For release on 2 March 2016

What were people in Ireland writing letters about 100 years ago? What were they thinking? How were they affected by the Great War? the Easter Rising? How was the government of the day responding to domestic and international pressures? Researchers at Maynooth University are today launching an online archive of letters written 100 years ago so that you can find out.

The Letters of 1916 project has crowdsourced letters and their transcriptions from memory institutions and members of the public in Ireland’s first public humanities project. Letters written between 1 November 1915 and 31 October 1916 were digitised to create this unique collection which will be of great interest not only to historians and genealogists, but anybody who wants to find out what people were writing in Ireland, as well as how people outside of Ireland viewed events here. Moreover, since each letter is available online, present day readers are transported back to a different time providing us a rare opportunity to be, however, fleetingly, part of the world they inhabited. Through these letters, Letters of 1916 is making visible a new perspective on events which took place a century ago. This collection contributes to our understanding of what it was like to live an ordinary life through extraordinary times. A selection of these letters also feature as part of one of DRI’s core collections.

As the project leader, Professor Susan Schreibman explains: “Letters of 1916 has created a crowdsourced digital collection of thousands of letters connecting hundreds of lives . These letters cover a variety of topics ranging from the Easter Rising to art, culture, family life and the Great War. Through these letters the the project is bringing to life the written words, the last words, the unspoken words and the forgotten words. It is an online collection for the public, created by the public, which is adding a new perspective to life in this period, a confidential glimpse into early 20th century Ireland and the politics of the time.”

This public humanities project makes it possible for everybody to be part of the research process. The Letters of 1916 invites the public not only to help transcribe these precious letters – perhaps the last remnants of the lives of those who have passed themselves into history – but also to ensure that private family history is included in the national narrative by contributing letters to the collection that were up to now hidden away in boxes, attics and biscuit tins. To date Letters of 1916  has collected over 2500 letters from 25 institutions and 45 private collections.

Maynooth University President Philip Nolan welcomed the project: “This is an excellent demonstration of how researchers can utilise new technologies to provide a tremendous resource to the general public.  This launch is the culmination of much hard work on behalf of Professor Schreibman and her team who have ensured that these ordinary voices have not been lost.  As we come up to the centenary of 1916, Maynooth University’s commemoration programme is dedicated to ensuring that these voices, in particular the voices of women, which are often marginalised by history, are preserved.”

The project will officially be launched by Dr Catriona Crowe, Head of Special Projects at the National Archives of Ireland, at the Officer’s Mess, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Military Road, Rathmines from 18.00 this evening and additional speakers include Andrea Martin, Professor Philip Nolan, Dominic Price and Professor Susan Schreibman.



For further information, please contact:

Professor Susan Schreibman

Email: letters1916@gmail.com

Images to accompany this release are available by request to letters1916@gmail.com

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