The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has launched it’s 2016 program along with their 1916 Digital Collections to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising.
The NLI’s digital collection, available online by April 2016, will include over 20,000 items, including personal papers and photographs, relating to the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation.
The 2016 program, launched earlier this month, will include the release of a unique digital repository of personal papers and photographs that tell the story of the momentous events of 1916. The program was launched by Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys. The NLI program will act as part of the State’s celebrations, Ireland 2016.
In addition to the 70,000 digital images already available through the NLI’s online catalogue, the digitized personal papers and photographs of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation – Eamonn Ceannt; James Connolly; Tom Clarke; Sean MacDiarmada; Thomas MacDonagh; Padraig Pearse; and Joseph Plunkett – will be added in the coming months (see below for some sneak previews).
The digitized papers include diaries, postcards and photographs that tell the stories of the family and working lives of each signatory, alongside dramatic records of their activities during Easter Week 1916.
The full collection of Eamonn Ceannt’s papers are now available online to the public, free of charge at catalogue.nli.ie. In January 2016, the NLI will issue the material related to Tom Clarke and James Connolly, followed by Seán MacDiarmada and Thomas MacDonagh in February and concluding with the papers of Patrick Pearse and Joseph Plunkett in March 2016.
The NLI will hold a series of free events and activities throughout 2016 to mark the centenary commemorations of the Easter Rising. Highlights of the NLI’s 2016 program include:
- ‘Inspiration Proclamation’: a series of public interviews with major figures on themes of the Proclamation and their relevance for Ireland in 2016 and beyond;
- ‘Readings from the Rising’: a series of performances of literary work accompanied by music and staged throughout our historic buildings;
- School workshops and talks to help visitors trace their ancestors in this period.
The NLI will also offer a series of curated perspectives on 1916, onsite at the National Library’s buildings on Kildare Street, in Temple Bar, and online, including:
- ‘Rising’: a flagship photographic exhibition in the National Photographic Archive;
- ‘Signatories’: an exhibition in the NLI’s Kildare Street building which will present selected documents related to the seven signatories; and much more.
Below is a sneak preview of just some of the treasures to be released by the NLI. They are the digitized personal papers and photographs of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation:
- Letter from Éamonn Ceannt to Áine Ceannt from Kilmainham Gaol, advising that his trial has ended and that he expects to be sentenced to death. He intends “to die like a man for Ireland’s sake” but regrets that he will not see her again to show her how much she has meant to him. [May 5, 1916]
- Letter from Tom Clarke to his son John Daly Clarke, who was staying in Limerick with his mother, Kathleen, and her Daly relatives after he had been unwell. Clarke writes: “How many cows have you seen, and did they all have ears and tails? Did you see the one that jumped over the moon at all, he must be a great fellow.” 
- Order issued by James Connolly, Commandant-General, Dublin Division, Army of the Irish Republic, to "Officer in Charge [Frank Henderson], Henry Street" informing him to erect barricades in Henry Street and occupy the first and top floors of houses in the street. [April 25, 1916]
- Letter from Seán Mac Diarmada to Joseph McGarrity regarding his own health, his doubts about Jim Larkin's nationalism, and plans for a Wolfe Tone Memorial. [December 12, 1913]
- Draft, signed by Patrick Pearse, of the decision by the Republican forces to enter negotiations with the British, written on cardboard picture-mount, and found in 16 Moore St, Dublin. [April 29, 1916]
- Letter from Lady Alice Wimborne, Vice Regal Lodge, to her mother Baroness Ebury, giving an account of the Easter Rising in Dublin, and its aftermath.
- Note from Joseph Mary Plunkett to his family, stating that he and his brothers George and Jack have been arrested following the 1916 Rising and are imprisoned in Richmond Barracks. [April 30, 1916]
Paul Shovlin, Chair of the National Library’s Board said, “In 1916, the National Library was an intellectual and social hub at the heart of Ireland and is proud to take its place in the centenary events 100 years later, through a program built around our unparalleled collections. We are delighted to contribute to the commemorations by cataloguing and digitizing materials that tell the story of 1916, commencing with the seven signatories of the Proclamation.”
Dr Sandra Collins, Director of the National Library, added, “At the heart of the National Library’s plans for 2016 is our core mission: collecting and making available Irish memory and heritage for people everywhere. Our 1916 program is ambitious and includes digitization, exhibitions and events, and I am delighted that we will be adding to our archive of the Irish internet by capturing websites related to the commemorations for people to explore as a record of this momentous year.”
Speaking at the launch, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, TD, said: “The National Library plays such a fundamental role in helping us to connect and remember our past. The release of the 1916 Digital Collections by the National Library is sure to be a great resource to individuals and groups across the State and beyond who want to mark 1916, or to simply reflect on it. The breadth of material that has been digitized and will be made available online is astounding and represents a hugely valuable record of events leading up to and including the Easter Rising.
“I would like to congratulate the Library on a wonderful and thoughtful 2016 program of events – which I’m sure will engage and enrich all of those who take part in it, including schools, community organizations, academics and researchers, the culturally curious and lifelong learners of all ages. As one of our nation’s key cultural institutions, the National Library of Ireland – in its physical buildings and online – will be a hub of activity as we mark the centenary of 1916.”
Details of the NLI’s full 2016 program of events, from exhibitions and public events to major digitization projects and archiving the web, is available on the NLI’s website www.nli.ie. The dedicated hashtag for the NLI’s program of events to mark 1916 is #MyNLI1916.