Belfast Central Library
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.
The second community-based research project to present their work was East Belfast and the Great War, a group whom we supported in their successful bid for Heritage Lottery Funding early in 2014. Since the project's formal launch at Stormont Buildings in August 2014, project leader Jason Burke and his team of volunteer researchers have been working tirelessly to trace and document every East Belfast connection to the war. Jason gave a lively presentation on the aims and methods of the project. East Belfast and the Great War are co-hosting a workshop with Living Legacies on Saturday 7th February, details of which are available here.