Monday, January 30, 2017

John Hurt and the Gate Theatre - From the Archives

John Hurt
The late John Hurt was one of the most celebrated and versatile actors of his generation. With a career that spanned over four decades on stage as well as screen, the British-born Hurt leaves a legacy of diverse and identifiable roles that speak to new generations. A character actor of rare an immense talent, Hurt brought his range of abilities to Dublin’s Gate Theatre on numerous occasions. The Gate Theatre Digital Archive, now available for research at the Hardiman Library, NUI Galway, documents Hurt’s performances on the Gate stage.

Hurt’s career at the Gate began in 1992 with a role of “Count Mushroom” in Brian Friel’s play The London Vertigo. Towards the end of the 1990s, Hurt would continue his association with the Gate Theatre and its director Michael Colgan through the work of Samuel Beckett. Hurt would play the eponymous role in Krapp’s Last Tape, written by Samuel Beckett and directed by Robin Lefévre at the Barbican Centre, London, as part of the Gate Beckett Festival. Hurt would revive the role at London’s Ambassador Theatre in a Gate production in January 2000, before finally bringing the role to Dublin’s Gate stage in September 2001, to great critical acclaim.

John Hurt in Gate production at Gielgud Theatre, London
 Hurt would return to the Gate to again take the lead in a play by another major playwright long associated with the Gate – Brian Friel. Hurt would play Andrey Prozorov  alongside Penelope Wilton as Sonya Screbriakova, in Friel’s Afterplay, part of “Two Plays After”, which explored much of Friel’s interest in the plays and characters of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov.

Hurt take to the Gate stage on two other occasions, in April 2006 and in November 2011, on both occasions to revisit what is now perhaps the definitive performance of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, directed by Michael Colgan.

The Gate Digital Archive contains a digitised video recording of Hurt in the role of Krapp at the Gate in April 2006, which is one of the most valuable records of Hurt’s stage career. It also includes nearly two hundred photographs, over one thousand press cuttings, stage management files, lighting designs, vast amounts of programmes, posters and other records from Hurt’s time at the Gate. In a fitting twist, as Hurt is so associated with the role of Krapp, an ageing man who listens to tapes of his younger voice recorded from decades previously, so too is Hurt’s infamous voice, deeply expressive face and his unique acting style now also preserved for future generations.

Read more on the Gate Theatre Digital Archive at NUI Galway.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Muintir na Tíre archive donated to NUI Galway

Muintir na Tíre has recently donated its archive to NUI Galway.  Muintir na Tíre is one of the most important national associations for the promotion of community development in Ireland. It was founded in 1937 by Canon John Hayes, in Tipperary (a future blog will focus on Canon Hayes). Through its core principles of neighbourliness, self-help and self-reliance, Muintir na Tíre has promoted and supported the concept of active community participation and championed the idea of community development in both Ireland and Europe.

This is a very significant archive of an organisation which from its beginnings sought to revitalise local communities in rural Ireland and foster and develop a community spirit from the 1930s to the present day.

This substantial archive consisting of 162 boxes and approximately 8,217 items was transferred to the James Hardiman Library in December of 2016. The archive consists of paper files, publications, photographs, loose documents, floppy disks, VHS tapes, cassette tapes, vinyl and bound volumes.

The archive came from the headquarters of Muintir na Tíre, Canon Hayes House, Tipperary. The archive was stored in banker’s boxes which were arranged by Muintir via two projects in 2010 and 2015 an example below: 

and in shelves like the picture below: 

The material that was selected from the shelves were transferred to us in large boxes as shown below:

I have been hired to review, arrange and catalogue the archive. I being Fiona Kearney a qualified archivist and records manager. I began researching Muintir na Tíre by reading Stephen Rynne’s “Father John Hayes: founder of Muintir na Tíre, People of the Land”, Mark Tierney’s “The Story of Muintir na Tíre 1931-2001 – the Frist Seventy Years” and various articles and theses written on Muintir na Tíre. This has given me a good understanding of the organisation and the work that it did throughout its history. A search of our collection can be seen here.

I have already begun opening the boxes to explore the wonders of the collection. I am currently identifying what the files contain so that I can begin to arrange the collection. This phase also involves some conservation work where I am removing rusty staples and paper clips and replacing them with plastic paper clips which do not damage the paper.       

An example of a completed file and a file that has rusty paperclips and staples.     

I am replacing the folders with acid free ones. I am also identifying any records that need further conservation work or which will need to be copied such as thermal paper, predominantly fax paper.

The process of archiving a collection from receipt to discoverability and availability to researchers takes a considerable time. I have fifteen months to complete this project. The end result will look like this.                                                                                                                                                                                                  

I hope you will join me on my journey of archiving the collection where I will provide monthly updates on the project.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

'Archives in Research' Seminar and Book Launch - 2 Feb 2017

Archives in Research – Methods, Practice, Outcomes

2 February 2017

Venue: G010 - Moore Institute, Hardiman Research Building

The Archives service of the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway are hosting a half-day seminar on the theme of 'Archives in Research'. The seminar will feature expert speakers in various academic fields who will showcase new research projects which are based on innovative use of archival collections. The seminar will focus on a range of themes, including community and publicly-sourced records of the revolutionary period in the West of Ireland which are being digitised and being made publicly available online. Other areas addressed will be an NUI-funded project centred on creating digital access to historic traditional Irish musical scores, Irish language manuscripts and the research of the context of their collection.

A keynote paper will be delivered by Professor Frank Shovlin, Director of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool. The paper will  detail the experiences of Prof. Shovlin's study of the literary archive of celebrated writer John McGahern and the influence that archive has had on his research.

Completing the day, Dr. John Kenny (Discipline of English, NUI Galway) will launch the new book Touchstones: John McGahern's Classical Style by Professor Shovlin.

The event is free and all are welcome to attend.


3pm  - Welcome and introduction  - Niall McSweeney
            (Head of Research and Learning, Hardiman Library)

3.05pm  - Chair: Kieran Hoare, Archivist (Hardiman Library)

3.10pm - Dr. Conor McNamara (History) Chronicling the familial experience of the Irish                                    revolution: digitising the Cleary Papers

3.30pm - Dr. Deirdre Ni Chonghaile (NUI Fellow in Irish/Celtic Studies) The Rev. Daniel J. Murphy Collection: Reconfiguring the Cultural History of Irish-speakers in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

3.50 – 4.00pm    - Q & A

Short Break

4.10pm – Keynote Lecture
   Prof. Frank Shovlin (Director of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool) - Prospecting for Gold: A Year with the McGahern Papers.
   Chair: Professor Dan Carey (Director, Moore Institute)

4.40pm – Q & A

4.55pm – Summary Comments – Barry Houlihan, Archivist (Hardiman Library)


The Moore Institute and the Hardiman Library present:

5.30pm – Book launch – Dr. John Kenny (English)

                   Touchstones: John McGahern’s Classical Style by Prof. Frank Shovlin.

Touchstones examines the ways in which John McGahern became a writer through his reading. This reading, it is shown, was both extensive and intensive, and tended towards immersion in the classics. As such, new insights are provided into McGahern’s admiration and use of writers as diverse as Dante Alighieri, William Blake, James Joyce, Albert Camus and several others. Evidence for these claims is found both through close reading of McGahern’s published texts as well as unprecedented sleuthing in his extensive archive of papers held at the National University of Ireland, Galway. The ultimate intention of the book is to draw attention to the very literary and writerly nature of McGahern as an artist, and to place him, not just as a great Irish writer, but as part of a long and venerable European tradition.

The event is free, all welcome. For queries contact

Prof. Frank Shovlin