Archive for the ‘History and Technology’ Category

An ingenious audio guide to Tara

10 November 2010

Contributed by Anne Mac Lellan

A tapestry of green and brown fields guarded by haw-laden hedgerows unfolds on all sides. The summit of Tara, reached via a muddy path through squelching wet grass, rewards with views of twelve of Ireland’s counties. Under the mud, further treasures abound. However, without interpretation, it can be difficult to appreciate the significance and richness attached to Tara’s series of grassy ditches, mounds and dips.

A new audio guide infuses the landscape with meaning as the voice of broadcaster Mary Mulvihill guides the listener on a meandering journey through the site. Standing in front of the Mound of the Hostages, the story of ‘Tara boy’ unfolds. A robust 14-year-old, gender unknown, was probably the last person buried in the mound. He or she was the only person not to be cremated. The skeleton was adorned with a necklace of faience, bronze and amber beads while a dagger lay nearby. Read More

It’s the little things

27 September 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

It was around this time last week. I was sitting at a desk in the OECD archives in Paris while the librarian showed me how to use Powerfilm, an unimaginably useful software programme that prints images from microfiche directly to pdf for the reader to take away and read at his/her leisure. Let me pause and run that by you again. Documents in the OECD are stored on microfiche, microfilm, or, in the case of more recent material, on pdf, so all that’s needed is to find the pages you want, click, save to a memory stick, and continue on your way. That means no paper print-outs, no photocopying costs, no hoping your digital photographs have come out ok when you get home, no more multiple packets of AA batteries for the same.

I know what you’re thinking: brilliant, and why can’t we have one of those. Yet in the midst of my stunned elation at saving time spent indoors when it was 24 degrees and, well, Paris outside, it did sow the germ of a question for this post: just how much has technology changed the way history is researched and written in the last two decades? Read More

Some good ways to waste time

26 July 2010

By Juliana Adelman

[Image from Hyperbole and a Half ]

I am spending a lot of time writing at the moment.  What this really means, as most of you will know, is that I am staring at my computer trying to think of just about anything I could do except for write.  Pay bills? check.  Email old friends and relatives? check.  Examine long range weather forecasts? check.  Eventually I get inspired by either an idea or the sight of the hour hand creeping ever downwards and I start writing.  Is writer’s block real or is it just procrastination?  I feel as though I have tried everything: keeping journals everywhere to write down ideas, scheduling regular writing time, setting imaginary deadlines, setting real deadlines, pinning up aspirational word counts, writing from outlines, freewriting…The list goes on.  It never gets any easier.  In my efforts to avoid writing I have learned the following things you may find interesting, just in case you need some other ways to avoid doing whatever you are supposed to be doing.

1. The Library of Congress plans to archive all of Twitter. See the online magazine, Slate‘s article on the subject.  This seems like a good idea, and a potentially fruitful source.  This born-digital material will also be stored, as far as I understand, in digital form.  The LoC  is even providing tips to individuals on how to preserve their own digital materials.

2. ‘ALOT is better than you at everything.’ Hyperbole and a Half may be the funniest thing I have ever read.  I am serious.  My personal favourite is the author’s rant about bad grammar.  Maybe I have a strange sense of humour, but I actually laughed so hard at some of the posts that I cried.  This is a very good way to waste time. Read more

Digital projects in Ireland: Christ on the Cross at UCC

18 June 2010

Contributed by Juliet Mullins

First impressions of the Crucifixion scene in the tenth-century Irish Southampton Psalter might be that it is crude, simplistic and unsophisticated. When cataloguing the manuscript, M. R. James described its three images as affording: “most striking examples at once of skill in decoration and total inability to draw figures”. Even the colour palette seems to confirm that this image represents an impoverished and diminished descendent of the tradition which reached such heights in the Book of Kells. When we turn to contemporary Irish writings on the Crucifixion, however, we find poets and exegetes revelling in the complex symbolism that the Passion affords. The Cross functions as a sign of Christ’s suffering, a symbol of his saving grace and, finally, as an image of judgment and the end of earthly time. These symbols can be traced not only in literature, but also in images, the use of space, music and the liturgy. ‘Christ on the Cross’ is an interdisciplinary project that aims to provide a holistic approach to medieval culture that brings together these different areas of study into a shared space. Drawing upon the expertise of its constituent members, this research team aims to demonstrate that the Cross is the most potent of all objects in early medieval culture: it is a strikingly simple image in structural terms, yet its significance is profound and its readings multifaceted. Read More

The launch of the 1901 Census Online

9 June 2010

Contributed by Ciarán Wallace

Like the release of the next generation X-Box for historians and genealogists, the 1901 Census on-line was launched at the National Archives of Ireland (NAI) on 3 June.  The undoubted success of the 1911 Census project might make the 1901 launch seem less remarkable – but the availability of so much additional material greatly enhances the value of both sets of records.  Both Catríona Crowe, Head of Special Projects at the NAI, and Mary Hanafin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, described how the 1901 data allows researchers to expand their findings from 1911.  Despite some cautious jokes about the website crashing under the strain of launch-day traffic, this reviewer found it only marginally slower than the excellent 1911 Census version – as the numbers level off this will no doubt correct itself.

The addition of the ‘show all information’ function some months ago makes the 1901 and 1911 censuses even more useful as a research tool.  Finding one Mary Byrne out of hundreds is far easier when you can see the occupation, religion and marital status entries at a glance. Read More

Blogging the Humanities: brief recap

6 June 2010

By Juliana Adelman

Who says cyberspace is lonely?  On behalf of Pue’s I want to thank all the bloggers and would-be bloggers who joined us for a day of discussion on the present and future of blogging in the humanities.  It was great to put faces to blogs, to meet new people and generally talk about something a bit different than the usual history conference.  I was amazed at just how much discussion was possible.  We took a bit of a risk by leaving so much ’empty’ space in the programme, but it really paid off.  I think I can speak for all of us at Pue’s in saying we learned a tremendous amount and we haven’t exhausted the possibilties yet.  I supppose it’s very academic to think that blogs need a theoretical framework and a critical discourse, but even those outside academia had plenty to contribute to these topics.  The blogs represented not just history, but art, literature and geography as well.  Read More

Blogging the Humanities

27 May 2010


Thanks to everyone for their support and interest in the event. We would like to inform everyone that registration is now closed. We would like to thank our speakers and attendees but in particular our sponsors David Dickson, History Ireland and the Trinity Long Room Hub. For those of you not attending we will report on the event next week and what has been discussed.


Christina, Juliana, Kevin& Lisa

Blogging the Humanities: arts, culture, heritage, humanities online, TCD 3 June 2010

8 May 2010

Pue’s is almost a year old and, we thought, what better way to celebrate than to organise a symposium on the arts, culture, heritage and humanities blogging community in Ireland – where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we’re going in future. Hosted in the TCD Irish Art Research Centre, the day is intended to provide an informal format that will stimulate lots of debate and discussion, led by a group of speakers from Ireland After Nama, The Irish Left Archive, Come Here to Me!, History Compass, Some Blind Alleys, UCD Academic Blogging, Sligo Model Gallery Blog, and, of course, your very own Pue’s. We welcome the input of all voices – from history, arts, culture, heritage and beyond, sceptics and otherwise – so if you’re interested, have a look at our dedicated conference page and keep an eye out on Pue’s for more details closer to the event. Registration is via our online form only and numbers are limited, so we would encourage you to do so early. We look forward to seeing you there!

When is a blog a book?

25 February 2010

By Juliana Adelman

Unsurprisingly the proliferation in blogs has lead to many of them morphing into paperback form.  So far we have had Stuff White People Like, Animal Review, and Postcards from Yo Momma among many.   The last is probably most obviously amenable to the process of ‘bookization’ being a kind of record of correspondence, however flippant the title.  Mutation between literary forms is of course nothing new.  In the 19th C lectures moved into the printed sphere often first as newspaper reports, then possibly became the basis for a journal article, then the article was cut and pasted into lots of cheaper journals, and then sometimes the speaker might have published a book or pamphlet based on the lecture.  Then the same essay might have appeared in a collected works after the author’s death.  And on it went.  Suddenly a few thousands words are available in a myriad of formats to different audiences.  Anyway, I was thinking of this when I was reading Mary Beard’s It’s a don’s life which is a book version of her blog.  I wondered what publishers expect the audience for a book-of-blog to be: readers of the blog? or people who need technology brought to them in paper form?  I suppose I answered my own question by buying the book as both a reader of the blog and also a person who likes things on paper. Read more

The Kindle reader: how does it fare for historians?

27 January 2010

Contributed by Sarah Arndt

This Christmas brought me the newest version of Amazon’s digital book reader the Kindle. It was purchased as a solution for my increasingly problematic collection of books.  Many in academia can sympathize with my obsessive purchasing of books, and my inability to part with any – no matter how old or unread.  However the Kindle, though extremely useful in many ways, is not likely to completely take the place of traditional books purchases.

Its use as an academic tool for researchers and students depends on what types of materials you regularly read, and your willingness to upload different formats. While Amazon advertises over 400,000 titles available digitally, few if any of the specialist history books required by researchers and students are available. The history section mostly focuses on various strands of American history.  Having said this, any PDF document can be read on the Kindle making it ideal for reading online articles, older digitized books and theses which otherwise have to be read on the computer.  MS Word documents can also be converted and read on the Kindle.  Readers can add their own notes to any book or document, and look up the definition of any word, although these features are a bit awkward to use.

Perhaps its biggest personal selling point is for casual reading.  Read more