Trinity College Dublin - Force field

The Trinity Long Room Hub will galvanise humanities scholarship. Fiona Salvage reports

September 9, 2010

The speed at which the Trinity Long Room Hub building has been erected reflects the energy associated with the whole project. Constructed in less than a year, the new building is a visual embodiment of many years of dynamic work in the arts and humanities at Trinity College Dublin.

Poul Holm, academic director of the Trinity Long Room Hub, says: "I think it will be a signature building, not just for Trinity but also for the arts and humanities. The building certainly provides the focus within Trinity; it is in a very prominent position on the campus. We have an outstanding opportunity to open our doors - not only to be a hub for Trinity researchers, but also to build a network of people in culture, in literary and artistic life in Dublin and beyond, and provide a nexus for energising the field."

The excitement surrounding the Hub is about more than just the physical building; it is also about the activities that will take place within it, and the people who will meet there to collaborate, research, innovate, discuss and promote the arts and humanities to a wider world.

One of the most distinctive parts of the Hub is the library, says librarian and college archivist Robin Adams, because "there is a recognition that the library is an active partner in the research process, particularly as we're moving more into digital and electronic environments.

"We - librarians, archivists - can bring more to the process because once we change the format of the material there are issues of how it is described, the whole concept of metadata creation, how you access material and how you remodel it."

One of the attractions for researchers will be access to the growing number of Trinity College treasures being digitised. Overseen by Tim Keefe, head of digital resources and imaging services, digitised versions of an expanding catalogue of the institution's priceless artefacts are available online, which is driving up numbers of visiting researchers keen to study the real thing.

Holm believes researchers in the arts and humanities have lacked a supportive infrastructure to help them work with industry as extensively and successfully as their colleagues in science and medical fields. One of the Hub's roles will be to act as an incubator: to foster networks, leadership and entrepreneurship and support researchers to identify the partners they need to take their research further and wider.

This advocacy role is vital, because "very few people speak up for the arts and humanities", Holm says, especially at the high-powered tables where far-reaching decisions are made, and where too often the arts and humanities are treated as the "ethical appendix".

Work being undertaken at Trinity College in medical humanities, environmental humanities and in new fields such as arts technology, demonstrate the diverse and non-traditional areas the humanities are beginning to move into and should be consulted in, Holm says.

"The arts and humanities are a key to success in the global marketplace. Conventional wisdom is that technology and scientific discoveries are the main drivers of modern societies. Those working in the arts and humanities see things differently - we as humans are driven not by what we eat but what we want to eat. The thought, the intention is primary to human action. The arts and humanities deal with the most driving force of all: motivation."

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