Launch of A Family at War: the Mary Martin Diary
Long Room Hub, Trinity College
Tuesday, 2 October 2012
Minister, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
You’re all very welcome to the Long Room Hub for the launch of this remarkable scholarly digital resource, ‘A Family at War: the Mary Martin Diary’.
It’s a particular pleasure to have Minister Deenihan with us today because last year he launched our new M.Phil in Digital Humanities and Culture, for which the ‘Mary Martin Diary’ is a key project.
Also because he is Minister in charge of the Decade of Commemoration - that is, the decade from 1912 to 1922 which shaped contemporary Ireland. The Mary Martin Diary is a primary resource for that decade, and digital humanities in Trinity is making a unique contribution towards elucidating such primary sources for the widest possible audiences.
Mary Martin began her diary in December 1915 when she heard that her 20-year-old son Charlie, a member of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was wounded and missing in Gallipoli. She began the diary:
"Dear Charlie, since I heard you are missing as well as wounded it has occurred to me to write this diary in the form of a letter. We hope to hear from you soon and till then can communicate with you, and later on when you read this it will let you know what has been happening."
The optimism of that ‘later on’ is, as I say, almost too much to bear, because the boy was already dead as she wrote, and when she finally learnt of his death on 25 May 1916, she stopped writing.
It is a unique document which tells us much about how Easter 1916 appeared to ordinary, middle-class Dublin people, and how things were for the families of Irish soldiers fighting on the Front. Rachel has laid out for us, very fully, the ways in which she, and the other four Digital Humanities students, encoded, annotated, and contextualised the primary text.
This project - carried out under the direction of Professor Susan Schreibman associate professor in Digital Humanities - is a wonderful example of what student scholars can achieve when they are mentored and encouraged.
In Trinity we do not compartmentalise teaching and research. A central tenet of a Trinity Education is that professors and students engage alongside each other on a common enterprise of discovery. This project is a shining instance of such a common enterprise.
Irish higher education institutions are committed to research collaboration. That phrase ‘common enterprise of discovery’ can apply equally to our inter-institutional links. The HEA initiatives in this regard have been excellent, and I’m delighted that we are also extending collaborations beyond this island, and starting to build global academic networks under Trinity’s Global Relations Strategy launched two weeks ago.
Digital Humanities is particularly strong in regard to how Trinity represents Ireland on the world stage: Trinity now coordinates two major, European-wide Digital Humanities projects:
- CENDARI, a collaborative digital research infrastructure that is integrating archives and resources for research on medieval and modern European history;
- and CULTURA which is pioneering the development of next generation adaptive systems using humanities content for testing and development.
The Mary Martin Diary adds to the impressive range of digital projects hosted by Trinity for the benefit of the Irish public, including
- the ‘1641 Depositions project’
- gothicpast.com, a visual archive of gothic architecture and sculpture in Ireland
- and ‘CIRCLE: A Calendar of Chancery Letters, 1244-1509’.
These projects were Herculean in scope and took decades to achieve, but they have opened the way for new understandings of Irish history. Access to these projects is free, showing how universities like Trinity contribute to the public good through their research.
On the occasion last year when Minister Deenihan launched this new masters, Trinity’s Professor David Dickson said that the Masters in Digital Humanities and Culture will (I quote) “involve the study of cultural memory and the public status of history in modern society. It will examine the political issues surrounding public commemoration and the role of museums, archives, galleries and the media in shaping public perceptions of the past. It will survey concrete questions involved in the conservation, presentation and communication of the physical heritage of past cultures.”
The new M.Phil was not specifically designed to coincide with the Decade of Commemoration.
But I’m sure the Minister will agree that during this decade when we examine, as a people, these issues of cultural memory and public commemoration, it is wonderful to have at our disposal the vast expertise and professionalism of the staff and students in Digital Humanities.
Thank you for your attention and it’s now my pleasure to invite Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, to officially launch this project.
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