From the Visceral to the Digital at the Clarke Studios Symposium

Trinity College Library Dublin recently hosted a symposium on the work of the Harry Clarke Studios (one of the most famous stained glass studios in Ireland) and the ongoing digitization of this historic collection by the Library’s Digital Resources & Imaging Services Department. The digitization of the Harry Clarke Studios Archive is a demonstrator project for the Digital Repository of Ireland project and is being undertaken by staff in the Library’s Digital Resources & Imaging Services department in conjunction with the Manuscripts and Archive Research Library.

The one-day event, entitled the ‘Clarke Studios Symposium’ was held in The Trinity Long Room Hub  and was funded by its Research Incentive Scheme, with additional funding from The Irish Art and Research Centre. Helen Shenton, Trinity College Librarian and Archivist, opened the meeting, which was attended by over 120 people and featured 13 speakers from a range of disciplines spanning art history and the digital humanities.  The aim of the symposium was to bring the analogue and the digital together in a day of visual presentations, stimulating talks and interesting discussions. The podcasts and presentations of the speaker’s will be available on the Clarke Studios Symposium webpage.

The symposium began with a keynote speech for the history of art aspect of the project (the “analogue”). Professor Gordon-Bowe, who is a leading Harry Clarke expert, gave a presentation on the life and the progression of Harry Clarke’s work as a stained glass artist.

The keynote speech for the “digital” session, was given by Simon Tanner, King’s College London, who is one of the leading experts in digital humanities and Director of Digital Consulting at the college. His paper examined the benefits and challenges associated with digitization, and reflected on his past experiences of photographing stained glass windows. Further details here.

Presentations also discussed the global reach of the Clarke Studios, particularly in Africa, America and New Zealand; the contribution of digital collections to humanities research and the cultural context of stained glass windows in Ireland. Ken and Muriel from the Abbey Stained Glass Studio, gave a practical demonstration and brought along a wide variety of props, examples of stained glass windows and working designs. They also displayed a sample of shattered Harry Clarke glass they gathered at St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford, after the fire of Christmas Day 2009, which totally destroyed the Church along with the original windows.

The symposium also featured active engagement with the online community through Facebook and Twitter – using the hashtag, ‘#ClarkeStudios’, attendees were able to live tweet pictures, discussion points or general comments about the day. A Storify of the event recorded the positive experience of speakers and attendees, highlighting the contribution of social media to documenting events and encouraging further engagement with the digital collection.