2015-06-06 AHRC & Connecting Communities festival 2015 - East Belfast and the Great War
Saturday 6th June saw Living Legacies 1914-18 visit East Belfast, for the third in our series of collaborative events with the successful East Belfast and the Great War research group. This particular event was also the first of the AHRC-sponsored, Connected Communities' festival, which runs throughout June. Other events which are part of the Festival can be found on our website.
Along with History Hub Ulster, 'Row on Row' and the Hounds of Ulster, the East Belfast Network Centre played host to a range of groups who each had an important and unique approach to commemorating and exploring the Great War.
Living Legacies 1914 were supported by the Digitisation Team (Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis) from Queen's University Belfast, and were kept busy throughout the day, as they digitally recorded over one hundred, original WW1 artefacts.
Each contributor had an interesting story to share, and we were delighted to be able to capture these, and preserve East Belfast's war stories.
One contributor, a relative of Private Alec Cairns, from Lisburn, who served in the 4th Canadian Infantry Battalion, brought along some of Alec's WW1 memorabilia, and shared his story with us. Alec is thought to have joined up as a young man, aged around 16 or 17, and is likely to have concealed his age in order to enlist. This is also thought to be the reason for his move from Lisburn to Canada.
The family believe that Alec was wounded in the Second Battle of Ypres, and died in a military hospital shortly afterwards, in 1915. He is buried in Boulogne's Eastern Cemetery and the family visited his grave for the 100th anniversary last year. Several items of Alec's were digitally captured, and will be available on our database shortly.
Along with the oral history and object sampling, Saturday's event featured two presentations on particular aspects of the war and its explorations, which were both well-attended. Historian Philip Orr gave a talk on 'The Shipyard and the Home Front during the First World War', which was particularly poignant with the two, infamous cranes visible through the windows. He presented some of the lesser-known narratives of East Belfast's volunteers, and argued that, for many, the training, travel and comradeship offered by the British Army was in sharp relief to the prospects offered elsewhere.
East Belfast and the Great War project coordinator, Jason Burke, then spoke to an interested audience about the group's work to date, including some of the research methods being used to gather and record the stories of the local people whose lives were affected by the Great War.
We were very impressed by the continued local interest in the war, and grateful to the AHRC for funding the event, and to the East Belfast team for allowing us to work with them on this timely endeavour.
Other events which are part of the Connection Communities' festival 2015 can be found on AHRC website.
2015-01-22 WW1 and You (Belfast)
Thursday 22nd January saw the first Living Legacies public engagement event of 2015, and the third of seven collaborative roadshows with Libraries NI. The format was broadly similar to previous events, with some of our academic specialists giving presentations on the remit and objectives of the Centre, and the Digitisation Unit on-hand to sample and record artefacts brought in by members of the public.
In addition to this, we were delighted to host some special guests as part of our event. Firstly, Dr. Andrew Murrison MP, the Prime's Minister's special representative for the Centenary Commemoration for the First World War, gave some eloquent and encouraging remarks on his experience of how Northern Ireland is beginning to engage with the complex matter of how to remember the Great War. Dr. Murrison's comments reflected how the people of this region are taking the opportunity to explore the nuances of local experiences of the War, and in doing so, dispel some of the myths which were a mark of a deeply divided society. The work which has been carried out so far has begun to lay the foundations for strong, civic participation in the major centenaries which fall in 2016.
There are two research groups who have anticipated the significance of these anniversaries. We were lucky to have the project leads from both groups attend the roadshow and present some of their work to the assembled guests. Sean O'Hare of the 6th Connaught Rangers Research Project, which was formally launched at the Falls Road Library in August 2014, gave an excellent presentation on the group's work. The project has been ongoing since 2006 and aims to tell the hitherto unknown story of the 6th Connaught Rangers regiment, comprised of men who hailed mainly from the Falls Road area of Belfast. The group have collaborated with Centre CI, Professor Richard Grayson, to produce a publication, available for purchase here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-6th-Connaught-Rangers-Nationalists-ebook/dp/B0071A83MO. The Connaught Rangers story is just one of many which are now coming to the fore, as the centenary of the First World War creates space for nationalist communities to engage with their heritage.
2014-09-03 # East Belfast and The Great War
Willowfield Parish Church Military Antique Roadshow
On Friday 3rd October, the Living Legacies team were delighted to provide curatorial and digitisation support for East Belfast’s first roadshow. Following the successful application for HLF funding, the East Belfast project has begun to take shape and engage with local communities to fulfl its research aims.
In order to build a complete archive of East Belfast’s contribution to, and engagement with the war, the team have appealed to the public and asked for any WW1 memorobilia, stories and memories to be brought forward so that they can be recorded. This will be an ongoing process which Living Legacies, as Northern Ireland’s only WW1 Engagement Centre, are pleased to facilitate and support.
Friday saw the first of these appeals come to fruitition as members of the public came forward with what had hitherto been privately held artefacts and objects. We worked hard to take high-resolution images of medals, bayonets, letters, prayer books and photographs. We also sought to capture and record the histories of those items, via interview with the owners of each object.
Willowfield Parish Church had carried out some excellent groundwork in distributing seven thousand leaflets to homes in the surrounding area and there was a great response to this appeal. Further, local newspaper the East Belfast Extra had featured an advert for the roadshow. In addition, EB &GW and Living Legacies had advertised the event via their respective websites and social media platforms. These combined efforts ensured a fantastic turnout and subsequent data capture.
Living Legacies, in collaboration with CDDA (Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis), have held four public, interactive events to date, and each event has reinforced the powerful attachments which people have to the Great War and its legacy. The work which East Belfast and the Great War are doing will help to explore understandings of the war, whilst digitally archiving the physical objects and personal stories which are left behind.
Photos obtained from https://www.facebook.com/EastBelfastWW1/
2014-09-13 First World War Conservation Day: Newry and Mourne Museum
On Saturday 13th September, some of the Living Legacies team were at Bagenal's Castle, in Newry, site of the Newry and Mourne Museum. The event was kindly organised by Dr. Robert Whan, a Collections specialist based at the museum. Prior to the Conservation Day, a call for objects had gone out across several platforms. The call was for items and documents connected to the First World War and the period from 1912-1922. These items included; postcards sent home from the battlefield, medals, professional photographs of the men setting off for war and more unusual objects such as rifle sights. Such objects are often passed from generation to generation and kept at home. By bringing them along to events such as this, the legacy and heritage of the war can be explored in a group setting.
In order to deliver the necessary expertise, a full team was present at Newry Museum. Along with Dr. Whan and leading conservator, Sean Madden, National Museums Northern Ireland and Queen's University Belfast staff attended to provide historical and conservation advice to members of the public. Fiona Byrne, the Living Legacies History Engagement Officer, now a central figure at our roadshows and public events, provided detailed and professional guidance on the successful preservation of historical artefacts.
The digitisation unit, staffed by CDDA (Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis) was also available at Baganel's Castle so that items such as embroidered silk postcards (produced by soldiers and sent home to loved ones) could be digitally captured and thus preserved indefinitely. The call for objects had been heeded and we received a tremendous number of inquiries from individuals who wished to digitise and carefully conserve their memorabilia. The digitisation unit worked hard throughout the day to ensure that all items were successfully sampled. Digital copies (if desired) will be sent out to the items' owners in due course. These copies can be shared with family and friends or used for specific historical projects.
Throughout the day, there were costumed tours of the museum, which included a tour of the museum's 'Local impacts of the First World War' display. These were a great success. The event closed with an expert session provided by Sean Madden, who outlined the methods of conserving letters, medals, photographs and other artefacts. We were delighted to participate in this event and are grateful to the extensive work which Newry and Mourne Museum have done in engaging the public in this Decade of Centenaries.
2014-09-06 BBC World War One at Home Portrush
On Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th September, the Living Legacies team set off for Portrush. We had been invited to participate in one of the BBC's flagship 'World War One At Home' roadshows. The BBC held eight of these large-scale, flagship events across the UK, along with seventeen others. The flagship events were held in Wolverhampton, Woolwich, Sunderland, Dundee, Bristol, Rhyl, Nottingham and Portrush. The events were created so that, during this period of commemoration, members of the public could reflect upon the impacts and outcomes of WW1.
The site at Portrush housed a range of tents, groups and interactive stands. The Living Legacies team shared a tent with the Somme Association and the Royal British Legion. Castleton Lanterns were in the adjacent tent. We had brought along the mobile digitisation unit, provided by one of our partner organisations, CDDA (Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis: http://www.qub.ac.uk/cdda/), so that members of the public could have their artefacts digitised if they wished. The scanners which CDDA own can take high-quality, high-resolution images of 2D items such as letters, photographs, maps and books. By doing this, images of the item can be shared across the internet with friends, family and other researchers. They can also be preserved indefinitely via an online archive or website.
In addition, Dr. Keith Lilley, Principal Investigator for the project and Reader in Historical Geography, brought alone some trench maps to show how the Western front was not fixed, but rather shifted as the war progressed. One of the ways which the Centre hopes to encourage public engagement with WW1 legacy is to challenge popularly held conceptions and to reveal the complex nature of life on the Western front, as well as at home. The maps generated plenty of discussions as members of the public viewed the trench structures of well-known battles, such as the Somme, Guillemont, etc.
Our museums expert, Fiona Byrne, brought along some specialist materials which are used to properly conserve historical items such as letters, medals and photographs. Part of Fiona's role as Historical Engagement Officer is not only to discuss the historical context and rarity of the items which the public bring along, but also to give advice on their conservation. Many of our visitors mentioned that they had objects at home which they hoped to pass onto relatives and Fiona was able to explain how to ensure the items did not degrade over time.
The Briefing Room was the focal point of the event, with a large tent being set up for experts to give talks and hold Q & A sessions with the public. On Sunday, Centre member Professor Richard Grayson delivered several expert lectures to interested members of the public.
The weekend was well-attended, with around 7,000 people being comfortably accommodated across the site. Several of the tents were aimed at younger people, with the Parading Square challenging youngsters to complete a mini assault course, under the watch of a drill Sergeant. In addition to this, there was a Morse Code tent with a Morse decoder, field telephones and communications equipment from the War. Imperial War Museums had partnered with the BBC and the AHRC (Art and Humanities Research Council) to host the events and IWM staff had a well-attended stand with an objects expert of their own.
We were delighted to attend the roadshow and extremely impressed by the level of public interest, across a range of ages, in the heritage which WW1 has left.
2014-07-15 Living Legacies and Donaghadee Historical Society Roadshow
On Friday 15th August the Living Legacies team conducted its first roadshow in collaboration with Donaghadee Historical Society. The event was held at the 1st Presbyterian Church Hall in Donaghadee (many thanks to the ministers for their kindness in providing a venue). The Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis (www.qub.ac.uk/cdda) provided an interactive stand, which included two high end flatbed scanners, associated computers, a high-resolution digital camera and two senior technical staff who were present to digitise and store materials. In addition to this, our newest member to the LL team, Fiona Byrne, our Historical Engagement Officer and a museums expert, was there on the day to provide advice on conserving artefacts.
The roadshow was part of a broader two week festival (Donaghadee Festival Fortnight) and Donaghadee Historical Society had advertised in advance, appealing to local people to bring along any artefacts which they had from the Great War. They had also brought along some of their own personal objects, giving a well-researched family history which we were able to digitise samples for them. We were delighted to see so many local people attend the event and bring along items which had been passed down through their families.
Fiona was able to discuss the history of each item and provided expert advice on conserving medals, letters and photographs. The digitisation team scanned and photographed each item and are in the process of sending the owner a digital copy for their own use.
As this was our first roadshow, we were keen to explore the levels of community engagement with WW1 heritage and Donaghadee set an incredibly high standard. Each person we spoke to had taken steps to research their relative's role in the war and were keen to seek our help in digitising and thus preserving their private artefacts. This is one of our primary roles as a centre and we look forward to working alongside interested publics, communities and individuals who wish to preserve and protect their WW1 heritage.