Irish Pamphlets Environmental Scan

Presence on the Internet

Googling “Irish Political Pamphlets” offers a wide variety of search results. The most relevant results, and the results that show up closest to the top of the result lists, often lead to a digital finding aid or collection description of political pamphlets in archives throughout Ireland, America, and the United Kingdom. There is a wide variety of Irish political topics covered by the pamphlets in the various archives. Unlike the collection at NYU, most of the other archives seem to focus on a particular piece of Irish political history around which to base their collections. It is important to note, however, none of the results take you to digitized collections of pamphlets.

There are other, digitized collections of political pamphlets available online. Most of the collections deal with politics in other countries. Two of the most well-done websites deal with politics in Mexico and France. Besides the connection of the relevance of the subject material, it is important to note that neither of these projects are based in the country of their subject speciality. The Mexican pamphlet collection is based in Toronto, Canada, and the French pamphlet collection is based in Provo, Utah. Setting this precedent helps to make the argument that a digital collection dealing specifically with Irish/English political relations does not have to be based in either of those two countries.

Many of the other search results lead to Google Books results of printed publications dealing with politics in Ireland, where political pamphlets are referenced or quoted, and, in a few cases, printed publications that offer indexes of political pamphlets (example). Again, however, many of these are not dealing with the time period surrounding the Easter Rising and resulting Anglo/Irish War. If these events are mentioned, they are usually part of a larger historical narrative.
Most important to making the argument for the significance of this particular project are the large number of search results dealing with message boards where people are attempting to track down copies of political pamphlets like these (example). Some of the responses to questions along these lines reference pamphlets available in physical archives; as yet, many of the pamphlets available in any sort of digital form.

Most of the information available on the Internet that directly relates to my topic don’t focus specifically on the pamphlets; rather, they focus on the larger history of the Easter Rising. One of the best sites is put on by the National Library of Ireland, and there is another by the BBC that is fairly robust.

While both of these sites are well-designed, user-friendly, and interactive, the problem with both of these sites is that they offer a partisan view of the events of the time, and only offer a small selection of primary source documents. There is a narrative on both of the sites with unclear attribution, and both are offering the story of what happened, rather than offering the documents that would allow the user to draw their own conclusion. This sites could be useful for general interest in the events, but I am assuming that users of my site would come to it with a base knowledge of what went on.

State of Historical Research

There are a wide variety of pamphlets in the collection. Some of them, especially those written by the better-well-known groups and politicians, are familiar to scholars and the text of the pamphlets is available, although the actual pamphlet itself is harder to come by. When these are available, however, the text is usually available as a singular pamphlet. This is the first time that the group of pamphlets will have been offered as a cohesive collection. Because the text of the pamphlets is so political, the text has been used by scholars to make various arguments about what continues to be a very contentious event in both English and Irish history. As James Connolly, one of the leaders of the Rising, was an ardent socialist, many of the texts in the collection can be used for or against arguments on socialism that are still debated to this day.

Several of the pamphlets that were published by organizations, rather than individuals, have printed versions of the pamphlet text that is available in book form, through libraries (example). Most of these texts have not yet been digitized. However, with the exception of these few texts that are more widely available, the majority have not been utilized as citations in scholarly works. The text found in these pamphlets offers up information that can be valuable to researchers, so it is imperative that they become more widely known, so that scholars and students become more aware of their potential as a source.

History Websites and Digitization of Pamphlets

As discussed above, there are several well-done websites that deal with the digitization of political pamphlets. They way that the two websites deal with what they are offering is lacking, however. The Mexican pamphlet site is difficult to search. They have a large number of pamphlets listed, but they have only digitized a small proportion, and it is hard to find which pamphlets have the actual digital text, and which pamphlets just offer a brief bibliographic data. Those pamphlets that are digitized do not offer a transcription of the text, so searching across the site as a whole is limited to the bibliographic data. While the French pamphlet site offers digital images of all the pamphlets listed, the website is often slow to load and clunky to navigate. The French site also doesn’t offer transcriptions of the text, but it does allow the user to zoom in on various parts of the documents.

I feel that offering the transcription text for these pamphlets is essential to offering users a robust experience. It can allow them to draw connections between the pamphlets in a way that might not be available in a search of just the bibliographic data. There are, however, other website that offer transcriptions of pamphlets. The Library of Congress Daniel A. P. Murray Pamphlet Collection, which focuses on African-American pamphlets from the late nineteenth century, offers only the transcription of the pamphlet text, not the digital images of the pages. While the transcripts alert the user to where the page breaks originally occurred, the lack of the digital image of the pamphlet itself means that the user has to trust the transcription completely, which could lead to different issues.

When you are offering both the transcript and the text, the question arises of how to offer the image to the user. The Mexican and French collections both offer the images as .jpegs, but other sites do it differently. General Motor’s historical pamphlet collection offers PDFs of the entire pamplet at once, which makes it hard to navigate and zoom (example). The PDFs on the Ferguson Library’s digital site are slightly more easy to navigate, but still do not offer anything in the way of trascription (example). The search function for these pamphlets allows you to sort only by the bibliographical data, not by the actual text of the pamphlets.

The Allen County Library’s collection of digitized pamphlets are also offered as PDFs, but are much more navigable and easier to zoom (example). They also have the bonus of offering the transcript of the pamphlet under the PDF, which is a huge bonus, and really is more the way that I would like to go with this collection. This transcript, however, is somewhat hard to read, and the over-excessive hyperlinking makes it difficult to navigate. Also, clicking through some of the hyperlinks shows the lack in the search function because the results that you get from clicking on the links are not very specific. At present, this site comes the closest to doing something similar to my project, however, there is a lot more that I would like to do with the text (TEI encoding), search functions, and other ancillary information (biographies; timeline) to make my site much more user friendly and easy to navigate. The transcription on this site is offered as almost an afterthought; I would like to make the text and the image of the document engage with each other more closely.

The Monticello site that focuses on Jefferson’s letters (example) comes closer to what I would like to do in offering the transcript and the image together. While this site annotates and introduces each letter in a way I am not going to, the interplay between the letter image and the letter text is very user-friendly, although I will probably offer the image as a .jpeg rather than a PDF.

The takeaway from all of this research is that there is an extremely wide variety in the way digital texts and images can be offered and utilized by historians, students, researchers, and the general public. By offering the user as much information as possible, and by allowing them to sort through the site in an easy to understand way, users will be able to do much more with the archival content that is offered to them.

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