A new Centre for Digital Humanities was launched this week at the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute that will help transform the analysis and presentation of cultural, social and historical data using cutting edge technology.
Trinity College Dublin’s leading experts from the arts and humanities have joined forces with leaders in computer science and engineering at the new Centre. They will work together to create new platforms, giving unparalleled access to historical research and especially collections held by the Library of Trinity College Dublin.
As part of the launch Trinity researchers and students showcased some of the digital humanities projects underway. One exciting example draws on Trinity Library’s 1916 collections − the diary of Easter week 1916 by Elsie Mahaffy, daughter of John Pentland Mahaffy, the former Provost of Trinity.
Students of the M Phil in Digital Humanities and Culture have transcribed sections of the diary for the first time (*see extracts below). They have also digitally reconstructed the Saloon of the Provost’s House to create an exhibition allowing users to navigate through the space and find objects that tell stories about Elsie's life and connections to the Easter Rising.
Commenting on the significance of the relationship between the computer scientists and historians, Co-Director of the new Centre Professor Owen Conlan said: “Over the last 20 years computer science has grown from a discipline that only big business engaged with to something that impacts and influences the daily lives of ordinary people. Through working with humanities researchers we can ensure our technologies evolve and innovate with a multidisciplinary perspective.”
Launching the new centre was the film maker and Trinity alumnus, Sir William Sargent, who has worked on all eight of the Harry Potter films. He emphasised in an opening address, ‘Building Extraordinary Experiences with Technology, Creativity and Insight,’ the importance of digital humanities in the creative technology and film industries, providing a rich source of material for research and design.
The new Centre will build on Trinity’s reputation for pioneering research and education in this field by bringing together scholars from across the university who for some years have been collaborating on and leading major EU funded research projects such as the 1641 Depositions and CENDARI. It will help harness research networks across Europe and internationally and give new visibility to how the insights arising from the collaborations of humanities and technologies researchers are transforming our understanding of the world.
Speaking at the opening, Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub said: “The research area of Digital Humanities has been a priority for the Trinity Long Room Hub since its foundation in 2006. We are now delighted to be the host institute for the Centre for Digital Humanities at Trinity, leveraging Trinity’s reputation as a global reference point for research and teaching excellence in Digital Humanities and attracting significant research funding.”
Co-director of the new Centre for Digital Humanities at Trinity Dr Jennifer Edmond said: “The convergence of humanities research and technology is exciting in so many ways. It’s not just that we can have a better starting point for asking questions about literature, history, languages and the arts (not to mention better road maps for answering those questions), but that we can learn about the value of our disciplines and methods as a proving ground for cutting-edge technology.”
Excerpt from Elsie Mahaffy’s handwritten diary, The Irish Rebellion of 1916 , original images of diary in link:
“ For this ultimate success the Sinn Fein chose the worst possible moment to rise and kill the young soldiers, who had enlisted to fight the Germans. By this want of judgement they have brought upon their own heads the contempt of honourable people – who do not admire those who attack their enemies in the back – and what is more important to the hatred of the English middle class for this frustration at all events if not for all times.”
“In my book, I have written of the influence which the Irish Literary and Artistic Renaissance had upon the politics of Ireland Though this awakening has, so far, produced no poet, prose writer or painter whom anyone can believe to be immortal - it has produced first Rebels, men & women and by their activity the movement has been widely spread.”
“It has become the fashion of the friends of these rebels & complaints of the cruelty and thefts of the soldiers - one hears wild stories of them robbing the houses of the poor, taking away not only bedding - but bedsteads, and stealing, also from the slum dwellers valuable books and jewels!!! “
“These stories, if traceable at all, generally come from one of two sources. Firstly the slum dwellers who probably invent these to screen their own looting and 2nd from the ‘suspects’ of the better classes, whose houses were certainly searched, not only by the soldiers, but by the inquisitive public who entered all the houses and hastened to secure relics from them.”
The project was led by Professor Mark Sweetnam, Director M. Phil in Digital Humanities and Culture. As part of their module on 'Heritage Visualisation in Action', taught by Dr Frank Lynam, students used visualisation technologies to create the virtual exhibition.