Ireland-UK digital humanities projects get €6.5m funding boost

4 Aug 2021

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Minister Simon Harris said the awards will boost collaboration between Ireland and the UK in the field of digital humanities and promote an all-island research system.

A total of 11 collaborative digital humanities projects between Ireland and the UK have received €6.5m in funding from the Irish Research Council (IRC) and the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Tackling online hate in football, understanding digital feminism, mapping the history of typhoid in Dublin and tracing the evolution of Ogham writing are just some of project topics that have received funding.

Using digital methods and computational techniques, these digital humanities projects aim to innovate approaches to community engagement and enhance cultural understanding and access to heritage.

‘Maintaining and further building an international and a vibrant all-island higher education and research system is a key priority’

“Through cutting-edge approaches, these projects powerfully capture the innovative potential of joining creativity in the arts and humanities with digital technologies and promise to achieve a new international benchmark in digital humanities research,” said Christopher Smith, chair of the AHRC.

Partnering with the researchers are institutions from both islands including Sport Against Racism Ireland, the Football Association of Wales, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, the British Museum and the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, among others.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, said that the partnership between the IRC and AHRC will “drive a step change” in digital humanities cooperation between Ireland and the UK.

“The UK-Ireland digital humanities partnership is a timely reminder of both the appetite and the potential for UK-Ireland research collaboration, both ‘east-west’ and ‘north-south’. Maintaining and further building an international and a vibrant all-island higher education and research system is a key priority for Government.”

From Ogham to Ordnance Survey

One of the projects, led by academics from Maynooth University and the University of Glasgow, will use 3D technology to create a comprehensive online database of all pre-1850 examples of Ogham script for public access.

The three-year interdisciplinary project will build on work done by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies on Ogham pillars in Ireland and aims to increase the inclusion of Ogham studies from Britain into the fold.

“Everyone’s heard of runes, but not so many people are familiar with Ogham, a highly unusual and amazingly clever writing system unique to these islands. We hope this project will help change that and bring Ogham to the wider attention it deserves,” said Prof Katherine Forsyth, who teaches Celtic studies at the University of Glasgow’s School of Humanities.

Another project between the University of Limerick and Queen’s University Belfast aims to combine and digitise Ordnance Survey (OS) heritage material from across the island of Ireland.

“200 years ago, Ireland was the first country in the world to be mapped entirely at the large scale of six inches to one mile,” Dr Catherine Porter of the University of Limerick. “Not only did the OS produce maps, the surveyors also recorded local details including folklore, place-names, antiquities, religion, and topography.

“[This project will] draw together the currently disparate maps, memoirs, letters, name books and sketches into one accessible resource that will act as a foundation to digitally and spatially interlink and enhance fragmented heritage across the island.”

IRC director Peter Brown said that the awards will not only integrate the humanities with technology but also widen professional networks and cultivate long-term links between researchers in Ireland and the UK.

He added that the partnerships have the potential to find inclusive solutions “ranging from an exploration of the use of emerging digital technologies to transforming understanding of online practices to the provision of world-class digital research repositories”.

The UK Research and Innovation website has more information on the 11 individual projects and the researchers behind them.

As well as Maynooth University and University of Limerick, funding was provided to researchers from University College Dublin, Dublin City University, Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Mary Immaculate College, and University College Cork.

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic