While exploring the module AFF 606B Digital Scholarly Editing, which I attended this last semester as a part of the MA in Digital Humanities in the National University of Ireland Maynooth, we asked to participate in an outreach activity. For this activity, each student, in conjunction with the module coordinator (Prof Susan Schreibman) and the Letters 1916 team, would undertake the design of an outreach activity to support the project of Letters 1916. Outreach could take the form of a twitter campaign, podcast, video, or other activity designed with Letters 1916 staff. I found it a very good and interesting idea! This would be a special opportunity for all of us to show our best creative side. So it happened! But let’s take things from the beginning.
At the beginning, I thought about creating a podcast, believing that it could be quite direct and more people will have the opportunity to reach it. But, in the aftermath, a conversation with my professor and the team of the project changed my mind. I realized that a video would be more appropriate for this purpose. So, I started to think about the script and what would be my focus point. It would be something which underlined more the historical part, the public participation or something else? After all, I decided to create a video narrating part of the irish history in the year of 1916 and also the importance of mass participation for the Letters 1916 and feel that this is not just a volunteer work, but an active involvement with their history. This sense of personal involvement played a very important role in the final creation of the video and it was in the centre stage.
Speaking more specifically for the video’s story, the main idea was to inspire people to participate in the project. To do this, I thought that the video should contain some pieces of the history of that period; so, the audience have the opportunity to remember the events through black and white photographs and have a small taste of the 1916s. Photos from camps and foxholes are there to transfer a little bit of the conditions then prevailing. After that, a small story starts to unfold, with a young soldier who writes a letter, sitting in his camp, and sends it to his family. This is a very common picture in the camps of that time period. The soldiers and their families or friends exchanged letters very frequently. We should not forget that there was not any other way to communicate with each other (you can see the numbers of letters in the website of Letters 1916 http://letters1916.maynoothuniversity.ie/learn/index.php/outreach/progress-update/). This way, with the depiction of a familiar situation, I wanted to point that all these people who came from this period are not some distant ancestors or just people from the past generally, but people who have lived just a few years before, having the same need for communication.
In the next part, we move on the present and the modern post offices. The letter which the young soldier wrote “travels” to nowadays; it reaches to our homes and to our hands. All the letters of the year 1916 have the potential through the research of the team of Letters 1916, to reread from us. Moreover, not only there is a chance to read, but also to process them by editing, publishing or transcribing. And like this, we go to the next part of the video, where the public is encouraged to participate and to offer their help in the project with one of the above ways. In the last part, I chose to be given away some information on the work already done within the three years of operation of the project. Because the main purpose is to attract as many people as possible, willing to offer their help, the elements chosen to highlight in this video were those referring to existing volunteers, the letters that have been published in institutions and organizations that work with the Letters 1916 and with the collections, private or not, by which gained all this valuable material. Of course, in the end, it could not miss the reference to the project site and the exhortation of individuals to join.
At the individual level, what I gained through my involvement in the creation of this video, are plenty and important. Firstly, I saw how complex could be something like that. Many of us think that you can just put images side by side, a music in the background and that is all. A video needs a scenario, a good initial design is the most important part. The ideas someone has could be many, but the beneficial thing is to know which ones are really good and original and which serve the purpose of the video. After the clarification of the final concept follows the formation of the final script. So, in this part, I did clear my mind what I was exactly to say through the video and what I want viewers like to receive seen it. I started to select the pictures and tried to find out the proper music. At this point, I would like to thank the team of the project for the provision of the material and the latest statistics related to the project. Then, I gathered the material and chose the order in which they will cite the images, I had to browse to the video maker software and learn how to use it. With the online tutorials and forums, it is quite easy to find the answer to any question. After some days and a lot of trial videos, I came to the end result.
To sum up, I am grateful to my professor and to the team of Letters 1916 because they give me the opportunity to present one more artistic part of me and to learn a totally new skill. It was something different than the other assignments we had to do and I am very happy for my participation on that. Learning new things never cease to be a new challenge!
You can watch the video here: https://vimeo.com/199312574
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