AFF606B Digital Scholarly Editing: Outreach Assignment

Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell and a wounded James Connolly in a scene from the figure sculpture of Walter Paget’s Birth of the Republic.

As part of my participation in AFF606B: Digital Scholarly Editing, I was assigned the task of designed and an implementing an outreach activity to support the Letters of 1916 project.  After considering a number of possibilities, I decided that I would like my outreach assignment to generate more users rather than contributors particularly in the education sector.

Students from a previous year had initiated a popular podcast series relating to the project and I decided to contribute to this series.  For the most part, previous episodes have focused on the letters themselves and the various prominent figures involved but for my contribution I wanted to focus on the end users of the project and look at how the project might be used in the classroom.  My aims here were twofold.  Firstly, I wanted to highlight the incredible work carried out by the project staff in encouraging and supporting those involved in the education sector to use digital humanities collections at second level.  Secondly, I hoped that through highlighting the output of such engagement others involved in the education sector may wish to become involved with the Letters of 1916 project and to engage with the material available.

When I first brought this idea to Neale Rooney, a research assistant with the Letters of 1916 Project, he immediately suggested that I meet with Dominic Price, a teacher at Drimnagh Castle Secondary School and with some of the students there.

Drimnagh Castle CBS

Dominic had previously attended the 2015 Teachers Workshop held by the Letters of 1916 and the Military Archives of Ireland at An Foras Feasa, Maynooth University.

Students from across the junior and senior cycle, under the guidance of Dominic, their Art teachers Ms Shirley Holland and Ms Mary McDonald, and sculptor Ms Justine Prendergast, created a beautiful and respectful commemoration of the centenary. Works included prints of the various personalities of 1916, sketches of letter writers, stamps, posters and a figure sculpture of Walter Paget’s Birth of the Republic.

Drimnagh Castle CBS

The students’ commemoration did not end with the completion of their artwork, in April 2016 their artwork was displayed in an exhibition entitled ‘The Artists Rising’ in the atmospheric setting of Drimnagh Castle.

In December 2016, I contacted Dominic and asked if he would like to participate in the podcast and he kindly arranged for me to meet and discuss the project with both himself and number of students.

Later that month, I visited Drimnagh Castle Secondary School where I was shown some of the students’ artwork.  Because of their visual nature a visitor to the school cannot not help but notice the student’s commemoration of the centenary.

Through the main door on the left there are a number of bronze statuettes that were used in the students’ depiction of the final hours at the GPO, down the corridor there is a large reconstruction of the GPO with the Irish flag in the background, there is a timeline on one of the floors which places the events of 1916 within the wider European context and the student’s artwork is framed and proudly displayed on the walls.

Drimnagh Castle CBS

The department provided me with a microphone and the interviews with Dominic and the students at Drimnagh Castle and the interviews were conducted on the day of my visit to Drimnagh Castle.  Further interviews were conducted with Neale Rooney back at Maynooth.

Following the example of previous students, I used Audacity to edit the interviews and format the blog post.  Audacity is a free, open-source software designed for multi-track recording and editing and can be downloaded here.  I also tried using Reaper but I found that Audacity was a far more intuitive software and as I am very much a beginner this was important.  Richard Breen kindly forwarded me a copy of his introduction to the previous podcasts.  For more information go to Richard’s blog.  The interviews were presented in a documentary style format which seemed the most appropriate as if they were presented in full, the podcast would be over 2 hours long.

I greatly enjoyed working on this assign and seeing first-hand how a Digital Humanities project such as Letters of 1916 can bring new life and creativity to an old subject such as the 1916 Easter Rising.  It was obvious that the students were extremely proud of their artwork and their participation in the centenary celebrations and as Dominic stressed in his interview, this would not have been possible without the support of the project staff.

I would like to gratefully acknowledge the technical support of Fionntan MacCaba at An Foras Feasa, Maynooth, the ongoing support of Neale Rooney at every stage of this project and of course, the contributors Dominic Price, Anthony Magadan, Alexander O’Connor, Brian O’Connor, John Layson and Dean Kavanagh.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how the Letters of 1916 can be used in the transition year classroom, visit 1916 in Transition for lesson plans, teaching materials and more. As ever, feel free to contact the Letters of 1916 team with any questions or queries at or on twitter at @letters1916