The Living Legacies 1914-18 Engagement Centre is a focal point for connecting academic and community researchers interested in how the First World War lives on in the twenty-first century world.
The Centre is based at Queen’s University Belfast, and its purpose is to work with community-led research projects across the United Kingdom to help achieve greater levels of outreach and engagement beyond their immediate localities.
The Centre is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for three years, from January 2014 to December 2016. During this time, the Centre will be developing programmes to support community projects working on the legacies of the First World War. The five research themes of the Centre are our key areas of expertise, linked to academic researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Ulster and National Museums Northern Ireland. Beyond Northern Ireland the Centre has strong links with academic research expertise in Wales, the north-east of England and London, collectively comprising the Centre’s network.
The formation of the Living Legacies Engagement Centre emerged through shared interests between academics in exploring the contemporary resonances of the First World War. The past is particularly palpable in Northern Ireland, where our centre is situated. In Ireland, the First World War had a complex impact and longstanding effect, still evidenced today by the enduring legacies of the conflict in the histories and identities of Ireland’s populations, as well as in its politics and places, both in this offshore part of the UK as well as in the neighbouring Republic of Ireland.
These troubled legacies of the First World War offer interesting opportunities to work with communities in understanding the cultural politics of conflict commemoration and its shaping of transnational identities, subjects we think have contemporary relevance not just for Northern Ireland but for other parts of Europe too, and indeed other parts of the world. For this reason we are using different but complementary areas of research – our five themes – to address the First World War not simply as history but as heritage.
Thinking about heritage focuses attention on the ways the past lives on in the present, in complex ways. This academic interest also provides us with substantive ways of contributing to community-based research projects that are similarly concerned with First World War heritage; whether that heritage is something that is shared, for example through theatre, through landscapes and monuments, and museums; or something kept personal and private, such as family histories and objects, artefacts and memorabilia that we keep as reminders of the First World War and its impacts on previous generations.
What we hope the Living Legacies engagement centre will achieve, during the three years it is funded, is a stronger shared understanding of the First World War and its legacies. We aim to bring disparate communities together through linking projects that share a common interest in the war’s continued presence in our lives and our memories. Recording these modern-day community engagements with First World War heritage, during the centenary period, is as important – we think – as researching the war itself, taking both together we can begin to move from a past conflict to a shared future.