NLI Launches Ambitious 1916
Centenary Program

The National Library of Ireland.
The National Library of Ireland.

By Julia Brodsky, Editorial Assistant
February / March 2016

In addition to the 70,000 digital images already available through the National Library of Ireland’s (NLI) online catalogue and the Irish Military Archives’ file, the personal papers and photographs of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation will be sequentially digitized by March – Tom Clarke and James Connolly’s papers were released in January; Sean MacDiarmada and Tom MacDonagh’s will be released in February; and Pádraig Pearse and Joseph Plunkett’s materials in March. And Ireland’s Department of Defense (DOD) recently announced the digitization of thousands of documents relating to the Easter Rising, Irish War of Independence, and the Irish Civil War, to take place over the coming years. The project will make accessible over 300,000 files pertaining to roughly 80,000 people and is one of the biggest projects of this kind in the world.

The announcement came shortly after the DOD’s decision to fund the digitization of the Military Service (1916–1923) Pensions Collections project until 2023, the end of the Decade of Centenaries (which began with the 100th anniversary of the Dublin lockout in 2013).

Among the files recently released are the pension applications of one John Higgins, father of Ireland’s president, Michael D. Higgins, who was denied pension for 22 years until a successful application in 1956. President Higgins is sure his father’s application was denied repeatedly due to his participation on the Anti-Treaty side of the Civil War, and the release of the documents supports his suspicions. “I think you will see, my father sends all the stuff and it gets lost. If you were dealt with on the Free State side, you were dealt with quite early,” Higgins said.

The NLI has also paired with Google Cultural Institute’s virtual tour entitled “Dublin Rising 1916 –2016” as part of their centenary program, contributing items from their special collections like Joseph Plunkett’s notebook and a draft of Pearse’s surrender.

The tour is narrated by Dublin-born actor Colin Farrell, who provides historical background informa- tion at each of the 22 virtual tour sites, beginning with O’Connell Street and ending with the mass grave of the executed leaders at Arbor Hill.

The tour ensures that visitors from around the world can experience the key locations of the Easter Rising both circa 1916 and as they are today through Google Street View and mid-1910s film reels, photographs, and personal accounts. Says NLI’s director, Dr. Sandra Collins, “Combining digital innovation with our nation’s cultural and social heritage allows us to share the story of 1916 with the world.” ♦

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