WWI Collection Day
by Josh Hughes, NLI project intern and MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture, TCD
On Thursday, 21 March 2013, the National Library of Ireland will host its third collection day on behalf of the Europeana 1914-1918 project. In an effort to preserve and make available to the public the stories, artefacts and photographs that many families have from the Great War, the project has been running a series of these “Roadshow”-style events across Europe, with thousands of items now available for viewing on the Europeana website. Last year’s event in Dublin was such a success that this year there is a smaller scale rerun to facilitate visitors who were turned away due to time constraints last March.
As an intern for the project, as part of an MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture in Trinity, I have been involved in editing and uploading some of the content from last year that was still outstanding. This killed two birds with one stone, so to speak, as it meant that this material was dealt with, while allowing me to familiarise myself with the processes involved in doing this. On Thursday I will be recording and cataloguing the material that people bring in, while in the aftermath of the day there will be lots more editing, tagging and uploading to be done. Perhaps the most rewarding part of this is some of the interesting material that comes up.
For example, some of the stories from last year include that of a Major Edward Sherlock and his pocket watch, shown here. The watch was presented to him at some time during or after the Great War but went missing - presumed stolen - shortly after his death in 1953. Over fifty years later, a man was apprehended by Gardaí for possession of stolen goods with the watch among them. From the inscription (“To Maj. E. Sherlock M.C. from officers NCOS and men of D/161 Bde. R.F.A. with luck and best wishes”) they managed to seek out Sherlock’s daughter and return the item to its rightful owner.
Another miraculous story was that of a Private James Burke, who benefited from two rather amazing strokes of luck, according to a friend of the family by the name of Dan Mullan who came to last year’s event. Burke was wounded by a German bullet while fighting in March 1918 - a bullet which would have almost certainly killed him had he not been wearing a metal crucifix that deflected it. Stranded in No Man’s Land, and surely done for, he was then saved by a young German officer who pulled him out and brought him to a field hospital where he recovered before becoming a prisoner of war. The crucifix that saved Private James Burke's life as well as other memorabilia from his time as a soldier can be seen here.
We are very excited to see what this year’s event will bring. Keep checking back to the Europeana 1914-1918 website over the coming weeks and months to see for yourself – and don’t forget that you can upload your own family memorabilia and stories directly to the website.