by Elizabeth Benjamin
Hello and welcome to ‘Return to Sender’! In this six-month Europeana-funded research project, we’ll be exploring the circulation of postcards in the WWI period, and the narratives created through this movement. The main creative product of this will be an interactive map platform, allowing a visualisation of our results.
It all started when I came across a call for applications to the Europeana Research Grant, an annual invitation to propose bids for work that uses the extensive Europeana archives for projects combining Arts and Digital Humanities, funded by the European Commission. What clinched the deal for me was that this year’s theme was WWI, which is one of my main areas of research – with the centenary in full flow, it was a perfect opportunity to propose an exploration of WWI at its hundred year mark. How and why do we want to remember WWI, and how can we make archives more interactive and accessible? These were questions that I wanted to ask.
So we developed our application and, following a Skype interview and a series of follow-up questions, on 19 November we received the very exciting news that our proposal had been successful! This was a game changer for me personally, as it would give me the scope to put into action a Digital Humanities project as well as working with an important European institution, Europeana. Through my own work in the Humanities (modern and contemporary European cultures and cultural memory), Solent University researcher Garfield Benjamin’s work in digital culture, and the talents of web developer Niall O’Leary, our research will contribute towards the expansion and promotion of the Digital Humanities – using new technologies to gain new perspectives on important issues, which in turn embeds research within society.
The first exciting – and I’ll admit, a little daunting – step was the awards ceremony, which was taking place in Brussels, as part of the Centenary Tour Finale at the House of European History. I’ve never been to an awards ceremony before, and the venue was quite imposing! (It also has a very appealing gift shop) At a time when Brexit anxieties are running high, it was brilliant (and slightly depressing) to be involved in such a central European institution – I like to think the feeling was mutual, as I got a special mention for being British…
Two months later, and we are now setting up the early stages of the project. This is involving setting up the project website, hiring student researchers, carving out some time and setting our internal deadlines. Good thing we have the right stationery for the job.