On 27 September 2014 Letters of 1916 celebrated its first birthday. Since its launch the project has grown rapidly. Our 1,000th letter went public in July 2014 and there are currently almost 1,500 letters available to transcribe in the transcription desk. In collecting letters we have collaborated with thirteen cultural institutions, libraries and archives and plans are currently underway to connect with further institutions across Ireland and in the UK, the US and Canada. Twenty seven families have also kindly donated letters from their private collections, and we are also partnering with the Dictionary of Irish Biography. The letters cover milestone events like the Easter Rising and the Great War, important figures like British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and revolutionary Patrick Pearse, politics, art, literature and religion. They also cover everyday life in cities and towns and in the countryside, and regular people living ordinary lives in the midst of war, rebellion and political upheaval.
As Ireland’s first crowd-sourced digital humanities project, Letters of 1916 has created a strong presence online. To date, the website has received over 14,600 visits and 41,300 individual page views. Almost 8,500 visitors to the website from ninety different countries show how Letters of 1916 can be an important tool to engage with Ireland’s diaspora.
The project was officially launched on Discover Research Night in the Trinity Long Room Hub, the Arts and Humanities Research Institute of Trinity College Dublin by Professor Emeritus Angela Bourke, Dean of Research at Trinity College Dublin Vinny Cahill and the Principal Investigator Professor Susan Schreibman. During the past year the project has been generously funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Trinity College Dublin, Maynooth University and the Digital Repository of Ireland, and the European Association of Digital Humanities.
In April 2014, Letters of 1916 moved from Trinity College Dublin to An Foras Feasa at Maynooth University. The project celebrated its Kildare Launch on 8 May. Since then, it continued to grow, expand its research and outreach. In August 2014 we hosted an innovative workshop for secondary school teachers and others involved in education and archives to develop ways to use Letters of 1916 as a resource in the classroom. Lesson plans based on this workshop will be trialled by participants over the coming months and will be publicly released in Spring 2015.
It has featured at events as diverse as Teachmeet at UCD, Genealogy Day at the Limerick City of Culture 2014, the Tangible Ireland Ambassador Summer School. It was also presented through talks and conference papers, including Professor Schreibman paper at the Digital Humanities 2014 conference in Lausanne, Switzerland in July 2014.
The online profile of Letters of 1916 has been greatly enhanced by wide coverage in both national and international print and digital media. The highlights include a piece by Philip Bromwell on the RTE Six One News and articles and opinion pieces in the Irish Times and Irish Independent. The project successfully engages with online audiences through Social Media, particularly on Twitter reaching over 1700 followers and establishing a monthly Twitter chat #AskLetters1916 discussing topics related to the project.
It has taken many people to bring Letters of 1916 to this point: Principal Investigator and Editor-in Chief-Professor Schreibman, who created the idea for the project and has overseen its fruition and growth, three Associate Editors, Karolina Badzmierowska, Emma Clarke, and Brian Hughes, and an advisory board of six historians, librarians and archivists. Paddy Doyle, Dermot Frost and Juliusz Filipowski of the High Performance Computing Centre at TCD have been instrumental in creating the current website and transcription desk. Six internships have been completed on the project by undergraduate and postgraduate students from MU and TCD, and we are currently hosting two Transition Year students. We also acknowledge the invaluable assistance of all our institutional funders and collaborators and the countless online volunteers who have transcribed, uploaded and commented and who have made the project a success.