Archive for April, 2010

Interview: Dr Peter Crooks, Irish Chancery Project and organiser of the ‘Archives in Crisis’ public meeting

12 April 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Fintan O’Toole showered praise on those foregoing the Grand National. Nuns sat on stairs. Historians peered over shoulders at the back. It was, Diarmaid Ferriter told the audience, highly commendable that so many had given up the first rays of summer to sit in a dark windowless room and listen to historians rambling on about the travails of history and ‘forgotten’ archives. But dark, windowless rooms are the historian’s natural habitat, and the 250 or so packed into Trinity College’s Emmet Theatre on Saturday afternoon exuded an energy born of their collective concern at the state of Ireland’s archives.

Immediately after the event, Pue’s cornered its chief organiser, Dr Peter Crooks of the Irish Chancery Project, allowed him a brief respite to gather a box laden with pens, notepads and flyers in one hand, a bunch of fresh daffodils in the other, and began an impromptu interview by asking if he felt the event had been a success. Crooks’s response was characteristically understated; he was happy, he ventured, that it turned into something more than a ‘professional whinge’. But even his natural reticence could do little to hide his enthusiasm at the levels of awareness the meeting had raised, far beyond even the positive indications they had been receiving since posters and flyers for the event had begun to circulate in the last month or so. Read More

Archives in Crisis

6 April 2010

Contributed by Peter Crooks

In 1922 the bulk of the nation’s documentary heritage was destroyed in the cataclysm at the Four Courts. What will be the state of Irish archives in 2022, on the centenary of the Four Courts blaze? This is the stark question posed by Archives in Crisis’, a symposium that takes place this Saturday in the Robert Emmet Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin (10 April 2010 @ 3 pm). The meeting opens with three short papers representing different viewpoints on the current crisis. Catriona Crowe (chairperson of the archivist’s branch of IMPACT) will outline the straitened circumstances under which Irish archivists currently operate. Eunan O’Halpin (Bank of Ireland Professor of Contemporary Irish History at TCD) will offer the scholar’s perspective on the crisis, while Fintan O’Toole will address the cultural significance of archives for Irish society at large. The symposium is intended to facilitate public debate, and the majority of the session will be taken up by an open forum moderated by Diarmaid Ferriter (Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD), during which the audience will be invited to pose questions, respond to the speakers and make their own views known. (chairperson of the archivist’s branch of IMPACT) will outline the straitened circumstances under which Irish archivists currently operate.

The immediate context for the ‘Archives in Crisis’ symposium is the present government’s proposal to merge the National Archives of Ireland into the National Library. But this proposed merger is, in fact, merely a symptom of a wilful neglect of archives that has deep roots in Irish political culture. Read more

Pue’s Recommendations for April

5 April 2010

Juliana Adelman I first encountered Hitchcock when I started babysitting: I watched Dial M for Murder in terror on the couch after the children went to sleep.  During April, the IFI are showing a selection of Hitchcock’s best including Psycho, North by Northwest and Notorious.  RTE recently aired the first of a new series of documentaries called Arts Lives.  Their first subject was the crime writer, John Connolly.  If this is anything to go by, the series will be better than any similar style programme I have ever seen on RTE.  You can still watch the first episode on the RTE Player until April 13th.

Lisa-Marie Griffith The most important event for the history community, and one which will determine research for future generations of historians, takes places this month and requires the attendance of as many people as possible. The Archives in Crisis: a symposium to Debate the Future of Archives in Irish Society will take place Saturday 10 April in Trinity College Dublin’s Robert Emmett Theatre between 3 and 5. In an effort to draw attention to the plans to merge the National Archives of Ireland and the National Library of Ireland, this is the community’s attempt to debate the effect this will have on history writing and humanities in Ireland. Speakers include Fintan O’Toole, Catriona Crowe and Eunan O’Halpin and will be followed by an open forum moderated by Professor Diarmaid Ferriter. Those who can’t attend the event or who would like to show their support for the symposium can join the Facebook group ‘Action on archives’. On a totally different note, I have been reading a little about world mythology so I really enjoyed visiting ‘Telling Images of China, Narrative and Figure Paintings, 15th-20th Century, from the Shanghai Museum’ the exhibition currently running at the Chester Beatty Library and which features images from Chinese folklore, religion, history and culture. This exhibition runs until 2 May 2010.

Christina Morin Easter is upon us, and with it, some much needed time off, which, for me, often means reading some of the many books on my ever-growing list of must-reads. Quite a few of these are actually relevant to my research but manage to get shelved for months, even years, at a time, while I concentrate on other things. This constant deferral of reading is a frustrating experience, especially when it involves novels I know I’m going to love but which I just don’t have time to read. That’s why I’m so excited about reading two new editions of all too frequently overlooked Irish fiction: Vertue Rewarded ; or, the Irish Princess (anon.; 1693) and Sarah Butler’s, Irish Tales (1716). Not only have they just been published (Four Courts Press), but the attractive new volumes offer a perfect excuse to drop everything and read fiction that I’ve been meaning to read or re-read for ages right away! They’re part of the Early Irish Fiction project directed by Ian Campbell Ross, Aileen Douglas, and Moyra Haslett, and should be one of the more erudite endeavours of my Easter week (the other main one being to eat my body weight in Mini Eggs). As soon as I’ve read the editions, I’ll be sure to review them here at Pue’s! To recover from my chocolate overload, I might hop on my bike for a cycle along the Lagan Towpath and on down to Belfast’s Titanic Quarter to take in the Titanic: Made in Belfast Festival running from April 3rd to 11th. And then, perhaps, I’ll head over to the Queen’s Film Theatre for one of the films in the 10th Annual Belfast Film Festival, which runs from 15th-30th April and has a great programme of films, workshops, and events planned. Roll on, Easter!

Kevin O’Sullivan At a party in a friend’s house a few years ago, I overheard a group of three well-travelled twenty-something Dubliners in conversation about Paris’s Musée d’Orsay and its collection of the great impressionist works. (I know – what a party). ‘They’re like art’s greatest hits’, said one. ‘Even if people know nothing about painting, they all come out to see.’ The words returned to me while browsing the National Gallery’s new exhibition in Dublin a few weeks ago. If Monet, Manet, Degas et al are Abba, do we have a U2, a Thin Lizzy or even a Joe Dolan? The best of the gallery’s acquisitions of the last ten years, there’s some great art and great history here – see, from just one era, O’Kelly’s Dublin, Osborne’s Brittany, Lavery’s wherever, and Orpen’s portrait of McCormack. Free and well worth a look if you’re at a loose end in the big smoke before 25 July. Oh, and in case anyone’s wondering, I am still listening to San Patricio, the new Ry Cooder record with the Chieftains and it’s still as interesting as it was when I gushed about it here a few weeks ago; Irish history by mariachi, with added uileann pipes.

Ireland’s Greatest?

2 April 2010

Contributed by Adrian Grant

RTE’s output of historical documentaries in recent years has been the subject of some discussion. ‘The Killings at Coolacrease’ (2007) and ‘If Lynch Had Invaded’ (2009) both stimulated a lot of discussion among historians and others alike. RTE is now asking ‘who do you think is the greatest Irish person ever?’ and has provided a shortlist of forty for the public to choose from. The five figures who receive the most votes will have hour-long documentaries produced about their lives before the public is asked to make the call on who was, or is, Ireland’s Greatest. We can also look forward to the fact that these five documentaries will be fronted by a ‘well-known personality’ who will interpret and champion their chosen figure. This is a very similar format to the 2002 BBC show “Great Britons” which was highly popular and notable here for its inclusion of two Irishmen, Bono and Bob Geldof. The two lads are included on the RTE list and there is a danger that Bono might disappear up his own arse if he wins. This is unlikely though since most Irish people don’t seem to like him very much. Read more