Computers & Texts No. 16/17
Table of Contents
Winter 1998

This article sponsored by

The Thomas MacGreevy Hypertext Chronology

Digitising Irish Archives for the New Millennium


Susan Schreibman
Judith Wusteman
University College Dublin,


The Thomas MacGreevy Hypertext Chronology is one of two recently funded projects of CoSEI - The Computer Science English Initiative at University College Dublin. The goal of The Chronology is to create an digital archive about the life, work and relationships of Thomas MacGreevy.

Image of Thomas MacGreevy Thomas MacGreevy (1893-1967), poet, critic, translator, art historian and Director of the National Gallery of Ireland (1950-1963), was one of the pivotal figures of Irish Modernism. His links with Irish, British, American and European writers, artists, art historians, and politicians were so extensive that an examination of his life provides a unique window onto cultural and artistic interconnections for the first three quarters of this century.

Through a mixture of chance and circumstance, the vast majority of documents relating to MacGreevy's life and work have been preserved, comprising a body of material probably unrivalled in richness and complexity. The core material, deposited by his literary executors at Trinity College Dublin, comprises one of their most valuable archival collections which increasingly attracts scholars from many disciplines. But this core archive cannot be fully appreciated until brought into relation with material from a variety of sources, including published work, numerous private collections, gallery collections, and other archives.

These documents would be most useful as a research tool organised in a way which minimises editorial and interpretative interference while maximising comprehensiveness and accessibility. This is the purpose of a chronology. Once presented in such a form, the sheer volume of the archive will no doubt, in time, foster a number of reinterpretations of twentieth-century Irish culture by providing a unique source of material for scholars working in fields as distinct as art history, English literature and Franco-Irish cultural relations.

Project Aims

Image of typewriter The MacGreevy archive, comprising tens of thousands of documents, images, sound and video recordings, is an excellent corpus for developing a model for managing a large hypermedia archive. This archive will not be restricted, however, to viewing documents in chronological form. Many other organisational principles will be built into the software system, such as genre searches (letters, articles, poems, plays, interviews, images, etc), or media searches (video recordings, audio recordings, manuscript images, diplomatic renderings of texts, etc.).

Therefore, one of the primary aims and challenges of The Thomas MacGreevy Hypertext Chronology is to integrate diverse genres and media in a single archive. Following, and possibly customising, the TEI Guidelines and using XML (eXtensible Markup Language), we will explore ways of linking several verbal languages (including English, German, French, Greek and Latin) to the languages of music and the visual arts. As this richly-textured archive will also link literature to history, politics and social culture at a turning point in the emergence of modern Ireland, it will provide a model for the assessment and interpretation of material at the cross-roads of interdisciplinary understanding.

Another aim of the project is to address the complex problems of presenting a body of hypermedia material in such a way as to allow simple yet comprehensive access to a wide range of research topics by scholars with no previous knowledge of hypermedia systems. Thus, we are developing provision for multiple views of texts based on the variety of ways in which the user may require access to the documents. For example, users looking at material in chronological form will see texts in a summary notation with provision for access to the full text. Alternatively, a user may want to see the full text of letters from a particular correspondent, possibly within a certain time span. Again, an appropriate view of the information will make this possible.

The Thomas MacGreevy Hypertext Chronology is one of two sister projects under the aegis of CoSEI, which was founded to begin the task of establishing UCD as a centre for humanities computing. Support for The MacGreevy Chronology has come from FÁS (the Irish Training and Employment Authority) and through a UCD Newman Scholarship. The Chronology is providing a test bed for the INTENTS project which recently received funding from Forbairt, the Irish government agency whose aim is to bring science and technology to the centre stage of Irish economic development.

The Intents Project

The aim of INTENTS is to design a suite of intelligent knowledge-based tools to assist in the construction, navigation and management of hypertext documents. It is envisioned that one of these tools will semi-automatically create a conceptual structure of a document corpus and exploit domain knowledge and knowledge of the user to provide a framework which may be exploited by an intelligent hypertext browser. It is envisioned that another tool will be the browser itself, which will be knowledge-based and designed to use metadata produced by other tools in the suite (for example, the TEI markup). Other tools will include document management tools, document authoring tools, and tools which will try to learn from user behaviour, perhaps by building a conceptual model of the user.

The Project Team

At present the project team comprises:
Dr Susan Schreibman (The Semester in Irish Studies Newman Scholar, Dept of English), Project Manager for The Thomas MacGreevy Hypertext Chronology
Dr Judith Wusteman (Dept of Library and Information Science), Research Collaborator in CoSEI and INTENTS.
Mr John Dunnion and Dr Ronan Reilly (Dept of Computer Science), Principal Investigators of INTENTS.
Aidan Halpin and Paula Murphy, Humanities Research Assistants.

Further information about the project is available from

[Table of Contents] [Letter to the Editor]

Computers & Texts 16/17 (1998). Not to be republished in any form without the author's permission.

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Document Created: 25 April 1998
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