Thursday 23 May 2019

Crowdsourced Letters of 1916 project launches

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 have launched 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.

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 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.

For more go to Letters of 1916.

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