Digital Humanities in practice – Part 1
Nano Nagle Heritage Centre,
On Wednesday, 18th October 2017, I had the opportunity to visit Nano Nagle Place in Cork City with the Digital Humanities program at UCC. It was a valuable experience that expanded my understanding of the practical application of the training I receive as a Digital Humanities student. The introductory video found on the centre’s website http://nanonagleplace.ie/ is informative and highly worthwhile viewing to familiarise yourself with Nano Nagle and her work.
Exiting the gift shop, and making our way into the heritage display, we were greeted by a large projection of an 18th Century map of Cork City. The comparison between the dark streets of Cork described in the introductory video above, and this dark narrow entry into the heritage display, set the scene for a compelling narrative journey. Details of Nano’s life and work were displayed in various portions of the centre on walls and screens, and artefacts from her life, in glass cases. There was a heavy focus on the religious aspect of her life. As a consequence of Nano founding both the Ursulines (1771) and Presentation Sisters (1775) in Cork, she was able to accomplish greater outreach to the sick, poor, and uneducated. Through these orders Nano’s influence is still felt today. One interactive visual display depicted a map of Nano Nagle’s influence throughout the world, while another offered numerous videos to choose from each detailing the current work of these orders in different parts of the world.
The various methods adopted to present information, makes the history of Nano Nagle accessible to all ages. Information boards, on many occasions, were accompanied by audio and interactive visual presentations, adding depth of knowledge and experience to the static information. In the choir-stalls visitors can sit down and have a ‘gaming-chair’ experience, with an interactive screen in front, and speakers in surround-sound cradling your head.
There are fixed displays, as well as full wall projected images and videos. Preserving and presenting information in this manner ensures that the story of Nano is not lost, only to be told within the religious orders she founded. In an age where entertainment is interactive, this heritage centre provides an engaging experience in which visitors can pick and choose how they assimilate information. While there is a natural “visitor-flow” through the centre, there are no guards dictating that you cannot re-visit a section, or re-examine an artefact, digital or otherwise.
The architecture and acoustics of the church, pose a small problem to the audio information delivered at various points therein.
The movement and light chatter of 20+ respectful students resonated through the room and disrupted the audio portion of on-going presentations. Perhaps this could be solved by having headphones available at certain AV stations.
The heritage centre is ideally situated. The winding veins of Cork City are the narrow streets that Nano walked. This centre would be an asset in any part of the city, but locating it within a stone’s throw of the current Presentation Sisters Convent, ensures that visitors are mindful that her legacy lives on. Volunteers and goodwill are still the lifeblood of this city.