are letters from the nurses, the V.A.D.’s, and doctors supporting the war effort. These, and many more types of correspondence feature in the Letters of 1916 archive <letters1916.ie>. The goal of this project is to collect letters about Ireland written around the time of the Easter Rising (1 November 1915-31 October 1916). Letters of 1916 is the first crowdsourced digital history project in Ireland. Not only is the archive unique, combing letters from many libraries, archives, museums, and private collections in one repository, but its way of gathering/enriching the letters is novel. The editors of the project are inviting the public to participate in creating the collection, from contributing personal letters to transcribing some of the 1600 letters collected to date.
This talk will centre on personal stories that have emerged from letters collected about the Great War. It will frame these stories within the project as a whole, as well as discuss how to get involved.