Monday, July 16, 2018

The Galway International Arts Festival - An Archive of Stories and Spectacle

Late July in Galway has become synonymous with one thing. For forty years the Galway International Arts Festival has grown to become not just the highlight of Galway's cultural and artistic calendar but also to be one of the largest cultural celebrations in Europe. 

The archive of the Galway International Arts Festival resides within the Hardiman Library of NUI Galway. The GIAF archive is a detailed record of the history and achievements of the festival, as well as an account of its establishment and its growth over many years. It offers a record of how GIAF engaged not just the best of Irish artists and performers of all kinds, but also leading international artists. The archive consists of over thirty-five boxes of manuscripts and documents, comprising some of the first minute books of the Festival committee, correspondence with leading artists, programmes and posters for various events, an expansive photographic collection, press cuttings, and of course the famous Galway Arts Festival posters.

The archive includes a detailed record of administration, productions, and events held during the Galway International Arts Festival since its inception in 1978. Within the administrative records, there are editions of minutes from Galway Arts Festival committee and management meetings 1980-1982. The production files include a large volume of photographs from productions and events across all disciplines in the Galway Arts Festival. The photographs document events across theatre, comedy, dance, music, literature, visual art, street performance, and children's events. The images are also a record of the audiences and experiences of GIAF - those who each year return, witness, enjoy and take part in a celebration of the arts in Galway and which ripples outward into the world. 

The archive also includes a large volume of artist and event posters and other promotional ephemeral material. The series of press files contain records of local (Galway and west of Ireland) press cuttings of interviews and features with artists, members of Galway Arts Festival directors and management, reviews of productions and events at the festival and news on arts, theatre and culture in general nationwide around Ireland. The press files also offer a detailed and comprehensive list of events in various codes including theatre, music, visual art, children's events, literature provide an account of all acts which performed each year at the festival. Hearing the stories of visiting artists as well as local and Irish artists gives an indication of what it meant for a practitioner to have their work as part of the GIAF as well as collecting the many voices and stories of those who make the festival programme a special experience each year.

The records reveal just how the people of Galway, the west of Ireland and from much further afield have been an active part of the spectacle of the festival. Images of crowded streets and venues across the city show how audiences have been enthralled by all the Festival has to offer for all tastes and interests. The archive also compliments other related local artistic and cultural archives, such as those of Druid Theatre Company, Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, Macnas and many others, building a comprehensive memory of the Arts in Galway for over the past four decades.

A full listing of the Galway Arts Festival archive is available on the Library online catalogue

For any visitors to the Galway International Arts Festival and are curious about this amazing archive collection, please do contact the Archives service for information on access.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Guest Post - Erin Grogan (Fulbright Scholar) - Mary Rynne, Lost Plays and Theatre Archives

Erin Grogan
From August to this past February, I was lucky enough to immerse myself fully in the archives with little other responsibility – a chance most researchers can only dream of. I received a Fulbright research grant that enabled me to leave West Texas for 6 months and focus solely on delving into my dissertation studies at the James Hardiman Library. My research focuses on women playwrights during the Free State years - how they were affected by and contributed to the ideas of Irish womanhood.

Part of applying for a Fulbright grant is being able to articulate why you need to go to this other country, what makes it imperative to your studies? I knew that NUIG housed the digital archives of both the Abbey theatre and the Gate theatre which would be immensely helpful to my work, and I made a decently good argument for why that mattered (I did get the grant, after all). But if I were to answer that same question now, having been with the archival materials in person and working alongside the archivists at NUIG, my answer would look something like this:

Archives are a treasure trove. Much like writing characters in plays, archives take on a life of their own and lead you down paths you never expected. Archivists themselves are muses who point you towards material you didn’t realize you needed but now can’t write without. Without these primary sources and first-hand reflections, my dissertation would be merely speculation.

This may have been too flowery for the application, but I stand by it. When I arrived at NUIG I met with Barry Houlihan, Archivist, and we immediately set out sourcing material of relevance for my research - names of women writers I hadn’t heard of before, plays to read, materials to sort through. Most excitingly, was discovering the personal archive of Mary Rynne that had just recently been donated. Rynne had only one production at the Abbey, Pilgrims in 1938, and it received mixed reviews. While not well known, and not particularly well produced, Rynne has become an important part of my dissertation.

Despite reviews and reflections on Rynne that made it seem as though she was content to have only written one play – her archives painted a clearly different picture. She wrote short stories and radio plays, many of which were published in magazines, and her notebooks were teeming with ideas and starts of many more. In sorting through her archives related to Pilgrims, I came across a full-length script of a stage play that had never been published or produced. With no title page, I began to refer to this script as Rynne’s “Lost Play” to those I’d talk about it with.
Mary Rynne

This “Lost Play” highlighted the limited roles women in the Free State faced and the ways women subverted these expectations or ultimately gave into them. The protagonist struggles between familial duties and her own needs and wants. This script was exciting to me because it was written around the same time as Teresa Deevy’s Katie Roche and explores many of the same themes and issues. Deevy’s play is periodically revived and often lauded as a singular example of a women writing about Irish womanhood on the stage, but this play of Rynne’s proves that other women artists were also exploring the limitations of their own citizenship. The strong themes present in both plays, the relationships between women characters, and ultimately the lack of female support systems within these works highlighted a substantial issue within the wider Irish society of the time.

This archival find is just one example of the many exciting discoveries I had during my studies in Galway. Back in Texas now, I am still processing all that I was able to read and uncover. My time in the archives was invaluable and has allowed me to conduct more thorough, deep, and important research into this time period, these women, and their works. I am grateful to all the archivists at NUIG, as well as Fulbright, for allowing me the tools to write on this important subject. I know that as I continue on my academic and scholarly path, not only will I retain my relationship to this school and their special collections, but that my relationship to archives (both their existence and use) has also been changed for the better.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Seminar: Archives and Public History:Witnessing the Past - 11 April, NUI Galway

Date – 11 April
Venue - Room G011, Hardiman Research Building
Time: 1.30pm – 5 pm
Contact Information:

Overview:Archives and Public History: Witnessing the Past

Public history and the awareness of shared pasts is becoming ever more prevalent. Recent and ongoing commemorations have brought history and its reassessment into public daily discourse. Current politics and society are being shaped by integration of increasingly open and diverse pasts – from archives of manuscripts and print sources to statues, monuments and oral histories. This seminar looks at how we encounter the past of everyday life through current contemporary experience, and reflect on how we interpret the marginalised histories we meet anew through our archives, libraries, museums and public spaces.
All are welcome to this public seminar.

1.30pm: Arrival - Tea/Coffee

2pm: Welcome and Introductions

2.15pm Niamh NicGhabhann – “Curating as a research practice – engaging with the histories of St Davent’s Hospital, Monaghan through exhibition-making.”

2.35pm Deidre McParland: “Shedding Light on ESB’s Archives”

2.55pm Emily Mark-FitzGerald: “Methodologies of Irish Memory: Making Sense of Public Monuments”

3.15pm: Q & A Roundtable Discussion moderated by Conor McNamara

3.45pm Break – 15 minutes

4pm Keynote Address: John McDonough, Director, National Archives of Ireland

‘The public record as a public good. The role of archives in creating a future.’

5pm Finish

You  can register to attend this free seminar at the following link:

Biographical information and Abstracts

Niamh NicGhabhann – “Curating as a research practice – engaging with the histories of St Davent’s Hospital, Monaghan through exhibition-making.”

Abstract: The range of research practices that enable our engagement with, and understanding of, the past include archival research, oral history gathering, the critical analysis of published texts and the observation and forensic examination of buildings, monuments and archaeological sites. They also include the development of new work through creative practice that represent and engage with the past within a research context. This paper considers the extent to which curating can become a research practice which actually generates new research findings, as well as presenting ideas and objects surfaced from a prior body of work. This will be examined in the context of the development of the ‘World Within Walls’ exhibition, developed at Monaghan County Museum in 2015, which explored the histories and memories of St. Davnet’s Hospital in Monaghan town, originally built as the Cavan and Monaghan District Lunatic Asylum in 1868.

Biographical Note: 
Niamh NicGhabhann is Assistant Dean, Research for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and Course Director of the MA Festive Arts Programme at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick. Her current research project explores the Territories of the Devotional Revolution between 1850-1930, and she is also interested in the cultural construction and expression of respectability in Irish culture. She is also engaged in research projects on the subject of interdisciplinarity and on the creative and cultural industries. Her monograph, Medieval Ecclesiastical Buildings in Ireland, 1789-1915: Building on the Past was published by Four Courts Press in 2015.

Deidre McParland: “Shedding Light on ESB’s Archives”
Abstract: The history of ESB is entwined with our national narrative. It’s foundation in 1927 was based on a vision to continuously improve the lives of Irish people. From the might y Shannon Scheme of the late 1920s to the transformative rural electrification scheme of the 1940s – 1960s, Ireland was revolutionised through the first semi-state body in Ireland. Through the exploration of the content of ESB’s archives this paper will demonstrate the evidential and inspirational value of preserving and making accessible the story of the electrification of Ireland.

Biographical Note: Deirdre McParland was appointed Senior Archivist ESB’s Archives in 2015. Previously Deirdre was archivist and archive manager in the Guinness Archive, Consultant Archivist and Records Manager with Eneclann and archives administrator with GAA Museum. Deirdre has published papers in the Archives and Records Association, Irish Archives Journal, Engineers Journal, Sunday Business Post, Irish Roots and Irish Central and is a regular guest speaker, panellist at national and international conferences  and seminars. Deirdre has collaborated and curated on several exhibitions including Guinness Storehouse, Little Museum of Dublin, St. Patrick’s Festival and most recently with University of Hertfordshire.

Emily Mark-FitzGerald: “Methodologies of Irish Memory: Making Sense of Public Monuments”
The current Decade of Centenaries has been accompanied both by the construction of new public monuments and memorials, and an upsurge of research into previous forms of historical commemoration. Internationally, interest in the meaning and significance of public monuments has been re-ignited by controversies over Confederate statues in Charlottesville VA and elsewhere. This presentation will explore current debates in memory studies and methodological developments in researching public commemoration, drawing upon my own experience in the field of Irish Famine studies over the past fifteen years. Making reference to the ‘seven sins’ of memory studies recently critiqued by Guy Beiner in the Dublin Review of Books (Nov 2017) — laxity, dualism, crudity, moralism, insularity, myopia, and overlooking forgetting — this paper will explore critical intellectual and practical challenges in the study of public monuments.

Biographical Note
Dr Emily Mark-FitzGerald is Associate Professor in the School of Art History and Cultural Policy at University College Dublin. Her monograph Commemorating the Irish Famine: Memory and the Monument (Liverpool UP, 2013) has been widely hailed as a landmark study in the field of Irish Studies, and accompanies other scholarship exploring the intersection of memory, public art, visual art and culture with poverty, famine, and emigration, including the forthcoming co-edited The Great Irish Famine: Visual and Material Cultures (Liverpool UP, 2018). She is a Director of the Irish Museums Association since 2009, and represents Art History on the Historical Studies Committee of the Royal Irish Academy. Her current research project is a visual cultural history of Irish poverty in the late 19th century, focused on the impact of visual technological developments including photography, stereoscopy, the magic lantern, and illustrated journalism, creating new forms of spectatorship and visual economies.

John McDonough
Biographical Note:

John McDonough was appointed Director of the National Archives in December 2014.  

Prior to his appointment, he worked as Head of Collections in the Library & Research Service of the Houses of the Oireachtas supporting and delivering online research outputs and information services to TDs and Senators.  He holds post graduate qualifications in Archival Studies and an MSc in ICT Systems.  John has previously worked as project manager of UCD’s Irish Virtual Research Library & Archive (now the UCD Digital Library) which developed a pilot repository infrastructure for digital humanities content, and in RTE. John has responsibility for the strategic direction and operational management of the National Archives, in addition to statutory duties under the terms of the National Archives Act, 1986 with regard to the preservation of, and access to, archives and the transfer and destruction of records. John is a member of the board of the Irish Manuscripts Commission and the Council of National Cultural Institutions, and represents Ireland at European and International events.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Books That Changed History

A 2017 publication which will attract the attention of bibliophiles, art historians, literary scholars and many others, Books That Changed History published by Dorling Kindersley features essays on seventy-two works, ranging from Ancient Egyptian books of the dead to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

See a review of this title at Reviews & Discussion of "Books that changed history"

Some original and some facsimile editions of many of these works feature in the James Hardiman Library's Special Collections. Over the next months we will put our copies of some of these titles on display in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room for you to enjoy, together with the relevant commentary contained in Books that changed History. The initial display features the first volume of Carl Linneus' System Naturae, published in France in 1789. This copy is from the University's Old Library collection, features in the early library printed catalogues and bears the stamp of Queen's College, Galway.

The second chosen title in this display is a modern complete and annotated edition of the Chronicle of the world 1793, commonly known as the Nuremberg Chronicle. This fine edition was published by Taschen in 2001. It is stored in our Special Collections and can be read on request in the Archives & Special Collections Reading Room on the ground floor of the Hardiman Research Building (Room HRB005).

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

'Archives and Education' - CFP Open for Special Issue of ARA Journal, 'Archive and Records'

Archives and Records: The Journal of the Archives and Records Association

Now welcoming Submissions for a Special Issue on Archives and Education: New Pedagogies and Practice.

This special issue of Archive and Records seeks to explore innovative pedagogical approaches to engagement with archival collections at higher education institutions. Of particular interest are submissions that explicate change through pedagogical practice in both institutional strategy and the engaged population. The issue aims to facilitate a dialogue between researchers, practitioners, archivists, curators, users, educators and scholars and to address questions such as the following:
        What are the most pressing pedagogical demands being placed on archival collections at higher education institutions and how has this impacted on short, medium and long terms engagement strategies?
        How have archival teams attempted to engage with their target demographics and what successes have been achieved in the attraction of new audiences?
        How has pedagogical design been integrated into the development of existing and/or new engagement strategies?
        What are the technological challenges associated with such pedagogical engagement and how has fusion of traditional archival practice with pedagogical design enhanced the learning experience for all involved?
        How have archivist/teachers developed and embedded critical thinking and archival literacy skills into key partnerships for new impacts in teaching and learning?
        How have academic archive repositories expanded their user base into non-traditional user groups?
        How have material culture and digital pedagogies combined within the learning space?
        What has been the impact of the application of learning theory in practice on the archival teams?
        How can archival teams begin to think about supporting students across a wide variety of disciplines through pedagogical design and practice?
        What are the challenges that archival teams are facing in the future and how can relationships with educational/designers help to develop programmes that respond to the needs of the students population with a measurable impact?

Academic libraries are being refocused and repositioned within the traditional infrastructure of higher education and learning. Library and archive repositories are the engine room of such higher education institutions, fibrously connected to the objectives of impactful and innovative learning, teaching research. Such archive resources support and inspire students in response to a wide variety of demands. Increasing pressure on academic libraries and archival collections in particular, to demonstrate impact, is prompting institutions to evaluate established practices, respond to demand and to plan for the future. 

However, in the last thirty years these demands have changed along with a rapid, although not in parallel, evolution of technology, provoking debate amongst this community around how to pedagogically support engagement with collections with demonstrable output. New developments in pedagogical design for student engagement also predominate, responding to the need for the development of 21st century skills that students require to make a successful transition into employment. The digital archive is becoming ever-more integrated into the digital classroom – but what are the implications for this as regards learning through and with tangible objects and the physical record? The role of ‘archivist-as-teacher’ and mediator of the educational experience is taking greater prominence. The reading-room becomes an extension of the lecture theatre.

Current discourse and evidence places high prominence on transferable graduate attributes – those who can learn and work co-dependently as well as independently. Society today, owing to recent global economic and political changes, maintains a cautious position and distrust towards information and data. Documented evidence and testimony has become weaponised. The faculties of critical thinking, evaluation, analytical skills and academic/argumentative writing can be learnt directly from creative engagement with learning through encountering archive collections.

Academic libraries underpin such learning experiences and skills development through archive literacies. There is a need, therefore, to develop a better understanding of how the library and archival collections of higher education institutions can meet the expectations placed upon them while concomitantly meeting the expectations of increasingly dynamic pedagogical environments.
We invite papers on any aspect of pedagogical engagement with archival collections. Submissions to this special issue might consider, although are not limited to, the following themes:

        Archival collections and the educational practitioner
        The archivist and the 21st century student
        Archives and material culture in the digital era – learning through encountering
        Archival collections and technological enhanced learning experiences
        Pedagogical design for engagement with archival collections
        21st century skill development in the archival environment
        Educational theory in archival practice
        Managing and facilitating pedagogical engagement with archives
        The impact of evolving technology on short, medium and long term planning

Further details:
Prospective authors are invited to contact the Guest Editors, in order to discuss proposed articles for this special issue of Archives and Records which will be published in Spring 2020.

Dr. Paul Flynn, Lecturer in TechInnovation (NUI Galway)
Barry Houlihan, Archivist (NUI Galway)

The deadline for expressions of interest is 31 November 2018. All submissions will be double blind peer-reviewed and should be presented in line with the Archives and Records style guidelines.
The final deadline for article submissions is 30 June 2019.

Archives and Records is an international peer-reviewed journal which publishes original research contributions to the fields of archives and records management and conservation. Published on behalf of the Archives and Records Association and originally published as The Journal of the Society of Archivists, it deals with the very latest developments in these fields, including the challenges and opportunities presented by new media and information technology. As well as being issued to ARA Members, Archives and Records has over 3,000 Institutional and Individual subscribers around the world. The journal is published in hard copy and online by Taylor & Francis twice annually. Topics of recent and forthcoming special issues include ‘Archives and Museums’, ‘Archives and the visual arts’, ‘Born digital description’, ‘The local record office in the UK’ and ‘Archives and public history’.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A Muintir na Tíre Christmas release

The project to arrange and catalogue the Muintir na Tíre archive is nearly complete. After the Christmas break I will be spending the last two weeks finalising the catalogue and writing up reports and a blog or two on the project to arrange and catalogue the Muintir na Tíre archive.

As an early Christmas present into the work of Muintir na Tíre we have released the The Official Handbook/Rural Ireland annual from 1941 to 1955 online. This annual provides information on the guilds, those on the national executive and the work that Muintir na Tíre were involved in during the year. This is available for anyone to read and is available here. Thanks to the collaboration with colleagues in the Digital Publishing and Innovation Team.More journals will be coming on line in the New Year. 

We hope you have enjoyed our blogs on the work that has been done on the Muintir na Tíre archive and some of the topics that have been discovered in the archive. This collection will be available for use for research in 2018 so do keep an eye out for when it will be released. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Christmas Archive Miscellany - Festive Acts and Writings

Christmas has inspired personal stories and writings for so many of Ireland's writers. From playwrights to novelists, the story of Christmas and what it means, in comedy and tragedy, for so many has resulted in great works, many of which are within the Archives of the Hardiman Library here at NUI Galway.

Draft of story, Christmas, by John McGahern

The writer John McGahern explored this particular time of year in one of his short stories. How that story even came to be is a story in itself. Christmas is the story of the young boy deposited to a family at Christmas time from an orphanage. He rejects a gift he is given, that of a toy aeroplane and this act forms the centre of McGahern's attention in the drafting of the story. The McGahern Archive contains numerous drafts of the story which was first published in the Irish Press in 1968. Numerous titles range from Santa ClausA Gift for HimselfThe Aeroplane, before finally being published as Christmas in the volume of short stories Nightlines in 1970.

Draft of story, Christmas, by John McGahern

The opening line of many of the drafts begin with "The thaw overhead in the bear branches had stopped the evening we filled the load for Mrs. Grey". This would imply that winter has passed and Christmas is over. Yet the published story opens with a different scene, one of a young boy being boarded onto a train, described as a "ward of State" and being sent to live with 'Moran' for the Christmas period. Moran is a recurring name within McGahern's work, also being the family name within his 1991 novel Amongst Women. The novel itself was nearly called The Morans, only to be changed very close to publication.

Given so much effort of redrafting, editing and re-titling of the story is evident with McGahern's papers, it is clear this particular story meant quite a deal for the writer in the late 1960s. The variances in handwriting styles also show the revisions were carried out over a number of years, as McGahern's hand changed over the years.

Cover of A Christmas Carol, Lyric Theatre Archive, 1981
Another traditional Christmas tale is that of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. The Lyric theatre in Belfast staged in 1980 in a version by John Boyd. Boyd was a prolific playwright during the previous decade of the 1970s, writing some of the most important plays regarding the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland with works such as The Flats in 1972 also presented by the Lyric Theatre. In his introduction to the play, Boyd writes of Dickens' story being linked to the plight of everyday life in Belfast at the time. The Lyric theatre founding director, Mary O'Malley, was so enthused with Christmas-themed drama that one of the very first productions by the Lyric players was a version of The Nativity, by Lady Augusta Gregory in November 1950. The script of this had to be procured from the Gate Theatre, Dublin, as seen in the letter here.
Scene from the Nativity by Lady Gregory, Lyric Theatre Archive, 1950
Letter from Gate Theatre sending script of The Nativity to the Lyric Theatre
Lyric Theatre Archive.
At the Gate Theatre itself, the theatre staged a revival production of Micheál MacLiammóir's Christmas play, Home for Christmas or A Grand Tour. First staged in 1950, in the original programme note, reproduced in the 1976 revival programme, MacLiammóir recounts how he was prompted to write the play by Orsen Wells about an prosperous English family touring across Africa and Europe at a time of Victorian empire and exploration. MacLiammór took that advice but set the story among an wealthy Irish family who are returning from world travels to Ireland for Christmas.

We wish all our readers a very
 happy Christmas and best wishes for 2017!