The ‘Letters of 1916 Project’ is calling on Kildare residents to search their attics, empty out their sock drawers, and pick apart their library shelves in the search for old letters and photographs from around the time of the Easter Rising to bring along to Maynooth University on the evening of Thursday, 8th May. The initiative, led by Professor Susan Schreibman of Maynooth University seeks to track down surviving letters and photographs from the Kildare area, regardless of their subject matter, written between 1st November 1915 and 31st October 1916.
The Letters of 1916 Project is encouraging as many people as possible to attend and contribute their old letters and photographs to this new digital archive aimed at recreating life in Ireland in 1916. The documents will be scanned and transcribed as part of the project and the online archive, created by the public and accessible to the public, will be officially launched in November 2015. Even if individuals don't have letters at home, they can contribute to the project by transcribing some of the 1,500 letters collected already.
The launch on 8th May is open to the public. It will feature talks by the Project Director, Professor Susan Schreibman; Associate Director, Dr Brian Hughes; Lar Joye, Military History Curator at the National Museum of Ireland; and Kildare resident Robert Doyle who recounts his own story of discovering historical letters in his in-law’s attic.
Discussing the event, Maynooth University Professor of Digital Humanities, Susan Schreibman said: “I am delighted to be bringing this project to Maynooth University, an institution with a strong commitment to the humanities. The Letters of 1916 project is the first crowdsourced digital humanities initiative undertaken in Ireland. We have already received a huge volume of letters and photographs from across the country covering a diverse range of themes including romance, politics, literature, official documents, the Great War and of course, the Easter Rising, but we very much want more content with a Kildare connection. Each letter helps us piece together a greater understanding and appreciation of this defining time in our country’s history. With the 100 year anniversary of the Easter Rising fast approaching we encourage the people of Kildare to contribute to this unique project.
One series of letters already identified from Co. Kildare include those from Irish rebel leader of the South Kildare and Carlow Brigade, Eamonn O'Modhrain, written to his mother Mary Moran from Frongoch Prison in Wales in 1916. The letters recount his struggles with day to day prison life and his concerns for the family farm and the well-being of his cattle herd back home in Kildare.
These and many other letters will be on digital display at ‘The Letters of 1916: Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Times’ event taking place from 6pm – 8pm, Thursday 8th May in An Foras Feasa, Iontas Building, North Campus, Maynooth University, Co. Kildare.