Museum Ireland, Vol 24. Lynskey, M. (Ed.). Irish Museums Association, Dublin (2014).

Page 1

museum ireland 2014 volume 24

IRISH MUSEUMS ASSOCIATION

Cumann Músaem na hÉireann


IRISH MUSEUMS ASSOCIATION

Cumann Músaem na hÉireann

Museum Ireland, Volume 24 Published by the Irish Museums Association Ltd, 2014 Editor Maura Lynskey Printed by Nicholson & Bass, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim The IMA welcomes contributions to this critical review. Instructions to authors are available on our website. Please contact us in the first instance outlining your proposed article or review. Views expressed are those of individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the editors or the Irish Museums Association Ltd. Members of the IMA receive Museum Ireland as a subscription benefit. Non-members wishing to subscribe should contact the IMA Office. Potential advertisers should contact the IMA Office. Irish Museums Association, Ground Floor St Stephen’s Green House, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2 www.irishmuseums.org Telephone: +353-1-4120939 e-mail: office@irishmuseums.org ISSN 0961-9690

2

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Contents ARTICLES 5

l

Performing the past: material culture and the dialogical museum LukE GIBBONS

13

l

The past as a political minefield: public memory, politicians and historians RóISíN HIGGINS

19

l

Istrian emigration meets the museum: encouraging dialogue and understanding between ideologies LIDIjA NIkOčEVIć

27

l

Festival studies and museum studies – building a curriculum NIAMH NIC GHABHANN

41

l

The renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa and implications for colonial history GuIDO GRySEELS

55

l

Where contemporary art and histories can meet HELEN CAREy

63

l

Terror and hunger, disease and death: Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum NIAMH O’SuLLIVAN

73

l

Institutionalising the Rising: the National Museum and 1916 EMMA LIBRERI

83

l

The importance of museums in shaping Qatar’s national identity CAITLíN DOHERTy

91

l

Presenting the past: evaluating archaeological exhibitions in museums in the Republic of Ireland DONNA GILLIGAN

105 l

Developing early years programming at the National Gallery of Ireland jOANNE DRuM

Contents

3


111 l

“I go to seek a Great Perhaps”: engaging youth audiences AOIBHIE McCARTHy

123 l

Caring for your family collections: preservation workshops at National Library of Ireland LOuISE O’CONNOR and BRíD O’SuLLIVAN

131 l

Donegal County Museum remembering the shared histories of Donegal juDITH McCARTHy

141 l

Exhibiting the invisible – Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin CLAIRE ANDERSON

MUSEUMS AND EXHIBITIONS 149 l

Answer the call: First World War posters MAIRéAD QuINN

P U B L I C AT I O N S 151 l

Schmitz Compendium of European Picture Frames 1730-1930: Neoclassicism, Biedermeier, Romanticism, Historicism, Impressionism, Jugenstil, Solingen ANNE HODGE

153 l

Migrating Heritage: Experiences of Cultural Networks and Cultural Dialogue in Europe EMILy MARk-FITzGERALD

156 l

Museums in the New Mediascape OONAGH MuRPHy

158 l

Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum jOHANNE MuLLAN

160 l

4

B OA R D O F T H E I R I S H M U S E U M S A S S O C I AT I O N 2014

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Performing the past: material culture and the dialogical museum LUKE GIBBONS

Introduction1 “What we could call the psychoanalytic truth, or the truth of performance, cannot be captured in historical facts. More specifically, the truth of trauma … is lost even in the most astounding statistics.” kelly Oliver, Witnessing: Beyond Recognition2 When Bernard Bailyn, perhaps the most eminent American historian of his generation, was asked on one occasion about his ‘recommended reading’ in history, his choice may have come as a surprise to many: there is a book about Irish history that I have recommended to any number of students, a memoir by David Thomson called Woodbrook – which is the name of an estate in Ireland where he, as an Oxford history student, came to tutor a young girl and fell in love with both the girl and Ireland. It is a memoir of a love affair, but at the same time, because Thomson is a historian, a commentary on Irish history. I think it is a remarkable book, a romantic tale and historically imaginative and interesting. So, when I talk about the way in which seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Irish history telescopes into contemporary problems, I tell students to read Thomson’s Woodbrook.3

— 1. This article is based on a talk presented at the Irish Museums Association Annual Conference, Museums & Memory: Challenging Histories on 22nd February 2014, Waterford 2. Oliver, K. (2001) Witnessing: Beyond Recognition. University of Minnesota Press, 92. 3 Bailyn, B. (1994) On the Teaching and Writing of History. University of New England, Hanover, 23.

It is interesting to note the terms of Bailyn’s recommendation of Thomson’s remarkable book: enthusiasm, personal involvement both intellectually and emotionally, and not least, the imaginative power to bring the past into dialogue with the present. yet Woodbrook is far from being a conventional historical text – some chapters have footnotes appropriate to social history, but the formal shifts in narrative bring it closer to a memoir, diary, or even the kind of fiction associated with Proust, joyce or (Thomson’s contemporary and neighbour), john McGahern. What comes across from Woodbrook is not just information, data, or facts, as positivist historical method would have it, but the lived textures of the past as it impinges upon the present (the book was written almost forty years after the events). Performing the past: material culture and the dialogical museum

5


The challenges of modern forms of remembrance It is these forms of remembrance that pose a challenge for the modern museum, all the more so as in an age of new social media and digital technologies, the emphasis is increasingly on information, algorithms and impersonal connectivity. But evoking the ambience of a bygone era is not solely a matter of information: it is closer to knowledge of someone than knowledge about them – to what Bertrand Russell famously described as knowledge by acquaintance as against knowledge by description.4 knowledge about, knowledge by description, is concerned with content, and can be enumerated, tabulated and quantified: it lends itself to empirical research and to the detachment of historical method or legal evidence. But knowledge by acquaintance, knowledge of, is bound up with questions of form: not only what is conveyed but how, and from whom and to whom. This carries information but also has the force of an utterance, a performative act involving context, situation, and material setting.5 It is here that the physical environment of the museum makes its presence felt, over and above the materiality of its exhibits or artifacts. Objects in a museum do not speak for themselves, despite all the facts that may be known about them: rather, by virtue of their context they speak to us, and through layout, design and architecture, to other objects in the museum. But this is not to say that the role of the individual artefact is simply to lend support to the macro-narrative of the museum – the story of the nation, the heroic past, the progress of mankind, or whatever. Rather objects can be seen as bearers of micro-histories in their own right, providing glimpses of obscured or alternative pasts that often throw into question the received narratives into which they are inserted.6

— 4. Russell, B. (1912) The Problems of Philosophy, Ch. 5. Oxford University Press. 5. For a concise introduction to theories of performativity, see Loxley, J. (2007) Performativity. Routledge, London. 6. Ginzburg, C. (1993) Microhistory: two of three things I know about it. Critical Inquiry, 20 (Autumn 1993): 1035.

6

Museum Ireland

Looking back on a previous era, for example, the eighteenth century, it is tempting to wish for modes of access to private life that could circumvent the euphemisms and discretion that dominated the novel in that period, and to imagine an unsparing realism (as in james joyce) that revealed ‘what was really happening’ behind the scenes, free of all censoring impulses. What this search for facts fails to realize is that the narrative conventions of the novel were not just added on to sex and sensibility in that era, but were constitutive of the structures of feeling: there is no possibility of pushing the forms aside to gain unmediated access to the content. To understand private life in the eighteenth century is to gain access to the ‘forms of life’ that made it possible, and indeed it is often these forms that prove most elusive: we may have copious amounts of information but still miss the bigger picture, the Volume 24 2014


framing perspectives to make sense of it all. This, however, is not all there is to form, for through hindsight, it is clear that it not only structures but also represses experience, screening off or ruling out possibilities in sexuality, marriage and relationships (which may no longer be taboo in contemporary lifestyles). It is for this reason, according to Theodor Adorno, that form, in a psychoanalytic sense, bears the traces of what is not said as well as what is said, testing the limits of representation in a given society. Challenging the unifying role of the aesthetic, Adorno argued that form is never in a one-to-one relationship with content, but at its most telling, is at odds with its subject-matter, opening up as well as ordering lived experience.7 It is precisely these fault-lines in dominant narratives that the micro-histories of objects prise open, improvising space for occluded or discarded versions of the past.

The Great Irish Famine

— 7. Adorno, T.W. (1997) Aesthetic Theory, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 139-52. 8. O’Neill, T.P. (1956) The Organisation and Administration of Relief, 1845-52. In Dudley Edwards, R. and Williams, T.D. (eds), The Great Famine: Studies in Irish History 1845-52. Browne and Nolan, Dublin, 259. 9. Lyotard, J.F. (1988) The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, trans. Georges Van Den Abbeele. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 57.

No more than facts, objects or events do not speak in one voice as is clear from the wide variation in approaches to commemorations of the Great Irish Famine. It is difficult to imagine a museum dedicated to the Irish Great Famine sealing off the past, and for the same reason, a historical record resting solely on facts and statistics (important as they are) is not the final word, as it would fail to do justice to the ethics of the disaster. As jean-Francois Lyotard notes, the facts by themselves do not add up to the enormity of a catastrophic event, if for no other reason that an event acquires definition through form: including, as Lyotard notes, the possibility that the event may shatter the available forms of intelligibility. A vast array of facts about the Great Famine, such as death rates, crime figures, poorhouse admissions, evictions, emigration and so on, were known to the British administration at the time – indeed, were collected by them. But this did not add up to ‘Famine’ in their eyes, or when it did, elicit the moral and political responses commensurate with such a crisis. As the historian T. P. O Neill observed, there was a marked reluctance to use the term ‘famine’ in official documents, resorting instead to euphemisms of ‘scarcity’ and ‘distress’ by way of damage limitation.8 Hundreds of thousands were dying, yet so far from the facts being self-evident, they were integrated into dominant narratives of providentialism, the market, and empire. For Lyotard, the forensic approach to historical enquiry that suspends questions of justice is no different in principle: ‘‘If history gave rise only to historical enquiry, they [historians] could not be accused of a denial of justice … But they are not worried by the scope of the very silence they use as an argument in its plea.’’9 All this is not to say that ‘famine’ Performing the past: material culture and the dialogical museum

7


was a retrospective categorization: its terror was all too evident to its victims, and those who spoke on their behalf.10 In her survey of contemporary representations of the Famine in the Illustrated London News, Margaret Crawford noted the ‘subjective’ element in illustrations, as against the kind of objectivity found in ‘a file of state papers, the contents of a Poor Law minute book, or a doctor’s case notes.’11 But of course there is a difference: the administrator and doctor could afford professional detachment, whereas the most resonant images sought to register the plight of the starving poor, but were no less ‘objectively realistic’ for that. No doubt many of these paintings and illustrations were constrained by Victorian pictorial conventions, but it is often, as we have noted, because of formal structures that discordant details (or micro-histories) evoke what is not shown, the submerged histories considered not fit for official purpose.

— 10. The Observer (London) as early as October, 1845, employed the term, There is a certain irony that Charles Trevelyan, in The Irish Crisis (1847), was one of the first to use to the description ‘the great famine of 1847’ but as Leslie Williams notes, limiting the description to one year might be seen as an exercise in containment. Williams, L. (2003) Daniel O’Connell, the British Press, and the Irish Famine: Killing Remarks. Ashgate, London, p.260. 11. Crawford, M. (1994) The Great Irish Famine, 1845-9: Image Versus Reality. In Kennedy, B. and Gillespie, R. (eds) Ireland: Art into History Town House, Dublin, 88. 12. For recent research in Irish material culture, see Moran, A. and O’Brien, S. (2014) Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture. Bloomsbury Academic, London.

8

Museum Ireland

It is in this sense the museum relocates history in an expanded field, the materiality of form – of the archive as well as its objects – placing the textual record of an event in a wider experiential context.12 Often dismissed as popularization or cultural tourism, these modes address an ethics of memory, reminding us that the point of studying slavery, the Great Famine, The Easter Rising, The Great War, or the Holocaust is not only the pursuit of truth but the obligation to do justice to these events. This is to underline the normative nature of historical enquiry, professional history as well as popular memory, and it is for this reason that omniscient narration, as the ‘form’ of objectivity, needs to be called into question. The critical resonances of the museum are best realized by treating it as an echo chamber carrying multiple voices, not least distant voices muted in their own era that could not be heard until now. The backward look has thus a dual focus: at once directed towards a world that is past, yet also through hindsight aware of the outcome, a legacy unknown to participants in that past. That this is not always acknowledged does not make it any less compelling: the past is viewed not only for what it reveals but also for its blind spots, the erasures and gaps in memory. Thus part of the power of the Famine Museum in Strokestown, Co. Roscommon is the presentation of events not only in terms of AngloIrish relations, emigration flows, and their immediate aftermath, but also setting this against the wider backdrop of globalization, world markets and contemporary famines. This allows for hindsight on the part of contemporary descendants of the Packenham-Mahon family who ran the Strokestown estate, and who rightly emphasize that their forbears

Volume 24 2014


acted out of what they considered just and ‘improving’ policies for the modernization of the estate. By the same token, Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac university in the united States addresses not only representations of the Great Famine but also, through the inclusion of contemporary art, raises questions about representation itself, and the registers available at different times in responding to the calamity. The essentially contested nature of memory is no less pressing for being in the wings, but for an engagement with back-stage as well as front-stage in retrieving the past, we might turn to a recently-acclaimed – but also controversial – treatment of the Holocaust, or one key episode in the events that led to the death camps, Laurent Binet’s ‘novel’ on the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, HHhH.13

The actuality of events

— 13. Binet, L. (2013) HHhH, trans. Sam Taylor. Vintage, London. Subsequent references in parentheses in text.

Binet’s account is as much about the production of meaning, the performance of the past, as it is about the actuality of events. So far from ceding priority to fiction, however, the assembled narrative sticks closely to the facts, insofar as they can be ascertained, but it also highlights the imponderables and gaps in the historical record. A recurrent motif, for example, is the inability to settle definitively the colour of Heydrich’s open-decked Mercedes Benz that proved his undoing: whether it was black or dark green, since different sources fail to agree (HHhH 154-6). But this is only a symptom of more serious undecidable issues, such as who was ultimately responsible for the plan hatched in London to assassinate the ‘Blond Beast’. Binet’s approach differs from a conventional historical account in that it delineates how the record takes shape, the production of meaning and truth whereby narration crystallizes into facts. A professional historian might cite a source such as the autobiography of Heybrich’s wife, Lina Von Osten’s Life with a War Criminal, in a seemingly effortless fashion, but Binet notes ruefully that it remains untranslated into French or English, and is all but inaccessible: ‘‘I imagine it would be a mine of information, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on it. It is an extremely rare work and the price on the internet is generally between 350 and 700 euro” (HHhH 25). Professional historians do not, as a rule, provide insights into the material practices of their craft, but Binet provides the research equivalent of Francis Bacon’s studio, the messy processes that go into constructing what appears in the end to be a seamless work. Eventually, Binet has to buy Lina Von Osten’s book, and while this might seem as totally irrelevant to the main story, he surmises that its exorbitant price may have to do with the cult of Heydrich that survives into the present. Performing the past: material culture and the dialogical museum

9


As Michael Newton notes in his perceptive review of HHhH: “[Binet’s] book soon turns out to be cleverer and more intricate than its opening sections suggest. The po-faced narrator grows more and more human, revealed as fallible, or even inept, as he changes his mind, rescinds information, revises the ‘facts.’ His story runs away from him; his findings are contradictory; he forgets to bring in a major character; trivial – or maybe crucial – details waylay him.”14 Though the recurrent reflexive turns may be seen as digressions, illuminating at most the genealogy of facts or the mechanics of research, they go beyond the display of Francis Bacon’s studio in that they are incorporated into the aesthetic form of the book.15 As Bruno Latour has shown in relation to scientific method, facts, no more than objects, do not lie around waiting to be discovered but are established by often tortuously established frameworks – narratives, if you like – that give them significance, and which, at any given time, far from exhaust their meaning: “without hard scientific labour . . . there would be no such thing as hard scientific facts.’’16

— 14. Newton, M. (2012) ‘What A Ghost wants,’ review of Laurent Binet HHhH, London Review of Books: 8 December, 2012. 15. Of course, Francis Bacon’s studio has now become a work of sorts, forming the main attraction of the Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery, where it is on permanent display. 16. Rée, J. (2014) ‘From Straight Talk to Speaking Well,’ review of Bruno Latour, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence, Times Literary Supplement, January 10, 2014, 7. 17. Newton, M. (2012) ‘What A Ghost wants,’ review of Laurent Binet HHhH, London Review of Books: 8 December, 2012.

10

Museum Ireland

It is in this vein that Binet’s narrator notes at one point that if his work were a genuine historical novel, á la Victor Hugo, there should be pages of descriptive scene-setting, but he skips this: ‘‘I’ve decided not to over stylize my story. That suits me fine because for later episodes I’ll have to resist the temptation to flaunt my knowledge by writing too many details for this or that scene that I’ve researched too much” (HHhH 13). Scene setting takes on a decided impact, however, when he walks the streets of Prague, the city where the assassination took place, and visits the hidden vaults of the church in where Heydrich’s two enigmatic assassins, the Czech jan kubis and the Slovak josef Gabcik, met their tragic deaths. Binet attempts to fill in the inner lives of the two men, and what drove them to such extraordinary feats of courage, but all the time, it is a chronicle of deaths foretold: we know the outcome, whereas they did not (apart, perhaps, from the virtual certainty they would not survive). As Michael Newton again recounts in his review of HHhH: ‘‘Trapped in the church’s crypt, they fight back, yet the end must come. It was always already there, prefigured in the stated facts of the novel’s first few sections. In maintaining a sense that events might still turn out otherwise, Binet pulls off the most difficult trick of the novel of historical reconstruction: we know the end, but grasp that the actors themselves do not, are still there, living through the possibilities of events.”17

Volume 24 2014


It is this notion of history as possibility as much as what actuality happened, outcomes that even the doomed resistance fighters could not have envisaged, that puts imagination back into history, all the more to draw it closer to the truth.

Exhibitions in the contemporary museum Extended to the logic of display in the contemporary museum, Binet’s reflexive technique shows that while exhibits are often selected to validate certain interpretations, they may also attest to unspoken narratives, or possibilities occluded by the contingencies of history (including blindspots in the present). Rather than being reduced to a seamless spectacle or a closed system in which ‘events seem to narrate themselves,’ display is a process of enunciation in which ‘utterances’ – practices of design and exhibition – reveal that ‘the historical narrative … has been [narrated] by someone’: the key issue in challenging the semblance of objectivity, as Louis Marin states, is to undo ”the absence of the narrator in the narrated … the silence of the stating in the stated.“18 Conceived in performative terms, the museum functions as a dialogical rather than a monological or monumental space, suggesting multiple routes, and indeed roads not taken, rather than a single royal road to the present: if the space of the museum is to become more fully dialogic, and if such statements are not to be fully framed within – and so potentially, to be recuperated by – the official voice of the museum, the principle embodied in such experiments needs to be generalized, thereby, in allowing the museum to function as a site for the enunciation of plural and differentiated statements, enabling it to function as an instrument of public debate.19

— 18. Marin, L. (1981) On the Theory of Written Enunciation: The Notion of Interruption– Resumption in Autobiography, Semiotica, supp., 103. Italics added. 19. Bennett, T. (1995) The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics. Routledge, London, 104. 20. Townshend, C. (1971) The Republic: The Fight for Irish Independence. Allen Lane, London, 4; Farrell, B. (1971) The Founding of Dáil Éireann: Parliament and Nation-Building, Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 7.

In the case of major upheavals in history, moreover, it is not the role of the museum to present a unified narrative that seeks to explain (or explain away) a tumultuous event. In the coming decade of commemorations, there is already a tendency, exemplified by former Taoiseach john Bruton, to play down the 1916 Rising as a ‘crazy aberration’ (as Charles Townshend notes of contemporary responses), a verdict underscored by Brian Farrell’s reassurance in the 1970s that the Rising ‘‘did not seriously alter the mainstream of the Irish political tradition.’’20 As john M. Regan has observed of this myth of business as usual, in which narratives of the past are recreated in the constitutional image of the present: ‘‘This sketched the outline of a new organizing theme for the abridgement of Irish history, which over many centuries identified Performing the past: material culture and the dialogical museum

11


constitutionalism and parliamentarianism as the forces dominating Irish political culture. The revolutionism of Easter 1916, it was said, was an exceptional and perhaps even insignificant event.’’21 ‘Exceptional’ it certainly was, but hardly insignificant. It is incumbent on the logics of display in the museum to address the force of the exception, as precisely the kind of disruptive event that cannot be inserted into gradually unfolding, incremental narratives. The turn towards everyday ‘small histories’ in recent local history, while welcome for empowering ordinary voices and marginal people, can be used to deflect attention from seismic events that shattered centres of power, but it can provide micro-histories, showing how tremors were felt even in remote districts. Notwithstanding the bitter-sweet nostalgia of Woodbrook, Thomson recounts how IRA members were working on the staff of the house during the Troubles, and that the after-shocks of the War of Independence and the Civil War were still felt in the community in the 1930s. The Civil War, wrote Thomson, ‘‘had split the people, not geographically, but piecemeal; counties, villages, families were broken apart ... the hatred engendered by the civil war survives to this day among old men and a few of the young. People hide it from strangers as much as they can, but Ivy [who married into Woodbrook in 1922] was aware of the undercurrents, and even twelve years later the emotional tension was evident to me.” 22

Conclusion

— 21. Regan, J.M. (2013) Myth and the Irish State: Historical Problems and Other Essays. Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 3. 22. Thomson, D. (1974) Woodbrook. Barrie and Jenkins, London, 55.

12

Museum Ireland

This points to the competing pressures on historical narratives: on the one hand, to tell the truth; on the other, to act as an emollient healing the wounds of the past. That truth may also have its own healing powers, however, came home to David Thomson when he was invited to open Strokestown House to the public in the late 1980s, and revisited the mansion for the first time in decades. Time has already taken its toll on the house but it is often in overlooked objects, out of place, that other inner histories break through. Over a mantelpiece in a bedroom, Thomson was taken aback to discover a picture of two horses painted by his beloved pupil, Phoebe kirkwood, over fifty years earlier. He not only remembered the time it was painted but also the names of the horses, a rare occasion in which lost moments of enunciation are restored to objects, and the past catches up with the present. Luke Gibbons is Professor of Irish Literary and Cultural History at Maynooth University.

Volume 24 2014


The past as a political minefield: public memory, politicians and historians RÓISÍN HIGGINS

Introduction1 As the centenary of the Easter Rising approaches in 2016 this article examines its place within the Irish imagination and considers what we might learn from previous commemorations. It also suggests some of the tensions which exist between politicians and the public over ownership of the memory of iconic historical events. Two thousand and fourteen had barely begun before politicians in Britain had waded into the debate about how Britain should best remember the First World War. On 2nd january Minister for Education, Michael Gove, wrote an article for the Daily Mail that challenged the left-wing myths about the War. He claimed that these myths thrived in the national psyche because they had been peddled through fictional dramas such as ‘Oh, What a Lovely War’, ‘The Monocled Mutineer’ and ‘Blackadder’ which, he argued, portray the First World War as “a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite”.2

— 1. This article is based on a talk presented at the Irish Museums Association Annual Conference, Museums & Memory: Challenging Histories on 22nd February 2014, Waterford 2. Daily Mail, 2 January 2014 ‘Michael Gove Blasts “Blackadder Myths” about the First World War spread by television sit-coms and academics’,. 3. Clarke, A. (1961) The Donkeys, Hutchinson, London, See also Todman, D. (2005) The Great War: Myth and Memory Hambledon and London, London, and Reynolds, D. (2013) The Long Shadow Simon & Schuster, London

It is not difficult to see why Conservative politicians might want to challenge a version of the First World War which depicts it as a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite. But Gove was also attacking a historiographical approach which, while present during and after the war, came to dominate in the 1960s, heavily influenced by the publication of Alan Clark’s ‘The Donkeys’ published in 1961. The First World War in the British imagination since has largely been characterized by mud and futility both of which underlined the innocence of the dead and the heroism of the sacrifice.3 yet, Gove’s intervention prompts us to ask what else is at stake in these competing versions of the war? The ‘Lions led by Donkeys’ view of the First World War provided a way to talk about the benefits of a

The past as a political minefield: public memory, politicians and historians

13


meritocracy and the stupidity of the ruling elite. By the fiftieth anniversary in 1964, many of the survivors had died and the event had begun to float free of its origins and had become a vehicle through which to talk about contemporary society. Criticisms of the war were not being used to undermine Britain’s military traditions they were concerned instead with the distribution of power and influence within post-war society. Therefore a key element of the controversy surrounding the memory of the First World War in Britain goes to the heart of one of that society’s most sensitive issues: class.

Possibility and failure Pivotal historical events often survive in the cultural memory as channels for the discussion of contemporary preoccupations. They regenerate rather than remain static. Commemorations tend to take moments of rupture and reshape them into representations of tradition or continuity. But, in fact, it is often the rupture that societies are compelled towards: either as a moment of historical potential or of devastation. We read into them stories of sacrifice, redemption, loss and waste. In Stewart Parker’s play about 1798, Northern Star, Henry joy McCracken says “…we can’t love it for what it is, only for what it might have been, if we’d got it right, if we’d made it whole. If. It’s a ghost town now and always will be, angry implacable ghosts. Me condemned to be one of their number. We never made a nation. Our brainchild. Still born. Our own fault.”4 Throughout the play Parker returns to that moment of possibility, the moment before reality overtakes the dream. Lorcan Leonard, the man behind the restoration of kilmainham Gaol Museum, which opened in 1966, wrote to a friend the previous year:

“As far as the 1916 jubilee [of the Rising] is concerned, I do not wish to be brought into it. At best, it can only be a melancholy remembrance, as we, right and wrong sections, have fallen so far short of the minimum. However, I am convinced as I always was, if kilmainham is saved Ireland is saved, and out of our poor efforts at least the children of the future will say we preserved the history of Ireland, as far as stone and roofs are concerned … Let them say we gave them neither wealth nor land but a dream.”5

4. Parker, S. (1989) Parker Plays 2: Northern Star, Heavenly Bodies, Pentecost Methuen, Oxford 5. Kilmainham Gaol Archive. 12 November 1965. Lorcan Leonard to Sean Dowling

In these two representations we see something of the usefulness of these events as commemorations. They offer both a vision and a subsequent failure and we return to them seeking answers. This is part

14

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


of the attraction of the Easter Rising. yet it does not fully explain why 1916 has become such a touchstone in Irish society. When Tom Clarke was asked, ‘Why a Republic?’ he is reported to have replied” you must have something striking in order to appeal to the imagination of the world.”6 Almost one hundred years later the Taoiseach, Enda kenny, described Easter 1916 as “one of those seminal weeks when the fault lines of history shifted.”7 Therefore, if we look at the Easter Rising we can see that it matters to Irish people primarily because it is seen as a moment of possibility. This makes it both tantalizing and dangerous: a moment of change around which people who want change can gather. It is partly because of this that the state attempts to stabilize the meaning of the Rising; to co-opt it on behalf of tradition and legitimization. Moreover, society as a whole has, at times, colluded in de-radicalising the Rising by turning it into a commodity.

The Rising as a vehicle for commemoration The Proclamation situates the Rising within a continuum of the struggle for freedom and so its commemorations provided moments into which a range of historical events could be collapsed. If defined by this assertion of freedom from British rule the Rising represents both a measurement of the height of Ireland’s ambition and the depth of its failure. The violence at the heart of the Rising also allows it to function historically as a mirror with which to examine the best and the worst of Ireland. Furthermore, as Pearse understood well, Easter 1916 incorporates a classic model of sacrifice and redemption and these elements – in all societies – can be powerfully deployed in peace-time to sell a message of patriotic service. Therefore, the Easter Rising works symbolically at several levels. It aligns itself with the religious symbolism of the resurrection and it very deliberately commemorates all acts of Irish insurrection that have gone before and so clearly locates itself within religious and nationalist traditions. Perhaps most crucially, it also speaks to the future. — 6. McGarry, F. (2010) The Rising: Easter 1916 Oxford University Press, Oxford, 154. 7. Kenny, E. 13 November 2014. Speech by Taoiseach Enda Kenny ‘2016 Commemoration Launch’

What does it say to us in the future? In some ways it says whatever we need it to. Commemorations all have a gimmick, as Oisín kelly put it when he was designing the Children of Lir sculpture for the Garden of Remembrance, “in 1941 the gimmick of the official commemoration

The past as a political minefield: public memory, politicians and historians

15


was neutrality; in 1966 it was modernization; in 1991 it was silence and in 2006 it was Celtic Tiger consumerism.”8 The parallels between the ways in which the Easter Rising was officially legitimized by the success of the Irish economy (and the way in which the Rising was used to celebrate the economic policies of the Independent state) in 1966 and 2006 are quite striking. Indeed, historically, the commemorative fortunes of 1916 have been deeply affected by the economic circumstances of the southern state. This asked interesting questions of what would happen in 2010 when the IMF was called in to the Republic of Ireland. It was possible that the Easter Rising would be the focus for anger and be associated with the failings of the state (as it had been in the 1980s). But, in fact, the Rising was deployed once more as the most powerful available symbol of Irish sovereignty. It was used to give expression to a nationhood that transcended the state and indeed, and in unlikely quarters, the Rising was also used as an example of good leadership.

Towards 2016 In 2012, Ireland embarked on a ‘Decade of Centenaries’ which has been variously understood as beginning with the sinking of the Titanic, the introduction of the Third Home Rule Bill or the signing of the ulster Covenant. If the intention was to lessen the focus on the Rising by placing it within a constellation of anniversaries then the plan has failed. The Rising seems to grow in significance as trust in political leadership recedes.

— 8. Higgins, R. (2012) Transforming 1916: meaning, memory and the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising Cork University Press, Cork 9. Kenny, E. 13 November 2014. Speech by Taoiseach Enda Kenny ‘2016 Commemoration Launch’

16

Museum Ireland

When Enda kenny launched the ‘2016 Commemorations’ in November 2014 he said the “events of that momentous week and its aftermath, and the inspiring Proclamation which underpins it, has (sic) shaped our view of ourselves and our nation, for the past century”. He presented 2016 as a “once-in-a-century opportunity to create events of celebration and remembrance…”9 However, the ‘Ireland Inspires’ launch and promotional video which bore the headings ‘Remember’, ‘Reconcile’ ‘Imagine’, ‘Present’ and ‘Celebrate’ were seen as, at best shamefully ahistorical and, at worst, deeply cynical. The subsequent public outcry demonstrated an intense resistance to having the Easter Rising reduced to what were seen as a series of hash-tags. The ninety second video ‘Ireland 2016’ carried images including those of Brian O’Driscoll, Bono, Ian Paisley and David Cameron, but none of the signatories of the Proclamation.

Volume 24 2014


Attempting to use 1916 as a marketing tool for Ireland is not new. Writing in the Irish Socialist about the jubilee 1966, Michael O’Riordan complained of the “adman’s clichés of Lemass and Co., who sound more and more as if their true vocation lay in writing cigarette commercials”.10 During the fiftieth anniversary Seán Lemass’s commemoration committee was very awake to the possibilities of using the anniversary to project an image of a modern, technologically advanced Ireland. The Taoiseach has also placed particular emphasis on promoting the commemoration abroad and encouraging those of Irish descent to visit Ireland during the celebrations.11 The Easter Rising is a significant brand in Ireland so attempts will always be made to use it to sell things. However, it is also much more than this. It is an event which is greater than the sum of its parts and therefore operates as a conduit or icon: the portal to a complexity of meanings and conversations about Irish history and society. Therefore, even in a culture as commercialized and commodified as Ireland’s, there is opposition to having the Rising so blatantly, not just abbreviated but obliterated. So where does that leave us as we approach 2016? What are the competing needs of the public, politicians and historians? Politicians (in all countries) will try to control the commemoration of important historical events. They know these events give form to significant debates within the society and, in Ireland, they are also seen as potentially explosive. This gives the government a good reason to try to marshal the emotion associated with these events on behalf of the state and, more specifically, on behalf of a political party. Essentially what politicians want from a commemoration is that it will act as a force for social cohesion not division. Heroic national myths underscore the identity of the nation and those in authority have an interest in seeing them as a cause of celebration not criticism. What history teaches us, however, is that attempts to control the meaning of commemorations are doomed to fail.

— 10. O’Riordan, M. Irish Socialist June 1966. 11. Higgins, R. (2012) Transforming 1916: meaning, memory and the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising Cork University Press, Cork

What of the public? There is no doubt an appetite for heroes exists and this is an important part of the appeal of the Rising. But Easter week was also a moment of ambition, foolhardiness and a deeplyheld desire for change and this too resonates with the Irish public. That potential republic – the measurement for what came later – lies deep, sometimes dormant, in the national psyche.

The past as a political minefield: public memory, politicians and historians

17


Conclusion In the midst of all of this sits the historian who, in many ways, has the task of seeing the distinction between the historic event, the commemorative ritual and the cultural product. Historians attempt to contribute to the debate in a way that facilitates a wider engagement with history. They must also create the spaces into which history can be used to show society to itself: challenging easy assumptions and shameless myth-making and, above all, resisting the forces of those in authority (including other historians) who mould history to underscore power.

Dr Róisín Higgins is a Senior Lecturer in History at Teesside University.

collect exhibit

engage

Highlanes Gallery, Laurence Street, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland

T. + 353 (0)41 980 3311 W. www.highlanes.ie E.info@highlanes.ie

18

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Istrian emigration meets the museum: encouraging dialogue and understanding between ideologies LI D I jA N I kO č EV I ć

Introduction1 When mentioning Istria one has to keep in mind that this region is profoundly shaped by displacement throughout the 20th century. Therefore, to discuss Istrian emigration is to discuss in a great deal the Istrian history in the last century in general. The leading regionalist party in Istria today is stressing the idea of multiculturalism as one of the most important characteristics of the social culture in Istria. However, the quality of different nations and ethnic groups of the Istrian peninsula living together has varied and differed throughout centuries and in specific situations and places. Seen today as a quality that is a symbol of tolerance, multiculturalism (together with nationalistic ideologies that were tied to nations that have lived in Istria) was in the biggest part of the 20th century a reason for nationalistic struggles between two major groups of population – the Italian and Slavic which encompassed both Croatians and Slovenians (whose ethnic space is northern Istria) who were living in Istria. Italians were literate, urban; in most of the cases they were better off and they had developed different institutions – in short, they were the upper layer of society up until the end of the Second World War. In the same period, Croatians and Slovenians were mostly illiterate, rural, rather poor and lacking institutions. Since Austrian times (when Istria was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy) the animosities between these two groups were not exaggerated and/or kept under control thanks to the political compromises made by the Monarchy’s politicians, that time has often – even today – been recalled by most Istrians as a time of relative harmonious relations among all groups of the population. — 1. This article is based on a talk presented at the Irish Museums Association Annual Conference, Museums & Memory: Challenging Histories on 22nd February 2014, Waterford.

The History of Istria Besides the multicultural situation, the fact that Istria belonged to five different states (Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Italy, Germany, yugoslavia and Croatia) in the last century made it difficult for the

Istrian emigration meets the museum: encouraging dialogue and understanding between ideologies

19


Istrian population to identify with only one state and only one culture. This situation for most Istrians meant the interior displacement at certain periods as well thanks to political regimes that favoured specific nation(s) at a time. However, the emigration began at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to the poor economic situation in the district which increased in the 1920s. Leaving mostly for Argentina, Brazil and uSA, Istrians found various strategies to survive, – eg working in New york harbour or in the steel and mechanical engineering industry in Cleveland. At that time, in the period between the two world wars, Istria became a part of Italy. Italy’s orientation towards fascism gradually developed into an intolerance towards the Slavic population of Istria making life difficult or impossible for many Croats and Slovenians. Croatian schools were closed, family names and placenames were Italianized. The use of the Croatian or Slovene language in public was forbidden at certain times. Therefore many anti-Fascists left together with Slovenians, Croats (and Austrians). Most of them left for the then yugoslavia and remain scattered throughout that country. In zagreb (and to a certain degree in Belgrade), they formed an enclave, founded many clubs and developed a significant publishing activity. After the Second World War Istria was joined to yugoslavia. This was accompanied with the huge euphoria of liberators and the majority of local Slavic population. Those liberators meant occupants for Italians in Istria, since they brought nationalization of property and prosecution and punishment of political enemies and bourgeoisie. All this represented another kind of a totalitarian regime based on the communist ideology and this was the reason why many Italians started to think about leaving Istria. The murder of hundreds of Italians in foibe (pits in the Carsick terrain) instilled a mass fear – so intense that foibe have remained a symbol of the exodus of Istrian Italians until today. It is believed that more than 200,000 people left Istria and Dalmatia because of the change of in the system and because of the murders, threats, consternation and fear, but also due to the propaganda from both the yugoslav and Italian sides. However, this number is the object of constant negotiation as are many facts tied to ‘il grande esodo’ (the big exodus). The leaving of esuli resulted in many ghost-towns in Istria. Abandoned houses in many Istrian small towns are evidence of the effects of the post Second World War exodus. However, when they

20

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


came to ‘madre patria’, Italy, they were seen as remains of the old regime, which Italy at that time wanted to distance itself from. About one third of all Istrian refugees settled down in Trieste and this is one of the reasons why Trieste is today recognized as ‘The capital of the exile’ (Il capitale del esodo). Many of the refugees spent several years in refugee camps throughout Italy. Nowadays, this theme is a hot political issue, mostly actualized by right-oriented parties in Italy. They support esuli in attempts to gain back their lost property in Istria, but also in their public activities: exhibitions, book fairs, etc. Istrians in Italy are organized into societies called ‘families’ (eg Famiglia Dignanese, Famiglia Pisinota, Famiglia Parentina etc). Members of those communities reconstruct various aspects of traditional Istrian life (Church patron’s days, celebrations and local festivals) as well as new traditions of commemorating the violent actions of ‘Slavic barbarity’ tied to foibe and the exodus in general. In general, they don’t want to be seen as Istrian emigrants, since this attribution is too euphemistic for them – they think of themselves as refugees, as victims of ethnic cleansing. Mostly they consider that genuine Istrians (Istriani veraci) are to be found only outside Istria’s territorial confines.

Museum of the Istrian and Dalmatian Civilization

Fig 1. The Inner Courtyard of the Ethnographic Museum of Istria. Pazin 2012 (2)

However, not all Istrians are involved in these group activities and some of them even criticized the concept of the ‘Museum of the Istrian and Dalmatian Civilization’ that opened in Trieste a couple of years ago. The museum’s collections are based on material that esuli took from their homes and which had to be left in the warehouses in the Trieste harbour. The Director of the museum said: ‘there is no better place where we can learn about ourselves than in this museum. We are people that have lost our land. All we have is our history, and if this is all we have, we either remember it or forget it. If we forget it, then

Istrian emigration meets the museum: encouraging dialogue and understanding between ideologies

21


there is no point in our existence as a community, or as individual identities’.

Post-war period As a result of a similar social and political atmosphere coupled with economic reasons, many other Istrians of Croatian origin were thinking about leaving the peninsula in the post-war period and up until the 1970s. They were often young people including young couples. After leaving Istria (mostly illegally) and after spending some months (and years) in refugee camps in Italy, they wanted to seek their fortune in ‘promised lands’ such as Australia and uSA. In New york they formed two clubs the ‘Istrian Sport Club’ and the ‘Rudar Sport Club’ and on a more general level the ‘united Istrians of the World’. All of these societies often organize various festivities and occasions that bring Istrians together. In New york, they are known as restaurant staff and keepers (such as Lidia Bastianich), who market themselves as restaurants of Italian cuisine, thinking that the notion of Istrian Cuisine (being unknown as such) wouldn’t be that attractive. Individually, they visit Istria on a regular basis and still have strong ties with their former homeland. Their homes in the uSA are full of memorabilia and souvenirs from Istria. These symbols of Istrianity are tied to periods of their lives in Istria in their youth before they left. Contrary to many Italian Istrians who live in Italy and still think of barbarians who took over their country, they have kept romantic visions about Istria remembering it as unchanged. This kind of idealized Istrianity generally does not exist anymore. Many transformations have brought a new population and new cultural influences. Their vision of Istrian culture can be compared with the ‘old school’ of ethnographic material present in museum exhibitions, which modern ethnography has distanced itself from for many years. They call themselves ‘Istrians’ clearly limiting and demarcating their ethnicity from Croatian and Italian nationalities. Therefore they don’t see themselves as a part of the Croatian or Italian Diaspora nor do those countries perceive them as such.

‘Suitcases and Destinies’ Exhibition Here we touch one of the problems that the exhibition ‘Suitcases and Destinies’ in the Ethnographic museum of Istria in Pazin about Istrian Diaspora in the 20th century was faced with – the way this 22

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Fig 2. The section of the exhibition on Istrian Emigration Suitcases and Destinies about Associations and Clubs of emigrated Istrians in the world. Pazin, 2012.

batch of Istrian emigrants has been treated by national authorities including their administration for Croatian or Italian diaspora. From the Croatian side, since Istrians haven’t identified with any nationality, they were regarded as non-Croats and haven’t been included in national programs or projects tied to Croatian emigrants. Another political issue was the fact that those Istrians who live in Italy have been – in Croatia and even more so in yugoslavia – strongly associated and identified with right wing politics. In this way, the ideology has dominated and absorbed human experience of exiled Istrians and their right to be heard and understood outside of political frames and agendas. No books have been written in Croatia about these issues. It is not included in school programs and no exhibitions on this topic had been made before we did ours. One also has to keep in mind the fact that there are still two or three national histories (Italian, Croatian, Slovenian) that each have their own interpretation of history. As a Regional museum, luckily we could get funding from the Regional Department of Culture but certainly not from the National Ministry of Culture. The regional authorities were aware of how important this theme was not only for the Istrian of the past but also for today’s Istrian reality. They recognized that we wanted to show a new, nonnation oriented perspective of not only the Istrian Diaspora but of Istrian history in general. As curators, we wished to show what impact totalitarian regimes had on emigration and displacement of people and to present the different voices of various emigrants and their destinies without judgement. Luckily, being ethnographers and anthropologists allowed us not to interpret history to a larger extent but to offer another ‘truth’ as we see it and to focus on testimonies to show that what people really experienced. On a practical level, achieving this goal hasn’t been that easy. When we asked esuli living in Italy to help us with some material (both objects and life stories) they told us that

Istrian emigration meets the museum: encouraging dialogue and understanding between ideologies

23


Fig 3. The second hall of the exhibition. Pazin 2012.

we should ask the Institute for the Istrian Culture in Trieste (that established the Museum of the Istrian and Dalmatian Civilization) about that, since they had already told them everything. In this way, they were redirecting our questions to an institution – actually not wanting direct contact with the researcher. Their life stories have become institutionalized. The most helpful informants and collaborators we found were individuals that hadn’t shared their stories yet or didn’t feel obliged to the above named institutions or associations. The exhibition was organized into various chapters, such as Similarities and differences, Political systems and emigration, ADDIO (Farewell), Where does this ship sail to, Exodus: Option holders and displaced persons, Long-lasting impermanence: refugee camps and stations, New life, New home, Work, ‘Northern Istrian’ cuisine, Letters and packages, Associations, Families & club and Memories & Mementos. These themes or phenomena were common to most emigrants in the 20th Century no matter what their reason for leaving Istria. A much more personalized, individual part of the exhibition was the presentation of twelve people’s destinies representing emigrants of different age and genders with different motivations for leaving Istria. In this central part, people spoke for themselves, which means that we exhibited objects, photos and quotations which they had shared with us and allowed us to use. The objects that had belonged to them and that we exhibited illustrated their understanding and emotions regarding the ‘old homeland’ and their memories and interpretations. Examples of objects are a ticket from home to Italy, banal souvenirs bought in Istria and sometimes, for example, a decorative mat made from the old woven sheet (taken from the old home) whose parts were recently connected by the new home-made lace in order to form a mat. Their own voices could be heard, the music they played or recorded, together with many films on the theme of the Istrian emigration. It seems that the combination of audio-visual techniques and some texts, which we use in museums, was a communicative and effective one in this case.

24

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Fig 4. Package with contents as it arrived from the US to Istria (sent by an emigrated Istrian to his familly in Istria) during the 1960s. Pazin 2012.

In many Istrian families, there were family members who left by illegally escaping through the border. Since not only these individuals, but the whole family would be suspected and possibly punished by the then yugoslav authorities. It would remain almost forbidden to talk about the theme of emigration in public in these families. Stories of this type might remain unspoken for a long time. During visits while the exhibition ‘Suitcases and Destinies’ was shown, some visitors were reminded of family members who fled and began talking about them to people in their company. That meant that this exhibition helped them to contextualize their isolated experience within a bigger frame, a larger story that suddenly was interpreted within a museum and therefore gained an ‘acknowledged’ position within Istrian history and culture. The same goes for the Italians that left, who have often identified with certain ideologies and political contexts. Some especially illuminating and moving occasions included various planned or random meetings of various emigrants at the exhibition where people exchanged their experiences – and addresses. For children and young people who live in Istria, pedagogical programs enabled them to understand a phenomenon that they haven’t learned about at school and also helped them to identify on different levels with migration and transmigration.

Conclusion Seeing this project within the frame of a possible reconciliation between members of different ideologies (both within and outside Istria) one can ask the question who would attempt reconciliation here: each group identified themselves with the population that lives in Istria today. However, as with many contemporary themes that have many contesting interpretations, just presenting a problem and raising some questions is certainly a way to start dealing with ‘sensitive matters’ on our history and culture. Lidija Nikočević is Director of the Ethnographic Museum of Istria, Pazin, Croatia

Istrian emigration meets the museum: encouraging dialogue and understanding between ideologies

25


NEVE N NEV VER ER R M SS MIS OUT OUT T The A r ts Council ’s new, upgr aded CULTUREFOX events guide is now live. Free, faster, easy to use – and personalised for you. N e v e r m i s s o u t a g a in .


Festival studies and museum studies – building a curriculum NIAMH NIC GHABHANN

Introduction1 Both festivals and museums can be understood to occupy key roles within the cultural life of a city, a town, a nation or a region. They are often seen as institutions, collectives or agents that define and represent a particular territory and the different people living within that territory, or that are connected in some way to that space. Festivals and museums, however, defy easy categorization. Both can refer to events or institutions on a small, locally-organized and locally-sustained level, or to events and institutions which occupy a key role in national life, in representing the cultural life or identity of the nation, and are in receipt of national funding. Museums and festivals also both connect groups of people with territories or cultural identities elsewhere – they can provide a link across time and space, allowing people to perform, embody or enact an identity shared with a group that may be dispersed across the world. They can be seen as important agents in the communication of cultural identities and in the definition of those cultural identities. Festivals and museums can also both be critiqued for misrepresenting or inadequately representing those people or territories that they claim to represent or relate to. Similarly, they face similar challenges around funding, ensuring local engagement and tackling barriers to participation that threaten to reduce their agency within communities, however that community is defined.

— 1. This article is based on a talk presented at the Irish Museums Association Annual Conference, Museums & Memory: Challenging Histories on 22nd February 2014, Waterford

In other contexts, however, the festival and the museum are often opposed – with the attributes of the museum (narrated as providing a static or institutional experience) contrasted to the attributes of the festival (participatory, active, mobile, public). The participative, collective experience is often emphasized as being one of the defining characteristics of the festival experience. In their study of the role of nationalism and the song festivals in Estonia, for example, karsten Brüggemann and Andreas kasekamp recently cited this aspect of ritual experience as being in opposition to the institution: ‘rituals do not exist like texts or institutions as structures of signification or dispositions of

Festival studies and museum studies – building a curriculum

27


power and control. Instead, they exist as embodied performances, as events produced and experienced bodily by actors in a shared situation or and in a local site’.2 However, a closer examination of these two cultural phenomena reveals more similarities than differences. Indeed, the view expressed by Brüggemann and kasekamp could be challenged with regard to the normative role of the festival and of certain embodied and participative experiences, in the way that it has been explored by museums studies scholars such as Carol Duncan in her classic text Civilizing Rituals.3 Indeed, both in terms of understanding the participation with, use of and role played by both festivals and museums, it is clear that they share similar challenges and opportunities, and that an increased attention to these points of connection may enable them to collaborate in mutually beneficial ways. The aim of this article is to trace the development of a curriculum for festival studies, with reference to the newly-founded MA Festive Arts programme at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the university of Limerick, and to explore the connections between festival studies and museum studies, emphasizing points of similarity and of difference. It is beyond the scope of this essay to explore each point in detail, and references used throughout are given as examples, and represent just a few of the many relevant publications and studies in the field of festival studies.

Defining the MA Festive Arts programme

— 2. Brüggemann, K and Kasekamp, A. (2014) ‘Singing oneself into a nation? Estonian song festivals as rituals of political mobilisation’, Nations and Nationalism, 20 (2), 259-276, 260 3. Duncan, C. (1995) Civilizing rituals: inside public art museums Routledge, London.

28

Museum Ireland

The MA Festive Arts programme was founded at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, at the university of Limerick in the 2013/14 academic year. Its establishment coincided with Limerick’s year as inaugural national Irish City of Culture in 2014. It was also marked by the fact that Fidget Feet aerial dance company were to be artists-in-residence at the Academy during this period, representing a transition from music or dance to an interdisciplinary company specializing in circus arts, vertical dance and aerial performance. The MA Festive Arts programme combines cultural policy and practical arts management skills with performance skills and studies, and the scholarly investigation of festival and its role in society. To date, students on the MA Festive Arts programme have come from each of these three areas, aiming to develop their own research, skills and

Volume 24 2014


experience in one of these three areas, summarized as ‘produce’, ‘perform’ and ‘reflect’ in the programme literature. In order to build a curriculum that would allow students to engage with each of these three core strands while allowing them to develop their own specialist area, flexibility and a range of structured options were required. The programme structure is based on the premise that programmers, producers, performers, academics, analysts and policy makers have a better understanding of the dynamics of festival and festivity if they get to experience each of these different perspectives. However, it is essential to maintain disciplinary focus, and to ensure that students are better equipped for the world of work and for their chosen career path following their time on the programme. To this end, it has been important to develop pathways reflecting these three core strands (‘produce’, ‘perform’, ‘reflect’), and to ground these successfully within contemporary theory and practice. Given that the particular formulation of the MA Festive Arts is a new one, with few immediately available models, it has been essential to define where it is positioned at the intersection of other relevant disciplines and approaches. Festivals are studied within a myriad of scholarly subject areas – from sociology, anthropology, ethnochoreology, ethnomusicology, ritual studies, performance studies, arts management, urban development, cultural policy studies and tourism studies, to name just a few.

— 4. Quinn, B. (2009) ‘Festivals, events and tourism’, in Jamal, T. and Robinson, M. (eds.), (2005) The SAGE Handbook of Tourism Studies Sage, London, 483- 503 and Quinn, B. (2005) ‘Arts Festivals and the City’, Urban Studies, 42 (5/6), 927 – 43 5. Getz, D. (2010) ‘The nature and scope of festival studies’, International Journal of Event Management Research, 5 (1), 1– 47 6. Sassatelli, M, Delanty, G, Giorgi, L. (2011) Festivals and the cultural public sphere: Routledge, Abingdon

While the MA Festive Arts programme has drawn on several other fields of inquiry in positioning its own particular approach, it is important to note that the study of festivals and festivity in society has been extensively developed within subject areas and by specific individuals. This has been particularly evident within the field of tourism studies and the sociology of tourism, with the work of Bernadette Quinn4 and Donald Getz5 appearing as particularly important in this field. Furthermore, festivals have been the subject of a recent major European research project, with the bibliography produced as part of this project providing a useful overview of the study of festival within multiple disciplines. This project, titled Art Festivals and the European Public Culture explored artistic festivals as sites of transnational identification and democratic debate.6 The scholarly study of festivals within the disciplines of ethnochoreology, ethnomusicology and anthropology is evidenced by major publications in the field,

Festival studies and museum studies – building a curriculum

29


including the recent study Dance, Place and Festival, edited by Catherine E. Foley and Elsie Ivancich Dunin.7 The study of festival in historical contexts, and as an element within the formation of national or cultural identities is also well established, with a recent example of discourse in this area including joep Leerssen Gellner Lecture titled, ‘The Nation and the City: urban Festivals and Cultural Mobilization’ at the 2014 Association for the Studies of Ethnicity and Nationalism as an example.8 The present article, however, aims to explore the points of connection between museum studies and festival studies in particular. As outlined above, this comparative approach is meaningful in the light of the shared challenges and opportunities for, and characteristics of, both festivals and museums. It is also meaningful on a more practical level, given the repeated advice in festival management studies, for festivals to collaborate in a more sustained way with museums and other similar institutions. Such collaborations have the potential to engage the audience of both the festival and the museum with each other, allows the museum to access and inform the festival process and heightened experience and profile of the festival space, while the festival can maintain its position as part of the annual, permanent cultural identity through its collaboration with the museum throughout the year. Through collaboration, the key differences of the festival and the museum – the ephemeral, temporary nature of the former and the permanent, stable of the latter – can inform and enhance each other, strengthening both.

Identity and the public sphere

— 7. Foley, C. E. and Ivancich Dunin, E (eds.) (2014) Dance, Place and Festival, Dance, Place, Festival: Proceedings of 27th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music’s Study Group on Ethnochoreology The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Limerick 8. http://www.lse.ac.uk/research AndExpertise/units/ASEN/Even ts/Ernest_Gellner_Lecture.aspx (accessed 24 October 2014). 9. Crooke, E. (2000) Politics, archaeology and the creation of a national museum in Ireland: an expression of national life Irish Academic Press, Dublin

30

Museum Ireland

The first key area of concern shared between museum studies and festival studies centres on ideas of identity, representation and the public sphere. The role of the museum within the formation, definition and communication of national and cultural identity has been the subject of extensive scholarly investigation in multiple contexts. Elizabeth Crooke’s 2000 publication Politics, archaeology and the creation of a national museum in Ireland: an expression of national life, for example, explored the specific role played by museums in Ireland in the definition of a sense of national cultural identity from the end of the nineteenth century.9 Practices of collecting and display, the creation of narratives of a shared past, as well as audience behaviours and visiting patterns, have been

Volume 24 2014


— 10. Habermas, J. (1989) The structural transformation of the public sphere: an inquiry into a category of bourgeois society Polity, Cambridge 11. http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org .uk/maritime/visit/floor-plan/lifeat-sea/gaylife/ (accessed 24 October 2014) Meecham, P. (2008) ‘Reconfiguring the shipping news : Maritime’s hidden histories and the politics of gender display’, Sex Education, 8 (3), 371-380. This was also discussed by Mark O’Neill in his paper ‘History, Heritage and the Search for a Usable Past: Urban Identity and Tourism in Glasgow 1980-2010’ at the 2009 titled ‘The Arts, the State, Identity and the Wealth of Nations: Case Studies of Ireland and Scotland’ at Trinity College Dublin. https://www.tcd.ie/trinitylongroo mhub/events/archive/CCUConfere nce.php (accessed 24 October 2014). 12. http://gallery.limerick.ie/Educatio n/ShinnorsCuratorialScholarship/ (accessed 24 October 2014). 13. Hooper Greenhill, E. (2000) ‘Changing values in the art museum: rethinking communication and learning’, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 6 (1), 0-31 and Hooper Greenhill, E, (1999) ‘Communication and communities: changing paradigms in museum pedagogy’ In Linquist, S. (ed.) Museums of modern science, Nobel Symposium 112, (Science History Publications USA, Watson Publishing International, MA), 179-188.

explored as facets of the museum, resulting in the creation of a highly symbolic space. The museum has also been explored as a public space (especially when free and accessible to as broad a public as possible), and as part of the public sphere – the arena defined by jürgen Habermas and others as an arena for free discourse by citizens.10 The extent to which the narratives of identity, or the presentation and representation of a range of ideas, within the museum space, however, have been open to citizen participation or discourse has also been the subject of critical examination, in particular the potential for the museum to impose a narrative which does not reflect citizen discourse, or which excludes specific voices. The converse can also be true, with museums attempting to explore and celebrate aspects of identity which can be shunned by sections of society, as was the case in the largely popular Liverpool ‘Hello Sailor: Gay life on the ocean wave’ (developed in 2007), which explored gay life at sea, but which received a number of negative reactions from audiences during its tenure in Southampton and Liverpool.11 Examples of community curating, however, or of citizen participation in decisionmaking around the creation of narratives and representations within the museum space (such as, for example, the recent exhibition titled ‘I go to see a great perhaps’ curated by second-level students in the Limerick City Gallery of Art with Shinnors scholar Aoibheann McCarthy)12, can readdress this. Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, in several of her publications, has also emphasized the need for the museum space to actively ensure that it remains a vital part of the public sphere.13 The museum, therefore, as a space that necessarily creates narratives through collecting and display practices, occupies an important role within the public sphere and public discourse within its constituency. The festival has also been considered by several scholars as a facet of public life, given its characteristics of communal activity, participation and a shared sense of purpose. Parades, protests and commemorations are also considered within the spectrum of festival studies, and are connected in important ways with the expression of identity, assent, protest or solidarity with a particular cause. These facets of communal, sometimes ritualized, public expression perform and create meaning in a number of ways – through the use of signs, symbols or other markers of identity, through chant or movement, and through the occupation of and movement through certain spaces. As evident in the Icelandic ‘kitchenware revolution’ of 2009-2011, the occupation of a space seen

Festival studies and museum studies – building a curriculum

31


as having national and public significance – Austurvöllur, the main square of Reykjavik abutting the parliament house and with a statue of jón Sigurðsson at its centre, was key to the meaning of the protest.14 The understanding of such spaces, signs and sculptures as significant, and as signifying identity, provides one connection with the field of museum studies, which also studies publically-constructed (or deconstructed) narratives of identity.

— 14. This protest was explored by Gunnþórunn Guðmundsdóttir in her paper on ‘Recession Memory’ at the 2014 ‘The trouble with memory: cultures of remembrance in Iceland and Ireland’ organized by the Irish Memory Studies Network, UCD Humanities Institute: http://www.ucd.ie/humanities/e vents/events/archive/name,2032 89,en.html (accessed 24 October 2014). 15. Morrissey, J., Nally, D., Strohmeyer, U. and Whelan, Y. 2003. Key Concepts in Historical Geography, Sage, London, 182183. 16. Hagen, J and Ostergren, R. (2006) ‘Spectacle, architecture and place at the Nuremberg Party Rallies: projecting a Nazi vision of past, present and future’, Cultural Geographies, 13 (2), 157-181. 17. Smithey, L. A and Young, M.P. (2010) ‘Parading Protest: Orange Parades in Northern Ireland and Temperance Parades in Antebellum America’, Social Movement Studies, 9 (4), 393-401 18. Boyd, G.A. (2007) ‘Supernational catholicity: Dublin and the 1932 Eucharistic Congress’, Early Popular Visual Culture, 5(3), 317-33.

32

Museum Ireland

Contrary to Brüggemann and kasekamp’s assertion quoted above, that festivals can be opposed to institutions or texts which define identity, communal and participative experience, festivals, parades and protests can, in certain contexts, also be seen as part of the apparatus of a particular state, ideology or group, with participation involving a normative experience rather than one which provides an opportunity for individual expression or interpretation. As yvonne Whelan has argued, festivals, parades and spectacles can be considered as “expressions of power”, with a “multi-faceted impact which is mediated materially and militarily, as well as through pageantry, illuminations, fanfare, music and the skillful appropriation of aspects of the past and public memory”.15 The rallies of Nazi Germany are often considered as an example of this use of festival16, but this understanding can also be extended to include festivals and parades associated with religious ideologies, such as May Processions, part of popular Roman Catholic ritual practice, Orange Parades held annually in Northern Ireland17, or on a grand scale, the Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin in 1932.18 These festive experiences can be understood as reinforcing, reinscribing and reinterpreting collective identity, often with little space for individual expression or for a flexible, participative interpretation of the identity being performed. This does not, of course, preclude the use of such festive practices as opportunities for resistance, non-participation and the creation of counter-narratives. On a related note, it is interesting to consider certain festivals, parades and spectacular events as a civic narrative communicated to the rest of the world, as well as to participants. Mirroring the discussion in museum studies, urban studies and tourism studies regarding cultural experiences and the consumption of place, specific festival events have become as iconic in certain spaces as, for example, the Guggenheim in Bilbao or the Louvre in Paris. kevin Fox Gotham, in his consideration of the Mardi Gras carnival in New Orleans, cites David Harvey’s conceptualization of the mass production of festivals and celebrations as

Volume 24 2014


creating ‘voodoo cities’ in which the façade of cultural redevelopment can be seen as a ‘carnival mask’ that covers continuing social disinvestment and increasing social inequality’.19 Similarly, social disenfranchisement and exclusion from the public spaces of the festival in order to serve economic and tourist-oriented agendas have been explored in the contexts of Bristol’s ‘Festival of the Sea’ and Edinburgh as a festival city.20

— 19. Gotham, K.F. (2005) ‘Theorizing urban spectacles’, City: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action, 9 (2), 2005, 225-226 20. Atkinson, D. and Laurier, L. (1998 ) ‘A sanitised city? Social exclusion at Bristol’s 1996 International Festival of the Sea’, Geoforum, 29 (2), 199-206 and Jamieson, K. (2004) ‘Edinburgh: the festival gaze and its boundaries’, Space and Culture, 7 (1), 64-75. 21. Scully, M. (2012) ‘Whose day is it anyway? St. Patrick’s Day as a contested performance of national and diasporic Irishness’, Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 12 (1), 118-135 22. Spooner, R. (1996) ‘Contested representations: black women and the St. Paul’s Carnival’, Gender, place and culture: a journal of feminist geography, 2 (2), 187-204 23. Scully, M. (2012) ‘Whose day is it anyway? St. Patrick’s Day as a contested performance of national and diasporic Irishness’, Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 12 (1), 118-135 24. Abreu, M. (2005) ‘Popular culture, power relations and urban discipline: the Festival of the Holy Spirit in nineteenthcentury Rio de Janeiro’, Bulletin of Latin American Research, 24 (2), 167-180. 25. Wohlcke, A. (2014) The ‘Perpetual Fair’: gender, disorder and urban amusement in eighteenth-century London, Manchester University Press, Manchester

Further to these considerations of festival as part of the public sphere, and as part of the creation and narration of identities with the public sphere, it is important to return to the idea of authority and to the occupation of space. Festival, parade and protest provides an important space for the expression of identity, but the version of that identity which is visible, and the identities which are permitted to occupy public space reflects contested terrain. Many studies of festival have explored these facets of identity, including explorations of LGBTQ parades and festivals within cities. The ongoing controversy surrounding the exclusion of LGBTQ participants in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in New york provides a contemporary example of tensions surrounding the authority to narrate an identity, and the right of specific groups to occupy public space.21 Rachel Spooner’s 1996 study ‘Contested representations: black women and the St. Paul’s Carnival’ provides another example of tensions surrounding cultural identity and the occupation of public space22, while Marc Scully has explored the changing performance and reception of Irish identities in England from the 1970s to the 1990s in his 2012 article ‘Whose day is it anyway? St. Patrick’s Day as a contested performance of national and diasporic Irishness’23 Power relations manifested in public festivities and in public spaces in different historic contexts have also been the subject of considerable scholarship, with recent examples Martha Abreu’s 2005 study, titled ‘Popular culture, power relations and urban discipline: the Festival of the Holy Spirit in nineteenth-century Rio de janeiro’,24 and Anne Wohlcke’s recent study of the urban fairs in London.25 Both of these works explore ideas of resistance, authority, identity, public space and the public sphere within the context of festive behaviour. Returning to the idea of both the festival and the museum as active agents within the construction and creation of identities and as important public spaces, it is also important to recognize their capacity to creatively re-imagine identities, to create and curate cultural conversations and to create a space for the creative re-imagining of

Festival studies and museum studies – building a curriculum

33


identities and narratives. The Nour festival in London’s South kensington Borough provides one example of the creative potential of both the museum and festival, and indeed, of collaborations between the two. The Nour festival is based around Leighton House, former home of Lord Frederic Leighton26 artist and Orientalist, who decorated the Arab Hall in his home with magnificent fifteenth- and sixteenthcentury tiles from Damascus.27 In his presentation for the Irish Museums Association conference in 2012, arts officer for the borough Alan kirwan outlined the genesis of the festival as a part of an effort to provide ways for the growing Arabic populations in the area to connect with Leighton House in a way which was not purely defined by its Orientalist contexts. Nour, a festival celebrating Middle Eastern and North African culture, developed as a result, creating a space for Leighton House to be reimagined and creatively re-interpreted by artists, activists, chefs, musicians, students, community groups and artists. The Nour festival does not deny or attempt to ignore the specific history of Leighton House, and its original engagement with Middle Eastern culture, but allows the active and participatory space of the festival to reinterpret it as a shared public space – the museum as public sphere, as civic, creative, symbolic and imaginative space. Both the MA Festive Arts and museum studies curricula reflect this creative work in the emphasis on curating, programming and methods of interpretation and engagement for different audiences. The MA Festive Arts also explores these ideas in terms of performance, and in the creation, curation and commissioning of performance.

— 26. http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsite s/museums/leightonhousemuse um1.aspx (accessed 24 October 2014). 27. Alan Kirwan presentation on the Nour festival, London at the 2013 Irish Museums Association conference, THE POROUS MUSEUM Building Partnerships – Making Connections, 2013: http://www.kilkennycastle.ie/en /NewsEvents/2012/Title,23148,e n.html (accessed 24 October 2014). Nour festival website: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsite s/nour.aspx (accessed 24 October 2014).

34

Museum Ireland

One final shared area of concern and engagement between the museum and festival to consider within this section is that of commemoration. Here, the functions of both intersect in several ways, also reflecting their shared role within narrative-creation and in the construction of shared or collective identity. Ritual or commemoration tends to focus on specific memories, ideas, figures or material objects considered to embody or signify a shared and important meaning. Through the actions of collecting, preserving and displaying on an ongoing basis, museums and similar institutions such as heritage centres participates in creating meaning around symbolic objects or sites that are often the focal point of commemorative practices. The festival or ritual, on the other hand, often provides a ritualized, embodied and performative facet to commemoration, which is often focused on an object, or a site at certain points of the year, with that object or site often held in the

Volume 24 2014


care of a museum or similar institution. As Alessandro Falassi pointed out in his study of structure of festival experience, it often involves the rites of conspicuous display that ‘permit the most important symbolic elements of the community to be seen, touched, adored, or worshipped’.28 Both the museum and the festival, therefore, collaborate in the production of meaning around commemoration. It is also worth noting, although this requires much further consideration, that the dual role of the festival and the museum combines to recreate the symbolic role of certain objects or sites within religious practices or rituals, such as, for example, relics, alterpieces and sacred images within later medieval Roman Catholic traditions, which would only be viewed at specific points in the festive calendar.29

Management and development

— 28. Falassi, A (1987) ‘Festival: Definition and Morphology’, in Time Out of Time: Essays on the Festival, 4. 29. One example of this can be found in Malgorzata Krasnodebska-D’Aughton’s exploration of the role of Man of Sorrows sculptural figures at Ennis Friary in her paper ‘Frames and Thresholds: Franciscan Friaries in Ireland and the Imagery of Transition Spaces’ at the 2014 Leeds International Medieval Congress.

The second key area of shared concern between museum studies and festival studies is the area of management and development. These include, firstly, the creation of business canvases and plans for project development, the definition of mission statements and associated strategic objectives, budgeting and accounting processes, audience development and marketing as well as management and communication skills. Management and development concerns will, of course, be determined by site and location. Museums are usually indoors, and sometimes include outdoor sites and elements, and have an emphasis on maintaining a controlled environment for collection safety. Festivals, on the other hand, are often outdoors, on large green-fields sites, but can also take place within sports stadia, village, town or city streets, or within a number of indoor locations. Despite these differences, museums and festivals share a number of key site management issues, including accessibility, audience safety, adherence to public safety standards and relevant legislation, the provision of relevant facilities and locations for food and drink are shared by both festivals and museums. Therefore, both the festival studies and museums studies curriculum must include core key management and site control skills. In an Irish context, the Museum Standards Programme for Ireland, run by the Heritage Council, provides a framework for sustainable development of accessible and properly-equipped museums. Mirroring this, the ‘Green your Festival’ initiative, run by a number of Irish local authorities, aims to reduce waste and control the environmental impact of

Festival studies and museum studies – building a curriculum

35


festivals, specifically focused on large-scale festive events such as Electric Picnic or the Fleadh.30 These Irish initiatives reflect international developments such as the emphasis on low environmental impact at the Womad festivals, and the julie’s Bicycle initiative31, which also promotes sustainable festival practices. As well as providing information on recycling, reducing water and power usage, and reducing rubbish waste and emissions from travel, the ‘Green your Festival’ initiative also recommends the use of biodegradable food service items from producers such as the Cork-based Down To Earth company.32 Festival studies curricula (in an Irish context) must also include a survey of relevant legislation for large events, including the Planning and Development Act (2000), the Planning and Development (Licensing of Outdoor Events) Regulations (2001) and the Licensing of Indoor Events Act (2003). On a management level, festival studies must also consider the development of collaborations and partnerships with key stakeholders, such as the local authority and the statutory bodies, including the health services, the fire services, the traffic and planning authorities, the ambulance service and the police service. Producers of large-scale festive events must also maintain strong links with local communities and community associations, in order to ensure that the festival serves the needs of all those sharing the space of the festival. While these particular aspects of management might seem of particular relevance to those involved in festivals, the expanded role of the museum within the development of large-scale events (such as the Culture Night initiative), pop-ups outside the defined museum space, or heritage environments and landscapes mean that these aspects may also be positioned within the museum studies curriculum. — 30. http://greenyourfestival.ie/ (accessed 24 October 2014). 31. http://www.juliesbicycle.com/ (accessed 24 October 2014). 32. http://www.down2earthmateri als.ie/ (accessed 24 October 2014). 33. Derrett, R. (2004) ‘Festivals, events and the destination’ in Ian Yeoman (ed.) Festival and events management: an international arts and culture perspective Elsevier ButterworthHeinemann, Oxford, 32-50.

36

Museum Ireland

As Ros Derrett outlined in his survey of the development of major ‘festival cities’, a key aspect of their success has been based on strategic collaboration with other events and institutions within surrounding regions.33 The development of this shared strategic approach ensures that all the festivals and cultural institutions benefit from the shared ‘place-marketing’ approach. The development of such collaborations can benefit both museums and festivals beyond place marketing, however, in ways that can deepen engagement and extend audiences for both. As mentioned in the introduction to this essay, the festival can provide a shared, collective and celebratory experience around a particular theme or idea which can be connected to place-specific ideas, objects, memories or traditions preserved and explored on an ongoing basis

Volume 24 2014


within the museum or archive space. Similarly, the museum or similar institution can provide a space for the festival to maintain its presence, visibility and identity outside the festival time. This is reflected in the mission statement for the successful Clonmel junction Festival in Tipperary, which states that its aim is to work ‘year round producing, presenting and promoting arts events in the Clonmel region of South Tipperary, culminating in an annual 10 day festival each july that celebrates the Arts, and the life and times we live in.’34 The need for the festival to maintain its position as part of the cultural landscape outside of its particular calendar dates can be served by the museum space, with special events hosted within the space, building a shared audience, and developing the position of both within local cultural life. The recent festivities in Waterford, celebrating the 1,100th anniversary of the city’s foundation, provide a useful example of how this symbiotic relationship can be fruitfully developed. The New years’ celebrations emphasized Waterford’s Viking and Anglo-Norman heritage throughout, with spectacular Viking long boats arriving as part of the firework-lit celebrations on New year’s Eve. The emphasis on the city’s heritage within these civic celebrations reflects a broader initiative in Waterford to present its cultural quarter, with its rich collections and architectural heritage, in a connected and strategic way as part of the place-marketing of the city and the region. This is particularly evident in the city’s cultural quarter, defined as the Viking Triangle with museums including the Medieval Museum, the Bishop’s Palace and Reginald’s Tower.35

— 34. http://www.junctionfestival.co m/ (accessed 24 October 2014). 35. http://www.waterfordtreasures .com/ (accessed 24 October 2014). 36. The cyclical approach advocated by Michael M Keiser and Brett E Egan can be of relevance to festivals as well as museums and arts institutions. Kaiser M. and Egan, B.E. (2013) The cycle: a practical approach to managing arts organisations: Brandeis University Press, Waltham, Massachusetts

Following from this idea of collaboration between festivals, museums and other related institutions; the issue of audience engagement and development is another area of shared interest. These issues will differ according to the remit of the festival or museum – a large-scale field festival with hundreds of high-profile musical acts and expensive tickets will, of course, require a very different marketing and audience development approach to a local festival which prioritizes community engagement and participation. Despite these differences, both festivals and museums can benefit from an increased and continuous understanding of audience motivation and experience, ensuring that the available marketing budget is spent on the most effective and appropriate channels, and in order to develop both programmatic and institutional marketing which will facilitate an expansion of that audience, and continued engagement.36

Festival studies and museum studies – building a curriculum

37


The issue of audience development raises certain issues around tensions between tourist or local audiences. As both kevin Fox Gotham and Bernadette Quinn have outlined in relation to the Carnival festival in New Orleans and the Carnival in Venice, respectively, growing tourist audiences have effectively distanced local populations from what was once a rich aspect of their cultural life and heritage.37 These explorations raise questions of access and of sustainable and sensitive development of festivals, ensuring that sectors of the audience are not excluded. Linked to this is the issue of funding and fund-raising. Whether revenue is raised through ticket sales, public or private funding or a combination of both, festivals and museums must both ensure a continuous funding stream in order to build a creative programme, a strong institutional presence and maintain and grow an engaged audience. The public funding conditions for both festivals and museums are inextricably linked to policy decisions, and are therefore explored in the next section. A further key issue which is linked to both audience development and funding is that of the role of volunteers. The need for a strong, appropriate volunteer recruitment and management plan can be key to the success of both festivals and museums. The need to ensure that volunteers contribute in a meaningful way, as well as ensuring that they are valued, fulfilled in their role, and safe, requires planning and a strategic approach.38 These issues, therefore, of audience development, of sustainable and sensitive development, of audience development and effective marketing, of fundraising and of volunteer management, are shared by both students on the MA Festive Arts programme and by those on museum studies or arts management programmes.

Cultural policy directions – national and international — 37. Gotham, K.F. (2005) ‘Theorizing urban spectacles’, City: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action, 9 (2), and Quinn, B. (2007) ‘Venice: local residents in focus’, Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 34 (2) 38. Lalor, E. (2013) ‘Safeguarding giving: the volunteer and the intern’, Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy, Issue 1, 29-39.

38

Museum Ireland

The third area which I have isolated as particularly important as a point of intersection between festival studies and museum studies is that of cultural policy in a national and international context. The development of policies directly impact both museums and festivals, particularly in the Irish context where many examples of both receive public funding through various different government departments. Funding decisions reflect policy, and therefore it is essential for those studying the development and role of festivals and museums in society to be aware of the relevant policy contexts. Public funds for both can come from a number of sources – ranging from the Heritage Council or Arts

Volume 24 2014


Council, a direct grant from the government department or agencies with the remit for arts and heritage or from government departments or agencies with a remit for tourism development, such as Fáilte Ireland. Funding can also come through local or regional development initiatives, and through Eu-funded initiatives, such as the LEADER funds. The importance of European funding for arts organizations, museums or festivals means that international as well as national cultural policy directions and decisions are of relevance. — 39. http://ncfa.ie/campaign/colloqu ia-discussion-paper (accessed 24 October 2014). 40. O’Brien, D. (2013) Cultural policy: management, value and modernity in the creative industries Routledge, London. 41. Gilmore, A. (2013) ‘Evaluating legacies: research, evidence and the regional impact of the Cultural Olympiad’, Cultural Trends, 23, 1 and Gilmore, A, (2012 ) ‘Counting eyeballs, soundbites and ‘plings’: arts participation, strategic instrumentalism and the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad’, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 18 (2), 42. http://culturalvalueinitiative.org / (accessed 24 October 2014). 43. http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/FundedResearch/Funded-themes-andprogrammes/Cultural-ValueProject/Pages/default.aspx (accessed 24 October 2014). 44. Florida, R. (2012) The rise of the creative class: revisited Basic Books, New York 45. Landry, C. (2008) The creative city: a toolkit for urban innovators Earthscan, London 46. Bianchini, F., Albano, R., and Bolla, A., ‘The Regenerative Impacts of the European City/Capital of Culture Events’ In Leary, M. E. and McCarthy, J., (2013) The Routledge Companion to Urban Regeneration, Routledge, London 47. Gilmore, A. (2013) ‘Cold spots, crap towns and cultural deserts: the role of place and geography in cultural participation and creative place-making’, Cultural Trends, 22

An understanding of policy is important on a number of levels – it is central to a broad understanding of the role of, and value placed upon, the arts and of festivals within a particular society at a specific time. It also has practical implications for grant applications and for the daily or annual management of a festival or museum. For example, a growing emphasis on evidencing the impact and defining value of arts institutions, museums and festivals, and of including that evidence as part of funding applications. This emphasis on evidence has raised many questions regarding the idea of value, impact and of appropriate models of measurement, and of the transferability of metrics across different art forms or contexts. Examples of this debate include the National Campaign for the Arts’ sessions on measurement and value, and coordinator Tara Byrne’s position paper on these issues.39 In the uk, these issues have been explored by Dave O’Brien in his recent volume on Cultural Policy40, in Abigail Gilmore’s study of evaluation of the 2012 London Olympics,41 as well as through the #culturevalue initiative at Warwick university, led by Dr Eleonora Belefiore42, and the AHRC-funded Cultural Value initiative43. Linked to this is the discourse surrounding the role of culture and the cultural industries within economic and regional development. Writers such as Richard Florida44 and Charles Landry45 have, in various ways, explored the extent to which cultural initiatives such as galleries, museums or festivals can contribute to the regeneration or redefinition of a particular area. These issues of regeneration have been explored in a number of context, including among many examples Bianchini, Albano and Bolla’s examination of the European City of Culture initiative, and its different impacts46, as well as Abigail Gilmore’s studies of the impact of culture within the definition and redefinition of certain English cities.47 The broader, but related issue, of cultural capital and cultural and creative work has been a key issue explored by different scholars, with

Festival studies and museum studies – building a curriculum

39


some recent examples the Creative Greece forum in Athens (October 2014)48, the Creative Edge project49, the AHRC-funded Beyond the Creative Campus project50, and several of the research strands in the Creativeworks London project51 These issues of value, funding, and the role of culture in regional and economic development represent just three of a wide range of policy contexts which have a bearing on the actions and work of both museums and festivals.

Conclusion In conclusion, it is clear that there are several shared areas for concern for those involved in studying, researching, developing or managing museums and festivals. One further area of potential collaboration, however, is worth mentioning in this context, and that is the role of the museum or the archive in preserving the material and oral histories of festivity, riot, protest and parade in Ireland. While this material does exist within several institutions, a finding aid that identifies relevant collections would support scholarly investigation in this field. Following and linked to this is the collection and preservation of the material, visual and oral heritage of carnival and travelling performers,52 circus and art-making that is transitory, ephemeral and which does not exist within or require a fixed institutional context. The history of these ephemeral, transitory practices are central to Irish history, and both require and deserve preservation within appropriate archives and museums, and would enrich both festival and museum studies and development into the future. — 48. http://www.creativeconomyingre ece.com/ (accessed 24 October 2014). 49. http://www.creativeedge.eu/ (accessed 24 October 2014). 50. http://www.creativecampus.org.uk/ (accessed 24 October 2014). 51. http://www.creativeworkslondon .org.uk/research/place-workknowledge/ (accessed 24 October 2014). 52. The work of Micheal Ó hAodha is an example of recording these often-ephemeral performance practices. Vikki Jackson and Micheal O hAodha (ed.) (2010), Gags and Greasepaint: a tribute to the Irish ‘fit-ups’, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

40

Museum Ireland

Dr Niamh Nic Ghabhann is the Course Director of the MA Festive Arts programme at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.

Volume 24 2014


The renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa and implications for colonial history GUIDO GRYSEELS

Introduction1 The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) in Tervuren, Belgium, is a federal scientific institute and an important reference institute on Central Africa. It was established in 1898 and is both a museum and a research institute. It was often referred to as one of the last colonial museums in Europe, but is currently being renovated. The renovation involves a total overhaul of its permanent exhibition, and a major improvement of its infrastructural facilities. This has implications for the way that the colonial history of Belgium will be dealt with. This paper provides an overview of the various steps taken in its transformation process into a modern and dynamic museum on contemporary Africa, while remaining a ‘lieu de mémoire’ and a meeting place for those with an interest in Central Africa. This has involved a major shift in vision and a move towards dialogue and transparency of the institute, which is at the same time a museum, a research institute and a centre for information dissemination and raising public awareness on Africa. In this process, close collaboration with African diaspora and institutions and well-focused sensitisation activities play a major role.

History The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) was founded in 1898 at the initiative of king Leopold II as the ‘Musée du Congo’. It originated from a very successful temporary exhibition (more than 1.2 million visitors) organized at his initiative and presented in 1897 as the Colonial Section of the Brussels World Fair.

— 1. This article is based on a talk presented at the Irish Museums Association Annual Conference, Museums & Memory: Challenging Histories on 22nd February 2014, Waterford

The exhibition’s aims were as much propagandist as they were commercial: the Belgians were to be convinced of the economic potential of the Congo and of the good to be done in civilizing and developing this region. The effect of this exhibition, which displayed the most investment-attracting export products surrounded by an array

The renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa and implications for colonial history

41


of ethnographic objects and animals prepared by taxidermists, in addition to reconstituted Congolese villages, with real Congolese villagers on site, in the surrounding park area, was that scientific interest in the region was greatly aroused. It was thus that the dual function of the museum was established: an exhibition and research institute, one of the many legacies that have remained until today.2 As the research interest increased, the collections grew rapidly. Soon it became clear that the exhibition halls would be too small for the collections and research. Consequently king Leopold II decided to construct a new building to house them. Construction works started in 1904 and the new museum, ‘Musée du Congo Belge’, opened in 1910. It is located amidst beautiful landscaped French gardens. In 1908, Congo had become formally a Belgian colony. The RMCA was put under the auspices of the Ministry of Colonies and served as a promotional tool for Belgian colonial activities. The rapidly growing collections served as a basis for multidisciplinary scientific research. In 1960, Congo became independent and the museum changed its name to ‘Royal Museum for Central Africa’.

— 2. Gryseels G., Landry G. and Claessens K. (2005) Integrating the Past: Transformation and Renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, in European Review, (13) 4, 637-647

42

Museum Ireland

While the RMCA since the nineties regularly organized temporary exhibits on contemporary themes, the permanent exhibition of the museum remained mostly unchanged from the late fifties until today. As a result, the permanent exhibition of the RMCA is often referred to as reflecting the colonial view the Belgians had of Central Africa before 1960, the year of the independence of the RDCongo and many other African countries. In the entrance hall, statues carrying titles such as ‘Belgium brings civilisation to Congo’, pillars carrying the symbol of Leopold II, and museography carry a strong colonial imprint. Since 2002, the RMCA has launched an ambitious project of renovation to transform the formerly colonial museum into a museum on contemporary Africa that disposes of modern facilities. An initial ‘intention plan’ was developed in 2003 and further developed into technically detailed programs that were approved by the Federal Government in 2006. Architectural plans were prepared subsequently including a major master plan for the entire site and construction works will be conducted from 2013-2016. The renovated museum will be open to the public in 2017. The renovation entails major changes in the infrastructure and facilities of the museum, in the museography and in the contents of its exhibitions and displays.

Volume 24 2014


Fig 1. The Royal Museum for Central Africa in 2017 © Stéphane Beel Architecten

RMCA today3 The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA), established in 1898, is a Belgian Federal Scientific Institute and operates under the auspices of the Federal Minister for Science Policy. Its mission is to serve as a world centre in research and knowledge dissemination on past and present societies and natural environments of Africa, in particular Central Africa, to foster – to the public at large and the scientific community – a better understanding and interest in this area and, through partnerships, to substantially contribute to its sustainable development. It has a triple function as a museum, as a research institute and as a centre for information, dissemination and for raising public awareness about Africa. The RMCA’s principal activities are in the fields of collection management, research and scientific services, dissemination of knowledge and organisation of exhibitions, sensitisation and strengthening of national institutions in Africa. Its collections, exhibitions, archives, data bases and scientific expertise are internationally renowned. Less than 1% of its collections are on display in the museum, the remainder is carefully conserved in reserves.

— 3. Gryseels, G. (2013) The renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Paper presented at the 2013 International Colloquium Positioning Academic heritage. Challenges for Universities, museums and society in the 21st Century, Ghent, 18-20 November

RMCA’s research is multidisciplinary and covers both the human and the natural sciences. Its major scientific disciplines are cultural anthropology, history, earth sciences and biology. In the field of anthropology its major domains are ethnography, linguistics and ethnomusicology and archaeology. In the field of Earth Sciences, its domains are geology, natural risks, geodynamics and environmental variability. History research covers both colonial and contemporary history of Central Africa. And in biology, taxonomy of zoological specimen and wood biology are the major themes. It also hosts

The renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa and implications for colonial history

43


scientific support services such as a library and 12 specialized documentation centres, on-line information services and 9 laboratories. The RMCA has approximately 300 staff members of which 90 are scientists at Ph.D. level. RMCA scientists participate in a large number of national and international scientific networks. The RMCA works in close collaboration with universities and other scientific institutes, government agencies and museums in well over 20 African countries. Over the years the RMCA has gained an international reputation in its different research domains. The RMCA houses the largest collections in the world with respect to Central Africa, with among others 150,000 ethnographic objects, 10 million zoological specimens, 3 km historical and geological archives, 56,000 tropical wood samples and 15,000 minerals, 1 million photographs and 3,000 films. Its vast and rich collections are currently being digitalized and are gradually more easily accessible through websites. The RMCA is a public sector institute and about 80% of its funding is provided by the Federal Belgian government (federal science policy and development cooperation), the remainder from competitive research grants, own income and European union grants for research activities. The RMCA is active in development cooperation and has partnerships in 22 African countries. The RMCA also contributes every year to the training of on average 130 students and scientists, most of whom are Africans or of African origin. The RMCA has public oriented services on education and culture, museology, publications and communication. While the museum welcomes every year an average of 180,000 visitors to its exhibitions, it also hosts every year between 30,000 and 40,000 children to participate in workshops or other educational activities. For the majority of Belgian children, their first encounter with Africa is through a school or family visit to the museum. It is very important that a positive and constructive view on Africa is provided during this first encounter. For this purpose, a wide range of activities is organized for all age ranges from 4 to 17 and with a broad variety of themes such as music, agriculture, ethnography, history etc. Special workshops are offered to blind or visually impaired and children with a handicap. Cultural events are also organized frequently, usually in collaboration with the African diaspora. 44

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Process of transformation The RMCA has a triple function as a museum, as a research institute, and as a centre for information, dissemination and raising public awareness about Africa. It was clear that its unique combination of disciplines, expertise, collections, partnerships, would be maintained and accentuated in the vision for the future, giving the RMCA the potential to become the reference institute for past and present societies and cultures and natural environments of Africa, and Central Africa in particular. Since 2001, important steps have been taken, to transform the museum from a colonial instrument into a modern reference institute and Africa-museum. This also included the development of a strategic plan, a set of institutional policies and of a new logo.

Strategic Plan In 2001 the RMCA developed a Strategic Plan to determine its vision for the future, its priorities and strategies and an action plan. Through a participating process it developed a mission statement that was formulated as: “The Museum is a world centre in research and knowledge dissemination on past and present societies and natural environments of Africa, and in particular Central Africa, to foster – to the public at large and the scientific community – a better understanding and interest in this area and, through partnerships, to substantially contribute to its sustainable development.” This mission statement had major implications: “World Centre of Research”

implies high quality research

“knowledge dissemination”

implies easy access to collections, archives and databases

“Past and present societies”

implies close collaboration African communities and diaspora

“Partnerships”

implies strategic alliances, networks, collaborative projects

“Sustainable development”

implies strengthening capacities and relevant research activities

The renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa and implications for colonial history

45


Renovation of the museum The renovation of the RMCA implied, as already discussed, a reform of the institute and a renovation of its museum. The museum needs a renovation to transform its colonial nature into a modern museum with a focus on contemporary Africa, to improve its museology and to modernise its infrastructure to allow for meeting rooms, polyvalent and acclimatised galleries, a shop and a restaurant. The objective of the renovation is for the museum to become a dynamic museum equipped with all modern facilities. It encourages the interdisciplinary knowledge of people, cultures, societies, history and natural resources in Africa as well as the sustainable development in the region. It implies a critical review of the way Belgium’s colonial history will be dealt with in the future. The museum aims to raise its average numbers of visitors from 160,000 to 220,000 annually.

New role for colonial museums in a multicultural society In a post-colonial museum the heritage and collections it manages, is considered a shared heritage with the countries of origin. This implies the involvement of Africans in museum planning and organisation of activities through partnerships. The renovation process implied a redefinition of the new role of the museum in a multicultural society. It was defined as: n The RMCA remains the most important ‘lieu de mémoire’ for the

Belgian colonial past n The RMCA must become a window on contemporary Africa and

its history n The RMCA must become a meeting place for Belgians and

members of the ‘source communities’ whose heritage is being held in the RMCA One of the RMCA’s aims is to encourage the general public to take a greater interest in Africa and in the diversity of its people, societies, cultures and environments. In doing so, the Museum plays its own unique role in combating racism and cultural intolerance. The Museum is also a meeting place where people share experiences, intercultural dialogue is promoted, children of various cultural origins

46

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


can find the tools to construct their own identity and people in general are stimulated to come to terms with the past and to become responsible civilians in a globalized world. In order to take on fully this societal role of the museum and to become a forum for dialogue, a place of contact between peoples and cultures especially for African communities to voice themselves, several initiatives were taken. A working group was set up with representatives of many of the African associations in Belgium. This group, after a first phase of dialogue, developed into a smaller advisory committee by the name of ‘COMRAF’4, whereby the nominated representatives meet regularly with representatives of the public services and research sections of the museum. In this same spirit of dialogue, educational programmes are developed in close collaboration with partners from Belgium’s African communities and what has become an annual ‘Africa<>Tervuren’ event aims at bringing the African communities to the museum and raising awareness about Africa amongst the public at large.

Revisiting our origin: ‘Exit Congo’, ‘The Memory of Congo: the colonial era’, ‘Congo: Nature and Culture’ and ‘Independence’ Exhibitions The RMCA is today still seen as one of the most powerful symbols of the colonial past of Belgium. The architecture of the building and many displays in the permanent exhibition still refer to its colonial past. The museum is still often associated with the Belgian view on colonial Africa of before 1960, when DR Congo gained independence. In order to transform into a modern and dynamic museum for Africa, it was necessary to first deal with its own history of a colonial institution. This meant organizing a series of exhibitions on the origin of RMCA’s collections, on Belgium’s colonial past and on the Congo.

Exit Congo (2000-2001) — 4. COMRAF = Comité de concertation MRAC – associations africaines

The first exhibit in the context of the renovation of the museum was ‘Exit Congo’, which told the story of the origin of the RMCA’s ethnographic collections. Some were brought by missionaries, by administrators, by military and by scientific collection missions. The

The renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa and implications for colonial history

47


exhibit also confronted historic collections with contemporary art of both Congolese and Belgian artists. It also told the story of the repatriation of nearly 120 objects of the museum to the Institut National des Musées du Congo (IMNC) in kinshasa, during the seventies.

Congo: nature and culture To further fulfil the sustainable development aspect of the mission statement, the RMCA accepted an invitation from uNESCO and its World Heritage Centre to organize an exhibition on the natural and cultural diversity of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the relationship between man and his natural environment in this country. This was to support the occasion of an international donor conference organised at uNESCO in 2004 for the preservation of national parks in the DRC. The exhibition, ‘Congo: Nature and Culture’ gave the museum the opportunity to conduct a ‘trial run’ of sorts on interdisciplinary research and exhibitions. After Paris the exhibition was installed in the RMCA for a year and it is currently on display at the Museum of Lubumbashi, DRC and the National Museum of Congo in kinshasa, where this exhibit also provides the basis for educational activities.

Memory of Congo: the colonial era (2005) The exhibition ‘The Memory of Congo’ took place from February to October 2005 and was an enormous success. More than 140,000 people visited the exhibition which was accompanied by a large number of other activities such as debates, seminars, film projections and special educational activities both for adults and for young people. A scientific colloquium on colonial violence was organised also. Most importantly, the exhibition led to widespread attention and debates within the Belgian society with hundreds of press articles and media broadcasts. During the period of the exhibition no single day went by without a radio or television program, or a newspaper article to highlight one or other issue of Congo’s colonial past and the role of Belgium in it. The impact of the exhibition was very profound. At society level it led to a process of soul-searching and reflection. This was very remarkable, especially if one realizes that most Belgians grew up with a very favourable image of the Belgian colonization of Congo. The exhibition also illustrated the different perceptions of Belgians and Africans. While Belgians focused their critical reflection on the colonial

48

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


violence at the end of the 19th century in association with rubber production, Congolese or Belgians of Congolese origin could not understand why the public gave so much attention to these historical events while so little was done to stop the violence suffered today by RDC citizens of war that exists today, especially in Eastern Congo. After this exhibition, the history and art galleries of the museum were profoundly renovated and modernised.

Independence In 2010, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of independence of DR Congo, an exhibition was organised: ‘Independence. Congolese stories about 50 years of Independence’. The exhibition provided information about the independence of Congo, using information provided by Congolese. With nearly 60,000 visitors, the exhibition was a major success.

Role of diaspora Throughout the renovation process and discussions on the new museum exhibition, continuous dialogue was assured with African diaspora through the COMRAF-mechanism.

Fig 2. Family day for African diaspora at RMCA © KMMAMRAC

— 5. Based on a personal communication by Bambi Ceuppens (Anthropologist RMCA), and subsequent discussions with museum staff and COMRAF.

RMCA also coordinated efforts of the READ-ME project (Réseau européen des Associations de Diaspora et Musées d’Ethnographie) that aimed at a closer association of diaspora with ethnographical museums through projects, colloquia and joint exhibitions. RMCA also pursued a major research program on African diaspora particularly with respect to the social identity, social capital and social memory about the colonial period.

Towards a new reference exhibition In developing a new exhibition that considers the African heritage as a shared heritage with the source communities, the RMCA5 considers the following elements as drivers of change:

The renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa and implications for colonial history

49


Colonial museums

Post-colonial museums

Contrast between European ‘civilization’ and African ‘primitiveness’

Principle: African cultures and age-long history of cultural influence

juxtaposition of timeless nature and culture

Africa has a long, dynamic history

Emphasis on specimen and objects

(African) men and women are at the centre

Colonial societies presented as if colonization never took place

Inclusion of ‘popular’ culture created as a result of colonization

Organization of ethnographic objects on the basis of material and esthetic criteria

Ethnographic objects tell the story of their history, origin, use and meaning

Africans represented by Europeans

Africans represent themselves

Architectural plans A renovated museum is needed not only for reasons of content, but also of museography (use of multimedia) and infrastructure (modern facilities such as conference rooms, multifunctional auditoria,…). The museum first developed a general plan which was subsequently refined in a detailed analysis of needs. The museum building is a protected monument and a balance needs to be found between its historical values and perspectives and modern infrastructural needs. However, the renovation of the museum building has to be seen in a broader holistic plan that includes the renovation of the entire RMCA site with its 7 buildings and a 4 hectare park. The formal proposal for the renovation of the museum site and building was approved by the Belgian federal government in 2006. The contract was assigned to a consortium led by architect Stéphane Beel. In a first step, he made a master plan for the entire site, which was based on centralisation of functions. In a second step, he developed detailed architectural plans for the renovated museum. A new building was to be constructed that would 50

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


house reception facilities, a shop, a restaurant/cafeteria and meeting facilities. This new building was to be connected with the museum building through an underground gallery. In that gallery, a multifunctional space as well as acclimatised temporary exhibition spaces are foreseen.

The new reference exhibition For the new permanent exhibition in the renovated museum the following guidelines are used: n People are at the center n Permanent exhibition concentrates on Central-Africa, with

extension to other regions of Africa, where relevant n Permanent exhibition starts from own collections and own expertise n Permanent exhibition starts from the present and goes back in time n Interdisciplinary approaches where it constitutes an added value n Continuous participation of the African community in the

development of the new permanent exhibition and an educational and cultural program The old permanent exhibition had its galleries primarily organized by discipline. The new permanent exhibit will have 4 major themes: Central Africa Society, Landscapes and Biodiversity, Resources, and Arts, Expressions and Representations. This new permanent exhibition will be developed from a contemporary and thematic perspective and with a focus on Central Africa. The total cost of the renovation program is around 75 million Euro mostly to be funded by the Belgian Federal Government.

Colonial history

— 6. Van Schuylenbergh, P., Geradin, S. and Poinas, C. (2012) Congo: colonisation et décolonisation. L’histoire par les documents, Tervuren: MRAC

The most challenging issue in developing the new permanent exhibition was how to address the colonial history of Congo and Belgium. It is a shared history. The temporary exhibitions ‘The memory of Congo: the colonial era’ of 2005, and ‘Independence’ of 2010, prepared much of the groundwork. Furthermore, scientists and educational collaborators prepared a pedagogic publication on the colonisation and decolonisation of Congo.6 Several workshops were held on colonial history and major efforts were made in collecting

The renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa and implications for colonial history

51


witness accounts from Congolese, African diaspora and former Belgian workers in the colonies. The new gallery on colonial history is also prepared in close collaboration with African institutions, Congolese experts and African diaspora in Belgium. It will be built up along following elements: n The long history of Central Africa before the colonial period

1885-1960. Particular emphasis will be given to the rich society structures of Central Africa between the 13th and 15th century; n The era of European imperialism in the 19th century and the

implications of the Conference of Berlin of 1885 that divided Africa across colonial powers; n The development of the Independent Free State of Congo

(1885 to 1908) when Congo was de facto the private property of king Leopold II. This will include major attention for the violence associated with rubber exploitation; n The period of Belgian Congo (1908-1960) with its paternalist

approach to administration and organisation. Various themes will be addressed such as economic development, religion, infrastructure, education, medical care and contributions to World Wars; n Throughout the exhibit, a lot of emphasis will be given to

testimonies of Congolese individuals and institutions, and of diaspora of Central Africa; n The period of decolonisation and developments in Congo

after 1960, and Ruanda and Burundi after 1962. Several galleries of the museum will remain as they were at the opening of the museum in 1910. This includes the Crocodile Gallery, the Memorial Gallery and the Rotunda at the original entrance of the museum. It is hoped that the information provided in the new Colonial History Gallery will provide the visitor with sufficient information for him or her to develop its own opinion and judgement on this shared history and colonial past. 52

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Timing Renovation works started on October 16, 2013 and are expected to be finalized at the end of 2016. About 6 months will then be needed to install the new permanent exhibit. It is expected that the new renovated museum will open its doors in mid-2017. During the closure of the museum, the public-oriented activities of the RMCA will continue to function through exhibition spaces in other museums in Belgium and collaborative international agreements with other museums worldwide. Research and collection management activities will continue in the other buildings of the RMCA in Tervuren. The museum will become a ‘pop-up’ museum and appear with its collections, exhibitions and activities at other locations both in Belgium and abroad.

Conclusion This paper has provided an overview of the most important steps the museum has taken in its transformation process from a colonial museum to an internationally recognized reference centre for Central Africa. Over the coming years the RMCA will renovate its facilities, museography and permanent exhibition, strengthen its role in society by stimulating intercultural dialogue, promoting a positive image of multicultural societies and intensifying its collaboration with the source communities. The number of visitors is expected to increase to an average of 220,000 every year. A new public will be attracted through targeting efforts and a much wider range of cultural and educational activities and of scientific services will be offered. All this will consolidate the museum’s reputation as a curator of world heritage and a leading scientific and information dissemination institute on Central Africa. It will also enhance its reputation as the world reference centre of knowledge on Central Africa. The museum will have changed from a colonial museum into a 21st century institution. It will then be a meeting place where people share experiences, where intercultural dialogue is promoted, where children of mixed cultural origins can find the tools to construct their own identity and where people in general are stimulated to come to terms with the past and to become responsible citizens of a globalized world. Dr Guido Gryseels is Director General of the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) in Tervuren, Belgium.

The renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa and implications for colonial history

53


i

Chester Beatty Library

Foynes Museum

Fota House

The Hunt Museum

Irish Jewish Museum

Waterford Treasures

Músaem Chorca Dhuibhne

Chester Beatty Library • Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum • The Hunt Museum • Waterford Treasures: Bishop’s Palace and Medieval Museum

Achievement: Full Accreditation

Fota House, Irish Heritage Trust • Irish Jewish Museum • Músaem Chorca Dhuibhne

Achievement: Interim Accreditation


Where contemporary art and histories can meet HELEN CAREY

Introduction1 In commemorations and historical enquiry, the politics of national identity are centre stage. In de-coding what the Act of Remembrance is really about, what the relationship between Memory and Truth is, and that between Truth and Identity, as well as the power relations matrix lying behind the choices made of what to commemorate, are dizzyingly complex. However, the need that society has to remember from the early 20th century seems to be in direct proportion with the complexity of current identity. As john Gillis points out ‘memory work is like any other kind of physical or mental labour, embedded in complex class, gender and power relations that determine what is remembered (or forgotten) by whom and for what end’2. That we need to remember in order to know who we are is a trope that has been accepted recently.

— 1. This article is based on a talk presented at the Irish Museums Association Annual Conference, Museums & Memory: Challenging Histories on 22nd February 2014, Waterford 2. Gillis, J. (1994) Commemorations: Memory and Identity: The History of a Relationship, Princeton 3. Letter, Gustave Flaubert to Ernest Feydeau, 1859, Few will suspect how sad one had to be to undertake the resuscitation of Carthage. In Benjamin, W. Selected Writings Volume 4 19381940 Eiland, H and Jennings, M.W. (eds) Harvard University Press, Harvard 4. Binyon, L. (2014) Ode to Remembrance. The Times September 2014.

During a 20th century marked for its wars, Walter Benjamin cited Flaubert when in Theses on the Philosophy of History (1930s) he says: ‘Peu de gens devineront combien il a fallu être triste pour ressusciter Carthage’3 drawing the energy from grief and melancholy, which are often subverted for the ends of the power but historically strong and essential facets of being human. It was in the dawn of World War 1 that the imperative ‘at the going down of the sun/ and in the morning/we will remember them4 which marked the sacrifice of the dead, it was also a rallying cry for more men to join up, in order that the sacrifice of the dead be not wasted – and Britain could win the war. That in Europe, Britain and its allies won the WW1 – The Great War – and that we do remember them, spending much time rehabilitating memories as society demands, shows that truth is often with the triumphant; since then, there is an awareness of remembering, even though each year since the first Armistice, the century of War rampaged on, although it was too late, the fabric of society was changed forever in 1918. So why remember?

Where contemporary art and histories can meet

55


Society has become increasingly complex – in the 21st century, these complexities include a technological, spiritual, national and cultural identity to name a few, all of which can be conflicting with each other. The act of remembrance can serve to consolidate and at least reduce the psychologically debilitating multiplying of identities, which leads to a chaotic society. Thus the management tools that enable relations within society to be, at the very least, contained, include the rituals and orchestrated acts of remembrance, where aspects of national identity are stabilised. So within all the ideas of how these remembrances are framed, it must be acknowledged that the final framework can represent the victory of a set of identities over another, that ‘while the results may appear consensual, they are in fact the product of processes of intense contest and in some cases annihilation’5 Another aspect of remembering is who does the remembering. In the past, the social structures were such that extended family living together and organised institutions meant remembering and the idea of a past, present and future ran side by side, that no special effort was required, that time was not so linear. Records were kept by the keepers of social order like organised religion or community groups. However, in the 21st century, the individual is often the arbiter of their own truth, sometimes even the creator. The ensuing constructed view of the past can often depend on unstable characteristics yet very real aspects, such as the emotional. How to measure and codify a dependable methodology for truth that comes from myriad individuals is a challenge for the public arena where remembrance happens. All is fluid, all is in flux even that which we see in contemporaneous time cannot be trusted as stable. Can we trust the Artist, are we at the point that the potential for Contemporary Art may be signalled. Perhaps this field can be a divining rod for a relevant approach to remembering for our age.

Contested remembrances

5. Gillis, J. (1994) Commemorations: Memory and Identity: The History of a Relationship, Princeton 6. Ireland in turmoil: the 1641 Deposition – Witness Testimonies of 1641 Irish Rebellion curated by Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Trinity College Dublin, October 2009

Stakes are high in contested territories. The Depositions of 1641, curated in public exhibition by Professor jane Ohlmeyer most recently6, outlined events so traumatic and devastating that the contemporary witness accounts seem too shocking to even accept. The rebellion of the Irish at that time of their Protestant planted overlords entailed massacre, unsurpassed in brutality and yet in the general public, this occurrence is not widely known or understood

56

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


today. The accounts are witness accounts, preserved on cloth, and their very materiality distracts us from the content. This materiality becomes the object in itself, appearing to defy time and decay. Equally the Famines of the mid-19th century are only recently admissible and the Famine Commemorations have the tendency to be low key and subtle, although rising in profile year on year. The existence of a recently commissioned memorial site for the Irish Famine in New york City, in an area where real estate is at premium price, serves to complicate the home response even further. Both of these events are not part of the accepted current identity and the remembrance or remembering is managed: couched in references to contemporaneous historic accounts in the case of the Depositions or in the Famine populist props and staging, the emotional aspects of these highly traumatic events are managed. It is almost as if the public cannot be trusted to re-enter these arenas and connect emotionally. In this, the memory is repressed. For the 1966 Commemorations of the Easter Rising 1916, after 50 years of independent statehood, there were significant official attempts to introduce a sense of the contemporary culture, within already highly contested territory. As both historian Róisín Higgins and social geographer yvonne Whelan outline7, the commissioning of a sculpture by Oisín kelly for the Garden of Remembrance, which finally resulted in the Children of Lir, of the development of the Gardens themselves and their symbolism, as well as the context of the modernising Agenda of Seán Lemass, revealed the hotly contested territories that 1916, Art and the public arena involves. In terms of its site, the discordant character of the north inner city area surrounded on all sides by varying functions, and the overloading of the Garden plan with symbolism, as well as the length of time over which the project unfolded (1965-71, when Oisín kelly’s final sculpture) the project became an articulation of the difficulties of reconciling histories with futures.

— 7. Higgins, R. (2007) ‘Sites of Memory and Memorial’ In M.E. Daly and M O’Callaghan (eds.), 1916 in 1966: commemorating the Easter Rising Royal Irish Academy, Dublin 272-302 , Whelan, Y. (2003) Reinventing Modern Dublin, 2003, UCD Press, Dublin

The role of the state’s Office of Public Works who managed the official public realm, brought issues about identity and what the Rising represented, directly into discussions about the Future of Ireland. This was real energy behind the commemorative activities. So the involvement of commissioning permanent works involved pitting emotionally-held, contested truths against each other. In plain sight, what was represented in the public domain became an embodiment of a

Where contemporary art and histories can meet

57


power struggle, where the modernization of Ireland was confronted by a narrow historic nationalism. The truth or even the actual events of the 1916 Rising were not substantially a subject of their own remembrance platform. So what can the content of a Commemoration or Remembrance be, if we are to bear in mind that the materiality of the historical artefact such as in the 1641 depositions allow us to bypass the content, or the trauma of the subject is incompatible with the received ‘image’ of the future identity such as the Famine, or if the content of any truth is so hotly contested, that the form cannot be agreed. If the imperative remains ‘We shall remember them’, is there a form that can help to articulate all and yet remain future-looking? Can Contemporary Art be this form?

Contemporary art and remembering: three artists and their art

— 8. Three Forum curated by Helen Carey, 2009-10, 1) The State we are in 2) Have we been here before? 3) What is to be done, funded by the Arts Council of Ireland and Dublin City Council, Mockingbird Arts, SIPTU 9. Major exhibition of Eileen Gray’s work took place in the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 2012, curated by Chloe Petiot and the Centre Georges Pompidou, provided this insight into an Artist living firmly and unapologetically in her time 10. Lockout & Labour (Limerick City Gallery August 2013), The Market by Mark Curran, Gallery of Photography, Dublin (August 2013), Belfast Exposed, Belfast (September 2013), Centre Culturel Irlandais Paris, ( January 2014), A Letter to Lucy, Pallas Projects/Studios, Dublin (August 2013) – these exhibitions were curated by Helen Carey. Other partnerships with CCA Derry, Temple Bar Studios & Galleries, Dublin, Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane took place concurrently.

58

Museum Ireland

The methodology arising out of 2009s Three Forums8, concerned reconciling the interest of the Citizen, the narrative in the Public Domain and the involvement of the Artist in the Act of Commemoration. What emerged was the possibility that perhaps the best platform for commemoration, is to live really in the present and ask Artists to consider this present time. The Artist Eileen Gray9 puts it well when she said ‘We must ask nothing of Artists but to be of their time’. This does not mean that they cannot consider the past, but most particularly with regard to remembering, the portal that the Artist opens for the public is the heightened present, and within this lies the potential for being emotionally present. At that point, the subject and notions around humanity and the challenges of living in the world are communicated – this is a function of that most contemporary visual art form, socially engaged Art. As part of the commemorative activities for marking the centenary of the Dublin Lockout 1913, a series of exhibitions took place10 that were a field work exercise of what Contemporary Art can represent within commemorative public events. Below are discussions of three of the artists’ work addressing materiality, contemporary context and the role of the artist, functioning in the field of socially engaged Art. In Deirdre O’Mahony’s ‘T.u.R.F.’ (Transitional understandings of Rural Futures), the materiality of what the Artist presented brought the current struggle of the Turf Cutters’ dilemma in Ireland into context

Volume 24 2014


Fig. 1. Deirdre O’Mahony. Transitional Understandings of Urban Futures (TURF) 2013. Installation shot, Limerick City Gallery of Art. Courtesy of the Artist and Limerick City Gallery of Art

Fig. 2. Mark Curran. Installation shot, The Market, Gallery of Photography, 2013 courtesy of the Artist

and focus. Working with Turf Cutters from kildare, O’Mahony brought a stack of Turf into the Limerick City Gallery of Art, presented traditionally (fig. 1) Putting this stack centrally in the gallery, she surrounded the physical object with selections from the permanent collection which drew on historical notions of rural work, which can be seen in the background of the image. She presented the current debates and media coverage in print form that condemned the turf cutting alongside interviews with turf cutters. The source of the presented turf was subversive and while Art is a protected space, what O’Mahony did was render the gallery and the audience complicit and, with a moving speech by turf cutters present, the moment of synchronicity with those locked out in 1913 was entered. The materiality alongside the emotional allowed a full recognition of the value, place and stakes around Work to be felt, not just regarded. With the backdrop to the marking of the Lockout centenary being the financial crisis in Ireland and globally, Mark Curran’s ‘The Market’ (fig. 2) took place in the site of the crisis – the international Stock Market. Looking at the stock markets of Frankfurt, Dublin, London and Addis Ababa in this ongoing project, Curran presented portraits of workers, soundscapes of the algorithms of trading and artefacts and transcripts from field research in four different places – Paris, Belfast, Limerick and Dublin. In this gesture, he showed, among other complexities, that the public arena or the place where the parameters of citizens’ lives are decided in the contemporary world, are both everywhere and abstracted. That the

Where contemporary art and histories can meet

59


same information arises in changing formats or guises depends on the culture of the place, with different conditions of display. However, Curran’s work elaborated that the underlying notion of moving towards a new era of late and determined capitalism, influenced by market forces that are beyond and out of control, served to connect the past and present into the future as a continuum; the swell and fall of the soundscape which charted the use of the term Market in official speeches by ministers from France, Britain and Ireland, put the viewer into the constantly mutating noise of the Market. While Curran’s ethnographic practice puts people at the centre of his work, with portraits and dialogue, the absence of the human hand in the soundscape hubris was palpable.

Fig. 3. Anthony Haughey. DISPUTE. Installation shot, Limerick City Gallery of Art courtesy of the Artist and Limerick City Gallery of Art

— 11. Sholette, G. REPOhistory (1989-2000) www.gregorysholette.com 12. Graciela Carnevale, www.latingart.com

60

Museum Ireland

Anthony Haughey’s ‘Dispute’ (fig. 3) is a study of a strike and lockout of kingscourt’s Lagan Brick Factory, which marked the end of manufacture with loss of jobs in 2013. This dispute was as bitter as any of the past. What Haughey did was record images and to create objects, of the workers in discussion, in protest and in organisation. He was gifted some of the last of the bricks, transforming them into sculptural objects, incising their surfaces with words such as uNITy, justice, Equality, displaying them in the gallery alongside the names of the workers and their lengths of service In presenting the work, the artist positioned himself as the agent of the message to the public arena. He also occupied the role of the artist as witness or recorder in this dispute. This has resonance with the role played by William Orpen’s highly charged drawings of the soup kitchens of the time of the original Lockout which the artist sketched. Through time, the role of the Artist has varied. From the Artist being an activist, such as the artists of New york City in the 90s, such as Gregory Sholette’s ‘REPOhistory’11 or Graciela Carnevale’s activism and performance in Buenos Aires of the Grupo d Arte de Vanguardia de Rosario12 from 1965-69, the role Haughey plays in 2013 is that of witness, of committing the actuality to film, photography, video and object, and crucially, the installation can be re-created to present the dispute again: whether this allows the emotion or the understanding of the dispute to be felt again, the quality of the

Volume 24 2014


work and the context of its display as well as what the future holds will determine but importantly, the dispute is contemporaneously recorded at a time of its greatest intensity.

Time changing Alongside the imagery and the material culture of a time, what these artworks attempt is an infusion of the emotional, alongside the visual or sculptural, and the sentient within the subjects, to enable the viewer to access what it felt like to be present. This methodology can be part of a challenging, high stakes curatorial strategy often accused of crossing fields into the psycho-analytic; an example of work that moves in these fields is that of the Denmark-based kuratorisk Aktion curators, which looks at the post-colonial condition, combines the artefact admitting the emotional as a means of addressing the past.13 Commissioning Artists to capture a moment like Orpen did in 1913, may be the best means of re-visiting a moment at a future date. In connecting to the Lockout of 1913 in terms of subject – work, dispute, context and future – what these artists among others, have done is allow the continuum to continue from the past through the present and into the future. In this presentation, there may be the best means to overcome the constrictions of time, to achieve what, T.S. Eliot suggests in Burnt Norton14 Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time future contained in time past Perhaps in doing this we manage to return to a time when there was no need to remember, when memory is safeguarded and living well in the present is the business at hand.

Helen Carey is currently Director of Fire Station Artists’ Studios in Dublin.

— 13. Kuratorisk Aktion www.kuratorisk-aktion.org 14. T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, Four Quartets, 1936

Where contemporary art and histories can meet

61


From beetles to The Beatles

)

-75

s ge

uc

gy

ts

71

(Pa

Phon ograp h Reco rd Stora ge Sleeves (P ag

d Pro

olo

om nt

E

Take a look at the PEL Sourcebook and you may be surprised at just what we have to offer. Our 2012/13 edition contains details of a comprehensive and diverse range of specialist products, used by professional archivists and conservators in many different fields, all over the world. OTE supply all PEL products and many others. To find out more please visit our website or contact us via the details below.

T +353 (0) 404 49129 62

W www.ote.ie

E info@ote.ie

Museum Ireland Volume 24 2014 On The Edge Ltd. / OTE, Archival and Conservation Products, Ballinahinch, Ashford, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

e 27)


Terror and hunger, disease and death: Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum N I A M H O ’ S U L L I VA N

Introduction1 “We are overwhelmed with distress; we are crushed with taxation; we are scourged by famine; and visited by pestilence. Our jails are full; our poor houses choked; our public edifices turned into lazar houses; our cities mendicities; our streets morgues; our churchyards fields of carnage.... Society itself is breaking up; selfishness seizes upon all; class repudiates class; the very ties of closest kindred are snapt asunder. Sire and son, landlord and occupier, town and country repudiate each other…. Terror and hunger, disease and death afflict us… (Southern Reporter, 1 May 1847)”2 Almost ten times the population of Ireland today that is over 40 million Americans declare Irish ancestry, large numbers of whom descend from the Great Hunger. However, it took almost a century-and-a-half for historians to focus on the political, social and economic causes, and consider its consequences in Ireland, and around the world. Certainly, the loss of life, the leeching of the land, the guilt of survivors, and the erosions of language and culture remained unaddressed in the visual arts until the 1990s. Around the 150th anniversary, Quinnipiac university in Connecticut determined to commemorate the tragedy through the formation of an art museum. This article considers the rationale for the foundation of the museum, and explores aspects of its inaugural collection.3 — 1. This article is based on a talk presented at the Irish Museums Association Annual Conference, Museums & Memory: Challenging Histories on 22nd February 2014, Waterford 2. Southern Reporter 1 May 1847 3. O’Sullivan, N. (2012) ‘Lines of Sorrow: Representing Ireland’s Great Hunger.’ Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum Inaugural Catalogue, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT

Visual interpretation of the Great Famine The story of the Famine had been told in words but, prior to the establishment of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, no institution had interpreted visually the greatest demographic catastrophe of nineteenth-century Europe – remembering that those who experienced the devastation, and suffered its terrible fallout, did so, at least initially, with their eyes. They saw their food rot in the soil; they saw the food grown for others exported, while they starved; they saw their homes

Terror and hunger, disease and death: Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

63


razed to the ground; they saw their mothers and fathers and children die terrible deaths; they saw their country recede as, dispossessed and desolate, they fled – sights that were etched in memory, but seldom found visual expression. In making conditional the calibre of the work and the standing of the artist (in addition to the subject matter), the challenge was to give exemplary visual form to the Famine and its memory. And this remains an ongoing challenge. While much is made of the muting of the Irish language, and the consequent difficulty in speaking about the Great Hunger, even more notable is the paucity of images contemporaneous with it, and of it, after. If the Famine haunts fine art by its absence, it did, nonetheless, find its voice through other media, hence the collection and exhibition of images in non fine art media in the museum.4 In 1790, the population of Ireland was approximately four million. Fifty years later, it had exploded to over eight million. Between 1841 and 1891, it dropped to 4.7 million. A million died, during, and in the immediate aftermath of the Great Hunger, 1.25 million emigrated, followed by up to 2 million further emigrations to the end of the nineteenth century.5 Over a fifty-year period, almost half of the population of an entire country disappeared. Famine remains, almost until the end, reversible – its continuation over a seven-year period can only be seen as political.

Written accounts of the Great Famine

— 4. O’Sullivan, N. (2014). The Tombs of a Departed Race: Illustrations of Ireland’s Great Hunger, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT 5. Smyth, W J. (2012) “Mapping the People: The Growth and Distribution of the Population”, Famine Atlas, Cork, Cork University Press, 3-22.

64

Museum Ireland

Given the scale of the horror, much is made of the inexpressibility of the Famine, yet much is written. In 1847, the social activist and humanitarian from Connecticut, Elihu Burritt, spent four months in Skibbereen. ‘I can find no language nor illustration sufficiently impressive to portray the spectacle to an American reader’, he said. But he did find the words, and his accounts of the starvation, disease and death are harrowing. He described soup houses engulfed by “famine spectres, half naked, and standing or sitting in the mud … young and old of both sexes struggling forward with their rusty tin and iron vessels for soup, some of them upon all fours, like famished beasts.” When Burritt came across “breathing skeletons”, he declared that had their bones “been divested of the skin that held them together, and been covered with a veil of thin muslin, they would not have been more visible … an appearance … seldom paralleled this side of the grave.”

Volume 24 2014


Elsewhere, he found a small shed: “The aperture of this horrible den of death would scarcely admit ... the entrance of a common-sized person. And into this noisome sepulcher living men, women and children went down to die; to pillow upon the rotten straw, the grave clothes vacated by preceding victims and festering with their fever. Here they lay as closely to each other as if crowded side by side on the bottom of one grave.”6 One account was more terrible than the other” “little boys and girls presented a hideous sight…. their heads had become bald and their faces wrinkled like old men and women of seventy or eighty-years-ofage.”7 A local Skibbereen doctor, Daniel Donovan, described how “the face and limbs become frightfully emaciated; the eyes acquired a most peculiar stare; the skin exhaled a peculiar and offensive fetor, and was covered with a brownish filthy-looking coating, almost as indelible as varnish.”8 And in his study of “homicidal starvation”, Alfred Swaine Taylor concluded: “life is commonly terminated by a fit of maniacal delirium.”9

Fig 1. Irish Peasant Children. 1847. by Daniel MacDonald © Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Quinnipiac University

Such descriptions contributed to the view that the Famine could not be represented.10 And indeed there are few paintings to match the shocking words. Simply, the visual language to paint the lived nightmare did not exist – the few attempts to do so, such as Daniel MacDonald’s’ Discovery of the Potato Blight’ (c.1847, Folklore Department, university College Dublin), tilted into melodrama.

— 6. Burritt, E. (1847) Four Months in Skibbereen, A Journal of a Visit of Three Days to Skibbereen, and its Neighbourhood. Charles Gilpin, London. Reprinted in Southern Star, 4 and 11 October 1869. 7. Armstrong, T. (1906) My Life in Connaught, Elliot Stock, London, 13. 8. Dublin Medical Press, 2 February 1848. 9. Taylor, A.S. (1853) Medical Jurisprudence, Blanchard & Lea, Philadelphia, 549 10. Gibbons, L. (2014) Limits of the Visible: Representing the Great Hunger, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT

Art and the Great Famine Historically, violence or distress in art was softened for the sensibilities of the rich – distanced in time, or cloaked in mythology or allegory. Artists were trained to paint in a classical manner, their skills honed in the antique class, before studying the life model, by which time they were tuned to see the human body in an idealized way. While the devastation defied the skills of the artists, the artistic careers of Irish artists, especially, would not have survived the attempt. The few British artists who addressed the Famine muted or masked the horror. George Frederic Watts’ ‘The Irish Famine’ (c.1849, Watts

Terror and hunger, disease and death: Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

65


Gallery), shows healthy-looking peasants, distressed but far from starving, Francis Topham’s renditions were sentimentalized, and Alfred Downing Fripp’s sweetened. Erskine Nicol’s attempts at stereotypical humor, evident in the museum’s ‘A knotty Point’ (1853), ooze condescension, demonstrating the insidious power of art in the service of propaganda. The standard presentation in pictorial newspapers of warmly clad, but lazy and stupid peasants, speaks volumes of British Famine denial, while the cartoons in Punch demonstrate just how entrenched were attitudes towards Ireland. Still, the question as to why so many Irish artists recoiled is worth asking? Most did not live in Ireland, but in London, where many were quick to suppress their Irishness. Exceptionally, Daniel MacDonald returned to paint the horror, hence the importance of his ‘Irish Famine Children’ (1847) in the collection. In London, the art market was centered on the annual exhibitions, where wealthy patrons would not countenance unacceptable subject matter – pictures of rotting potatoes, emaciated bodies or diseased corpses. Art was intended to be pleasurable and morally edifying, sentiments and virtues irrelevant, it was believed, to the working classes or the poor. When it came to representing real-life events, painters struggled with fundamental concepts of contemporaneity and veracity. Even the emerging style of Realism, depicting the hard lot of peasants or urban workers, à la Millet or Daumier, could not transform the worst cataclysm of the nineteenth century – an epic of starvation, disease and death – into ‘art’. It was only in 1847, coincidentally during the Famine period, that édouard Manet called on painters to be of their own time and paint what they see. Traditionally, artists filtered commentary on contemporary events through distancing mechanisms that were historicising or metaphorical. Most artists, therefore, addressed the Famine tangentially, allegorically or symbolically, culturally encoding their images to indirectly reflect events, behaviours and ideologies, rather than addressing them head on. Even if the will existed to paint such subject matter, there were deeply-rooted cultural obstacles to overcome. So, if hunger was difficult to represent, how did people around the world learn of what was happening in Ireland during the Famine years?

66

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


No known photographs exist (although Sean Sexton’s collection picks up on the aftermath) but the Famine coincided with the birth of massproduced, illustrated newspapers, and by this means the world learnt of conditions in Ireland. Strikingly, some of the iconic Illustrated London News images, such as ‘Bridget O’Donnel and Children’ (22 December 1849) continue to act as the starting point for many contemporary works in the museum, such as john Behan’s ‘Famine Mother and Children’ and Rowan Gillespie’s ‘Statistic I’ (2010). The new illustrated weeklies featured a symbiotic relationship between image and text that shifted in relation to different issues and from one illustrator to another. From sympathetic descriptions of poverty, the pendulum swung to the condemnation of a peasantry seen as in the grip of savagery and primitivism. In this respect, the power of the images was either confirmatory or corrective, often depending on the nationality of the illustrator. This has important implications for how we look at images, for it suggests that even the most realistic images can be read in accordance with the interests of its different consumers.11 In the late nineteenth century, artists confronted further challenges. With the lapse of time – creating perhaps the distance from the Famine to look at it anew – the vocabulary of art was shaken by Impressionism, a style that neither politically nor artistically could absorb historical subject matter. In Ireland, the response of the more advanced artists was to combine the dual impulses to work in the new idiom of landscape painting, influenced by avant-garde techniques in art, but stiffened with an underlying political message, that included making ordinary people the subject of important art. In certain hands, landscape painting became a politicized genre, with the unspoilt landscape of the West of Ireland becoming identified with the precolonial, unsullied Gaelic world that embodied the promise of a resurgent nation, and here Irish identity was seen to reside. This view of an authentic culture was promulgated by artists in an evolutionary line, from George Petrie to Frederick William Burton to Aloysius O’kelly. — 11. Mitchell, WJT. (1986) Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology University of Chicago Press, Chicago, and Barthes, R (1961) ‘The Photographic Message’ and ‘The Rhetoric of the Image’ (1964), in Image, Music, Text, Hammersmith, London, 1977, 15– 31; 32–51.

Of course the seven deadly years of the Famine did not grow out of nothing, and nor did its consequences end when it did, for that reason it is the long story that is told in the museum. In james Brenan’s ‘The Finishing Touch’ (1876) and Howard Helmick’s ‘Mending the Nets’ (1886), the focus on the everyday aspects of the lives of those who survived, the ongoing sadness associated with emigration, and the burden of remembering is palpable.

Terror and hunger, disease and death: Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

67


In America this legacy took on a life of its own. Margaret Allen’s ‘Bad News in Troubled Times’ (1886) addresses the dynamiting campaign in the 1880s, fuelled by memories of landlordism and British misgovernment, amid fresh fears of famine in the late 1870s. A new wave of immigration in the uS consolidated a determination to retribution. Consequently, in january 1885, London was subjected to a barrage of ‘outrages’, executed by Irish-American Clan-na-Gael.

Fig 2. Gorta. 1946. by Lilian Lucy Davidson © Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Quinnipiac University

— 12. Mark-Fitzgerald, E. (2013) Commemorating the Irish Famine: Memory and the Monument, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, and Marshall, C (2014) Monuments, Memorials and Visualizations of the Great Famine in Ireland, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT

68

Museum Ireland

When Independence was won in the twentieth century, the struggle to build the nation rather than dwell on the past took precedence. As generations succeeded each other, the memories of the Famine burrowed deeper, and while occasionally surfacing in works, such as Lilian Davidson’s harrowing child burial, ‘Gorta’ (1946), landscape paintings by other artists, such as Paul Henry, sought to establish repose rather than stir up the past. In 1945, the anniversary was scantly acknowledged – the one exhibition was not held until 1946, and then conceived as in memoriam of Thomas Davis, suggesting a lingering shame. The onus to confront the Great Hunger, to mark it, and make sense of it, if such is ever possible, passed thus from one generation to the next. The view that the Famine could not be expiated until Ireland mourned its dead and came to terms with the presence of the past in our lives today is a relatively recent concept, as is the idea that art has a role in that endeavour. From relative silence, an unprecedented eruption of memorials around Ireland and the uS followed. This movement generated many maquettes, by john Behan, Glenna Goodacre, éamonn O’Doherty, Margaret Chamberlain and others, now in the museum, providing transnational maps of memory on both sides of the Atlantic.12 In addition to the profusion of bronze memorialization, two other dominant strands in art can be identified, each represented in the museum. An attempt to face history, and mourn the suffering and loss endured during the Famine years, through pushing the limits of visual

Volume 24 2014


form. Alanna O’kelly’s ‘A kind of Quietism’ (1990) draws on contemporary accounts of the Famine, and combines photography and text to produce landscapes that are both ‘garden’ and ‘grave’. Deep compassion is also evident in kieran Tuohy’s ‘Thank you to the Choctaw’ (2005). Famine commemorations are redolent in both giving and receiving. The beleaguered Choctaw took on the sufferings of the Irish, sending money for the relief of the Famine. Only 16 years before, more than half their own tribe died on the Trail of Tears, from exposure, hunger and disease. Tuohy interweaves a totem-pole style of storytelling with a Celtic way with narrative. In his apocalyptic ‘Departure’, Pádraic Reany depicts a human procession crossing a bloodied potato field, the uncoffined dead lying in shallow graves beneath the feet of the living, the living on the long march towards a famine ship, and exile. And john Coll’s hollowed figures, carrying the dead within, are also powerful metaphors of death by starvation. If facing the sorrow, anger and suppression is necessary – so that we can begin to acknowledge, understand and let go – it may be that ‘indirection’ allows the image to go below the surface to what lies below, revealing deeper truths through disfiguration’. Hughie O’Donoghue explores the significance of memory in his evocative work, and reminds us that while the past may be over, the work of memory remains to trace its long shadow on the present. A third strand addresses causes, consequences and apportionment, resulting in some strikingly polemical works. The unsuppressed rage deep in Brian Maguire’s ‘The World is Full of Murder’ is shown in the splayed, foreshortened and fragmented body parts. Death from hunger, in a world with excess food supplies is nothing short of murder, argues Maguire. This painting emanates violence, the pigment is visceral, the gesturing aggressive. The artist insists on the power of art to express political, social and humanitarian views. Works of ‘record’, intent on doing justice to the truth, include Rowan Gillespie’s ‘Statistic I’ and ‘Statistic II’ (2010) that commemorates the discovery under a parking lot on Staten Island of some 650 human bodies, the remains of immigrants who, having fled the famine, survived the horrors of the ‘coffin ships’ and arrived in the New World. Here they died in quarantine from the diseases they carried with them. Amazingly it has been possible to identify the name, age, date, and cause of death of most of those who were so unceremoniously disposed of in this mass grave. But the gut wrenching painting that assaults

Terror and hunger, disease and death: Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

69


Fig 4. Statistic I & Statistic II. 2010. by Rowan Gillespie © Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Quinnipac University

audiences most forcibly – visually and psychologically – is Davidson’s ‘Gorta’ (1946). All narrative is eliminated, they have come from nothing, lost everything, and now traumatised, they look past one another into nothingness.

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum A number of things make this museum notable. It is founded on interdisciplinary principles, informed not just by art history, but by contemporary history, cultural theory, philosophy, political economy, literature and music, and complimented by a rich cultural and educational programme, underpinned by scholarly publications, breaking new ground in Famine research. In the build up, unusually, as new work was acquired, the space was adapted to the art, rather than the art to the space, creating internal vistas that lend themselves to telling the story in unexpected ways. The ground floor gallery is low, sombre and cavern-like – a setting for a seanchaí. The strong narrative vein continues in the upper gallery where Robert Ballagh’s stained glass hangs high in a glass atrium, performing much the same didactic function as stained glass in a medieval 70

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Fig 3. Black ‘47. 2013. by Michael Farrell © Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Quinnipiac University

Cathedral, as if to comment on the biblical proportions of the Famine. Here too the massive 14 ft Michael Farrell ‘Black ‘47’ is placed at an angle to a window, creating what appears to be a seamless continuum from the natural light outside to the raking light in the painting that illuminates Charles Trevelyan – standing in the dock before a jury of the dead, testified against by bodies who spout up from the grave – finally arraigned for his management of the Famine on behalf of the British establishment. The collection works top down and bottom up resulting in an interaction of art and wider visual culture. But as a largely invisible trauma, finding appropriate expressions of both the gaps and interconnections in Irish and Diasporic history was, and is, a challenge, to the extent that some images are more tellingly expressed by their absence, as it were. Through the development of interactive programmes, important themes of poverty, dispossession, displacement, alienation, violence, loss of language, as well as issues of class, gender and identity will be explored.

Terror and hunger, disease and death: Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

71


Conclusion As an all-shaping event, it is worth asking why so little attention has been given to the Famine in Irish cultural institutions? Before independence, many were fearful of drawing attention to themselves by antagonizing the colonizer, or of giving offence to an Anglo-Irish ascendancy that dominated cultural as well as political and economic life. Even in post-colonial times, there appears to be some nervousness about exploring intellectual ideas related to a politics of representation. Indeed a lingering nostalgia for the Great House with its carefully sanitized art and artefacts, rather than the more troubling habitus of the dispossessed and disenfranchised, whether in the country or the city, remains a consideration. How can we, in the twenty-first century, find ways to remember a terrible past that shapes our world as it is today? As we grow more distant in time, we can face it better, but perhaps understand it less. The impossibility of giving voice to those who experienced the Famine, the paucity of material traces, the scarcity of contemporary visual images, and the subsequent oral and written histories, create both challenges and interpretative opportunities that few institutions address. Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum seeks to provide a space where, to borrow Seamus Heaney’s words, “hope and history rhyme”.13 Indeed the difficult subject prompts myriad responses – sadness, guilt, anger and discomfort – from often emotional visitors, who feel they are confronting their history for the first time.

Professor Emeritus Niamh O’Sullivan is consultant curator to Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

— 13. Heaney, S. (1991) The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes Faber, London

72

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Institutionalising the rising: the National Museum and 1916 EMMA LIBRERI

Introduction1 In a 1930 lecture on the subject of ‘Museums – their place and purpose in National life’, Liam Gogan, of the National Museum of Ireland, declared that museums were, on the whole, not very highly regarded in Ireland and their function not always fully understood here or elsewhere.2 Over eighty years later, it would appear that Gogan’s statement still rings true. In a recent article on the issue Fintan O’Toole lamented “the terrible way we treat our national library and national museum”3 following an earlier Irish Times report that the National Museum was being “forced to close galleries and has had to cut back on educational guided tours due to funding cuts and staff recruitment restrictions”.4

— 1. This article is based on a talk presented at the Irish Museums Association Annual Conference, Museums & Memory: Challenging Histories on 22nd February 2014, Waterford 2. Gogan, Liam. 1930 ‘Museums – their place and purpose in National life’ Cork Examiner, 12 February 1930 3. O’ Toole, F. 2014. ‘Culture Shock: Death by a thousand cuts – the terrible way we treat our national library and national museum’ Irish Times, 27 September 2014 4. Siggins, L. 2014. ‘National Museum closing galleries and cutting tours due to shortage of funds’ Irish Times, 22 September 2014 5. Renan, E. (1990) ‘What is a nation?’, Nation and Narration, Bhabha, H.K (ed.), Routledge, London, 19

In the context of such statements and in light of the upcoming centenary of one of the most remembered events in modern Irish history – the 1916 Rising – the current article aims to examine the treatment of the Rising in the National Museum in an attempt to examine what this tells us about the Museum and its place in the life of the Irish nation. According to Ernest Renan the existence of a nation required “the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories”.5 There can be no doubt that the 1916 Rising is one of the most remembered historical events in Irish history and perhaps the one which has been most successful in capturing public imagination. It is an event subsumed in Irish collective memory which has come to play an integral role in defining what it is to be Irish. As such, it has been the subject of numerous commemorative ceremonies, songs, film, poetry and iconic imagery, as well as a plethora of historical research. It has established itself as a focal reference point in Irish society. In 1949, the formal declaration of the Irish Republic took place on Easter Monday and in

Institutionalising the rising: the National Museum and 1916

73


2010, in the aftermath of the bailout agreement, a leading Irish newspaper marked the event by printing a mock ‘Proclamation of Dependence’ on its cover page.6 In works relating to the field of memory in an Irish context, in itself a relatively recent phenomenon, it is the Rising which has received particular attention. 7

— 6. McCarthy, M. (2012) Ireland’s 1916 Rising: Explorations of HistoryMaking, Commemoration and Heritage in Modern Times, Ashgate, Surrey, 2 7. See Daly, M and O’Callaghan, M. (2007) 1916 in 1966: Commemorating the Easter Rising, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, McCarthy, M. (2012) Ireland’s 1916 Rising: Explorations of HistoryMaking, Commemoration & Heritage in Modern Times, Ashgate, Surrey, McBride, I. (2001). History and Memory in Modern Ireland, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Higgins, R. (2012) Transforming 1916 Meaning, Memory and the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Easter Rising, Cork University Press, Cork 8. Cooke, P. (2012) ‘The National Museum of Ireland – an ideological history’ Australasian Journal of Irish Studies, (12), 82 9. Joye, L. (2013) Displaying the Nation: The 1916 exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland: 1932–1991. Object Matters: 1916 Conference, Dublin 10. The Irish Republican Soldiers’ Federation signed off communication to the government relating to the 1916 exhibit as such but they are sometimes referred to in official communications as the 1916 Club. Nellie Gifford-Donnelly also uses the term 1916 Club in letters to the government. It is possible this term refers only to the 1916 Relics Sub-Committee but it is not entirely clear.

74

Museum Ireland

With this in mind, this article aims to take an alternative viewpoint and to examine the treatment of the Rising – a monumental symbol of Irish nationalism – in our National Museum. It begins with a summary of the history of the exhibition itself before proceeding to use the exhibition as a point of departure from which to examine the Museum’s position as a medium for the transmission and challenging of historical knowledge in Irish society. Finally, it attempts to highlight some of the difficulties faced by the institution from its inception to the present day, to demonstrate how such difficulties are reflected in the Museum’s portrayal of the Rising and also to suggest how the exhibition, one of the Museum’s most successful in attracting public attention, serves as a reminder of the positive impact and the future potential of this national institution.

The 1916 exhibition – a history Perhaps surprisingly, the collections in relation to the 1916 Rising and the subsequent struggle for independence – collections which Pat Cooke describes as the “only one truly new category of material drawn from the near-contemporary” generated by the Museum in the twentieth century8 – did not come to the Museum as a result of an official policy, but rather as a result of grassroots campaigning and organisation. The 1916 exhibition owes its existence mainly to the efforts of Nellie Gifford-Donnelly, who was instrumental in procuring articles for display.9 In the mid-1920s, she wrote to Dudley Westropp, keeper of the Art and Industrial Division, suggesting the desirability of collecting and preserving material relating to the Rising and the subsequent War of Independence. While Mr Westropp agreed it would be a good idea, nothing came of the suggestion. In 1932, prompted partly by the international audience which was to be provided by the upcoming Eucharistic Congress and Tailteann Games, Gifford-Donnelly approached the Irish Republican Soldiers’ Federation.10 They established a Historical Research Committee tasked with the setting up of an exhibition for the 1916-21 struggle for freedom and appointed Gifford-

Volume 24 2014


Donnelly as its Honorary Secretary.11 The Soldiers’ Federation then made repeated representations to the government in relation to the matter. Gifford-Donnelly wrote to the Department of Education in 1932 stating that the 1916 Club was “anxious to collect articles of interest associated with Easter Week 1916 with the immediate object of having a loan exhibition of them during the Eucharistic Congress and Tailteann Games period”.12 Although the initial request envisaged a temporary exhibition “as the time until the Eucharistic Congress is short” it also had in mind the idea of later facilitating “a permanent loan collection”.13 — 11. Clare, A. (2011) Unlikely Rebels: The Gifford Girls and the Fight for Irish Freedom, Mercier, Cork, 252 12. Letter from Nellie GiffordDonnelly Honorary Secretary 1916 Club Irish Republican Soldiers’ Federation stamped Oifig an Runaí, Roinn an Oideachais, 21 May 1932, (NMIA, AI/098/006, Outside Exhibitions 1916 Club) 13. Letter from Nellie GiffordDonnelly Honorary Secretary 1916 Club Irish Republican Soldiers’ Federation stamped Oifig an Runaí, Roinn an Oideachais, 21 May 1932, (NMIA, AI/098/006, Outside Exhibitions 1916 Club) 14. Letter from Private Secretary to the President to Hon Secretary of the Irish Republican Soldiers’ Federation, 20 Dec. 1932 (NAI, DT, s9501A, National Museum: 1916 Collection); Letter from Private Secretary to the President to Mrs N Gifford-Donnelly, Honorary Secretary, 1916 Relics SubCommittee, 27 Nov. 1934 (NAI, DT, s9501A, National Museum: 1916 Collection) 15. Letter from the Department of Education to the Secretary to the President, 11 Dec. 1933 (NAI, DT, s9501A, National Museum: 1916 Collection) 16. See NMIA, AI/90/108 – Plans, correspondence, preparation, details etc in connection with NMI 1916 exhibition 17. While the Museum now deals with the topic of 1916 in its ‘Soldiers & Chiefs’ and ‘Asgard’ exhibitions it is the ‘Understanding 1916’ exhibit which forms the main topic of this article. For more information on the ‘Soldiers & Chiefs’ exhibition see Joye, L and Martinovich, P. (2006) ‘Challenges of context and content: Finding Solutions in a Storyline’, Museum Ireland, (15), 47

Following the temporary exhibition, the Soldiers’ Federation wrote to the newly-elected President of the Executive Council, éamon de Valera, in june 1932 “in regard to the permanent housing of the 1916 relics in the National Museum”. 14 Such representations were forwarded to the Minister for Education for consideration. The Minister for Education was “in favour of an arrangement whereby a suitable selection of such relics could be preserved and made available for permanent display to the public” given his awareness “that the temporary exhibition of 1916 Relics held in the National Museum during the past year was of considerable interest to visitors”.15 As a result the exhibition became permanent in 1935 and has evolved slightly with new exhibitions being arranged to coincide with major anniversaries in 1941, 1966, 1991 and 2006. However the form and content of these exhibitions retain many similarities. For example, a perusal of the archives of the National Museum demonstrates that many of the information panels for the 1991 exhibition are the same ones used in 2006.16 In this respect, it is very much to the 1932 exhibition that the present one owes its origins.17

The 1916 exhibition and the position of the national museum A further surprise may be found in the original reaction of the Museum to the prospect of an exhibition on the Rising. Indeed, not only did the exhibition not stem from those within the institution there were actually some within the Museum who were quite opposed to it. In this respect, the exhibition provides us with quite an interesting insight in terms of the conflict between the memory of the community and that of the institution and their diverging concepts of heritage significance. In 1932, the year of the opening of the temporary exhibition, Adolf Mahr, then keeper of the Antiquities Division and later Director of the

Institutionalising the rising: the National Museum and 1916

75


National Museum wrote to the Secretary of the Department of Education to express his views on the 1916 exhibition as he believed “the questions raised in the application by the 1916 Club have some bearing upon the policy of collecting in the Museum”.18 He did believe that there was “considerable scope in Dublin for a purely historical museum which would go in for what one might call patriotic relics” and he noted that many of the objects associated with the Rising were of “sentimental value” and had “a potent importance for the fostering of the national spirit”. However, he reminded the Department that “the kildare Street museum is called Science and Art” before noting that “a snuff box which a dead hero purchased in a shop, or an address of congratulation, or an executioners’ robe or similar relics are neither scientific nor artistic nor illustrating antiquity or industry”.19 Thus Mahr failed to see a place for such objects in the Museum. To Adolf Mahr, the Rising was not the type of event the Museum was designed to commemorate nor was it the memory the Museum was supposed to embody.

— 18. Letter from Keeper of Irish Antiquities to Secretary Department of Education, 30 November 1930 [sic] (NMIA, AI/098/006, Outside Exhibitions 1916 Club) 19. Letter from Keeper of Irish Antiquities to Secretary Department of Education, 30 November 1930 [sic] (NMIA, AI/098/006, Outside Exhibitions 1916 Club) 20. Board of Visitors. Report on the National Museum of Ireland 1934-35, National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, 11 21. Cooke, P. (2013) ‘Aetheriality and Materiality: Material Culture and the Myth of 1916’, Object Matters: 1916 Conference, Dublin 22. Letter from Keeper of the Art Division to Secretary, Department of Education, (NMIA, AI/140/001, Hist. and 1916: Exhibitions etc, 1941). Gogan, as Keeper of the Art Division, had been responsible for the preparation of the 1941 exhibit

76

Museum Ireland

It would appear, however, that the Irish public did not agree. In 1935, the Board of Visitors reported that the permanent exhibition, opened to the public on April 16, had attracted “an enormous number of visitors”.20 In 1941, in the middle of ‘The Emergency’, the biggest audience in the Museum’s history attended the opening of the 1916 exhibition which coincided with the Rising’s twenty fifth anniversary.21 In communications between the Museum and the Department of Education on the matter of the extended opening of the exhibition, Liam Gogan noted that “in relation to museum attendance as I have known it for the past 27 years the present attendance of the public has reached extraordinary and entirely unprecedented proportions. No later than yesterday the special collections were crowded to capacity and there was a reasonably good overflow into the general collections, indicating that at last the Irish people have overcome their inertness in regard to their museum facilities”.22 As such, the 1916 exhibition highlights the existence of a significant gap between the memory of the institution and the memory of the community it served in that the type of exhibition which received the greatest public response was not viewed as relevant for or beneficial to the Museum by one of its most influential officials at that time. Indeed, Mahr was not the only person to express such views. Thomas Bodkin’s 1949 Report on Arts in Ireland was also extremely critical of the 1916

Volume 24 2014


Exhibition viewing it as one which contained objects owing their inclusion to “misconceived sentimentality” and opining that “the presence of this collection in the Museum is due, primarily, to a policy that is inappropriate to an educational establishment of the kind”.23 In this respect, it is interesting to note Andrea Witcomb’s contention that “the process of identifying heritage significance is not neutral and is highly dependent on changing regimes of value”.24 As far as the 1916 exhibition is concerned, the institutional and public responses to the idea of such an exhibition taking place in the Museum highlight the very different concepts about the values the National Museum was and is supposed to embody.

— 23. Bodkin, T. (1949) Report to the Government of Ireland on various Institutions and Activities concerned with the Arts in Ireland, 7 (NAI, DT, s 9501A, National Museum: 1916 Collection) 24. Witcombe, A. (2012) ‘Tensions between World Heritage and local values: the case of Freemantle Prison (Australia)’, in World Heritage Papers, (31), 67 25. Monaghan, N. T. (2000) ‘The National Museum of Ireland’, In Buttimer, N, Rynne, C and Guerin, H (eds), The Heritage of Ireland; Natural, Man-Made and Cultural Heritage, Conservation and Interpretation, Business and Administration, Collins Press, Cork, 404 26. Crooke, E. (2000) Politics, Archaeology and the Creation of a National Museum of Ireland, Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 106 27. For more on museums and national museums see HooperGreenhill, E. (1992) Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge, Routledge, London, Bourke, M. (2011) The Story of Irish Museums 1790-2000; Culture, Identity and Education, Cork University Press, Cork, Boswell, D and Evans, J. (1999) Representing the Nation: A Reader – Histories, Heritage and Museums, Routledge, London and New York

In order to understand the values of the Museum in this respect, it is important to remember that the National Museum existed long before an independent Irish nation did. Indeed, the Museum as we now know it began its life as the Dublin Museum of Science and Art before it was renamed the National Museum of Science and Art, Dublin in 1908. The 1877 Act of Parliament which created the Museum did so by transferring the buildings and collections from private institutions such as the Royal Dublin Society to public ownership.25 This was justified on the basis of the ‘national character’ of the collections in question but in this context national was an expression of the importance laid on a collection that was within the British jurisdiction. Indeed, the 1877 Act also placed the Museum under the control of the Department of Science and Art in South kensington, London. As Elizabeth Crooke points out “the establishment of the Dublin Museum of Science and Art must be seen in the context of political and social reform in Ireland” which included the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1869 and the passing of university Education (Ireland) Act 1879, steps undertaken “with the aim of creating a progressive educated native middle class eager to participate like the Scots and Welsh in the ruling of the British Empire”.26 Thus it was part of a wider South kensington ethos and South kensington, in this period, can be regarded as a government instrument, to allow the state to retain direction in terms of self-education throughout Britain.27 As such, the original sense of nationalism which the Museum was designed to fulfil or encourage was nationalism within a wider imperial agenda. Therefore, in 1921 – following a very definite change in regime – there was an attempt to review and reform the Museum’s policy. In

Institutionalising the rising: the National Museum and 1916

77


the early days of the Free State the Department of Education commissioned a report on the role of the Museum so that an appropriate policy could be arrived at in the context of a new nation. The committee was made up of experts in the fields of archaeology, Art and Industry and Natural Science, as well as the chairman of the Board of Visitors, and headed by Professor Nils Lithberg.28 It was requested “to enquire into and report to the Minister for Education upon the main purposes that should be served by the National Museum”.29 Dr Lithberg was of the opinion that the ideal of a National Museum should be to give a consecutive representation of the native civilisation of the country from the time when the human mind first showed its creative power until the present day, and it should embrace all classes which have been or still are components of its society.30

— 28. Professor Lithberg was a Swedish ethnologist and Director of the Northern Museum in Stockholm, which had recently carried out a re-organisation of its activities 29. National Museum – Report of Committee of Enquiry 1928 (NAI, DT, s5392) 30. National Museum – Report of Committee of Enquiry 1928 (NAI, DT, s5392) 31. Bourke, M. (2011) The Story of Irish Museums 1790-2000; Culture, Identity and Education, Cork University Press, Cork, 331 32. National Museum – Report of Committee of Enquiry 1928 (NAI, DT, s5392) 33. Bodkin, T. (1949) Report to the Government of Ireland on various Institutions and activities concerned with the Arts in Ireland, 9-11, (NAI, DT, s9501A, National Museum: 1916 Collection, Jul 1932 – Jan 1954); Institute of Professional Civil Servants. (1973) Fóntas Músaem d’Éirinn/Museum Service for Ireland, Dublin; See Monaghan, ‘The National Museum of Ireland’, 404-12

78

Museum Ireland

However, only two of the Report’s twelve recommendations were approved, along with the committee’s suggestion as regards the proposed objectives for the National Museum, because they “involved no cost to the Exchequer”. 31 The report was treated in what has been described as a somewhat “cursory” manner, arousing the ire of opposition deputies. However the Minister for Education’s response to such criticisms was that the problem was “a financial one” and the debate was thus concluded.32 Many future reports received the same treatment with very little action undertaken on the basis of their findings.33 Thus, although the Free State undoubtedly created a new regime of values, the Museum operated in limbo. In this respect, a study of the history of the 1916 exhibition mirrors many of the more general difficulties faced by the institution itself from its inception to the present day.

The 1916 exhibition and the difficulties of the museum While the 1916 exhibition demonstrates the divergent views in relation to the appropriate collection and exhibition policies for the National Museum in an independent Ireland, it also highlights the absence of concrete policies to begin with. Indeed, this is a point made by Adolf Mahr in his correspondence with the Department of Education when he notes that he has “frequently found it a drawback that no settled policy exists in the Museum as to the question of the extent to which relics connected with such political movements in Ireland should be collected”. While his objection to the 1916 exhibition may be open to criticism in some respects it is difficult to refute the legitimacy of his

Volume 24 2014


contention that many of the objects in the 1916 collection “cannot be called antiquarian and would not therefore come under the scope of my Division”.34 It is worth noting in this regard that the Museum remains very much a Victorian institution, still laid out on the basis of its South kensington origins, part of a system described by George Coffey as far back as 1888 as “a planning machine admirably adapted to smooth off such roughness and irregularities of national and local character”.35 The current 1916 exhibition, somewhat ironically, still sits in a division which is a vestige of the very regime the Rising itself sought to oust, based on a system which perhaps does not provide an appropriate structure in terms of the representation of the Irish nation. The reactions of the relatives of those involved in the Rising to the 1916 exhibition also highlights certain resource issues with which the Museum had to contend. While many of those with friends or family members involved in the Rising reacted with positivity to GiffordDonnelly’s original attempt to establish the 1916 Collection, there were a number of negative dealings which followed their transfer to the Museum’s custody. kathleen Clarke for example, expressed her belief that Nellie Gifford-Donnelly deserved “great credit for doing a work which will be of immense value to those who come after us” and envisaged a greater collection should museum authorities guarantee the safety of the exhibits.36

— 34. Letter from Keeper of Irish Antiquities to Secretary Department of Education, 30 November 1930 [sic] (NMIA, AI/098/006, Outside Exhibitions 1916 Club) 35. Turpin, John. 1995. A School of Art in Dublin since the Eighteenth Century: A history of the National College of Art and Design, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, p.182 36. Clare, A. (2011) Unlikely Rebels: The Gifford Girls and the Fight for Irish Freedom, Mercier, Cork, 254 37. Clare, A. (2011) Unlikely Rebels: The Gifford Girls and the Fight for Irish Freedom, Mercier, Cork, 258

However, Museum practices in relation to the management and display of the Easter Week collections proved a source of contention at times for those connected to the Rising. Such practices however, were largely due to shortages of resources in terms of staff and financing but particularly shortages of accommodation following the loss of certain Museum buildings to the Free State parliament in 1922. In 1935, in a letter to the Irish Press, Grace Gifford referred to a letter from de Valera’s private secretary regarding the inadequacy of the exhibition’s accommodation and added: “This letter, coupled with the fact that the collection is now being dealt with by museum officials who had no personal connection with the fighting, speaks for itself ”. She concluded by declaring her intention of withholding her late husband’s relics pending proper housing.37 A relative of james Connolly expressed similar dissatisfaction. In 1991 james Connolly Heron wrote to the Museum to enquire as to why items of his great grandfather had not

Institutionalising the rising: the National Museum and 1916

79


been included in the exhibition.38 Michael kenny, curator of the exhibition responded that he had had limited space and “tried to use it in the best way possible”.39 In 1992, Connolly Heron wrote to the Museum to request that since “the Museum did not intend displaying these items in the new exhibition” whether the institution “would have any objection to returning these valuable items to the family”, since “obviously if they are not to be displayed this would seem to be the proper course of action”.40 Following the opening of kilmainham Gaol Museum in the 1960s, some relatives appeared to exhibit a preference for the transfer of their artefacts for display there.41

The 1916 exhibition and the potential and importance of the museum — 38. Letter from James Connolly Heron to Michael Kenny, 11 Sept. 1991 (NMIA, AI/92/007, Correspondence, inquiries an matters related to 1916 exhibition, O’ Connell period, Boer War, Nunismatic matters, Irish Kings and High Kings etc.) 39. Letter from Michael Kenny to James Connolly Heron, 16 Oct. 1991 (NMIA, AI/92/007, Correspondence, inquiries an matters related to 1916 exhibition, O’ Connell period, Boer War, Nunismatic matters, Irish Kings and High Kings etc.) 40. Letter from James Connolly Heron to Michael Kenny, 22 Sept. 1992 (NMIA, AI/92/007, Correspondence, inquiries an matters related to 1916 exhibition, O’ Connell period, Boer War, Nunismatic matters, Irish Kings and High Kings etc.) 41. O’Dwyer, Rory. 2010. The Bastille of Ireland: Kilmainham Gaol: From Ruin to Restoration, History Press Ireland, Dublin, p. 62 42. Cooke, P. (2013), ‘Aetheriality and Materiality: Material Culture and the Myth of 1916’ 43. Joye, L. (2013) ‘Displaying the Nation: The 1916 exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland: 1932– 1991’ 44. Irish Press, 15 April 1941 45. Newspaper Cutting, (UCDA, Liam Gogan Papers, LA27/309); Valuable Additions to the Historical and 1916 Collections of the NM (UCDA, Liam Gogan Papers, LA27/312) 46. Irish Times, 16 April 1935

80

Museum Ireland

However, as well as highlighting some of the difficulties of the Museum the 1916 exhibition also serves as a reminder of the positive impact and the future potential of the institution. As Pat Cooke observes “for souvenirs and keepsakes to make their way into the public domain an institutional structure must exist that encourages donations for patriotic or philanthropic reasons”.42 Despite its perceived shortcomings, the Museum remains the largest repository of artefacts relating to the Rising with over 15,000 objects in its collection.43 The artefacts themselves came from a variety of sources, many of them acquired from the families of the leaders in the 1930s and 1940s. Indeed, Nellie Gifford was herself connected to the Rising, as a participant and also as sister-in-law of two of the executed leaders. Madame MacBride donated a number of artefacts which were displayed in the 1941 exhibition including “a mether, a wedding gift to herself and Major MacBride; some other presentation pieces and relics of Ingheana na h-éireann, and one of the Irish Brigade flags”.44 Well-known artists also lent or donated some of their works. jerome O’Connor for example donated a death mask of Mrs Pearse while George Collie lent two of his paintings, one entitled ‘Rebirth’ and the other a portrait of Count Plunkett.45 It can be inferred from this that such individuals viewed the Museum as an appropriate setting for the artefacts relating to the events of Easter Week or artefacts viewed as integral to the national story. So, it seems, did the many people who responded to a call in the Irish Times in january 1935 for donations to the collection, such that the paper subsequently remarked of the exhibition that ‘the visitor will be surprised at the quantity of material which has been gathered together since the first appeal was made in january of this year’.46

Volume 24 2014


It must be acknowledged that those most interested in protecting the legacy of the Rising chose the National Museum, in particular, as the place in which these objects should be kept and displayed to the public. Indeed, Gifford-Donnelly was quite specific in her intention that the collection “must be safeguarded in some Public Institution in Dublin, for preference, the Museum”.47 It is difficult to ascertain exactly why she exhibited such a preference, it may simply have been, as Adolf Mahr later noted, “owing to the lack of any other institution”.48 Or perhaps there was a feeling among GiffordDonnelly and those involved in the formation of this collection, that housing these objects in the chief national repository would convey further prestige on the Rising itself. Having objects relating to the Rising on display at the National Museum certainly confirmed its status as a national event. For whatever reason, it must be acknowledged that the Museum was where Gifford-Donnelly wanted these relics to go.

— 47. Letter from Nellie GiffordDonnelly Honorary Secretary 1916 Club Irish Republican Soldiers’ Federation stamped Oifig an Runaí, Roinn an Oideachais, 21 May 1932 (NMIA, AI/098/006, Outside Exhibitions 1916 Club) 48. Letter from Adolf Mahr to the Secretary of the Department of Education, 31 May 1932 (NMIA, AI/098/006, Outside Exhibitions 1916 Club) 49. McCarthy, Ireland’s 1916 Rising, p. 397 50. Irish Independent, 13 April 2006 51. McCarthy, M. (2012) Ireland’s 1916 Rising: Explorations of HistoryMaking, Commemoration and Heritage in Modern Times, Ashgate, Surrey, 399

Even in more recent years, there is evidence of a strong public perception of the role of the Museum as being the proper place for the housing of objects of national importance and specifically those relating to the 1916 Rising. In 2006, in the lead up to Easter Sunday, the financial value attached to various objects associated with Easter Week rocketed dramatically and “to the annoyance and disappointment of certain citizens…a range of old manuscripts fell into the hands of private collectors, who time and again outbid representatives of state institutions such as the National Library and the National Museum”.49 During an auction on 12 April 2006 advertised as the ‘Independence Sale’, members of ógra Sinn Féin entered the auction rooms and distributed leaflets opposing the sale of items including Thomas Clarke’s last letter. These members were joined in their protest by members of Tara Watch, the organisation involved at the time in a legal action against the State in relation to the Hill of Tara and the M3 motorway. One member of Tara Watch asked ‘what self-respecting State can spend €3 million a day on roads, and not even €1 million for its own national heirlooms’.50 However, the Museum did acquire a rare original copy of the Proclamation from Mr joseph McCrossan, whose grandmother had obtained it from O’Connell Street shortly after the Rising had started.51 The anger generated in this regard, as well as the continuing receipt of donations even in light of their increasing financial value would again suggest the perceived social role of the Museum as the proper place for such objects.

Institutionalising the rising: the National Museum and 1916

81


Conclusion As the history of the 1916 exhibition demonstrates, the National Museum has operated with inadequate resources for the entire lifetime of the independent Irish nation. The issue is to a certain extent a financial one, as evidenced above for example by the Minister’s response to criticisms concerning the implementation of the Lithberg report in 1924.52 In 2013 they received €17.9 million. In 2008 the library and the museum got €30.8 million in public funding between them. 53 It is to a certain extent understandable that the financing of the National Museum was not a high priority in the periods of social and financial difficulty which followed a devastating Civil War and the more recent economic collapse on an unprecedented scale. However, the problem is not merely a financial one, the problem is that we need to decide as a nation the role we want our National Museum to fill and, in this respect, it is hoped that the upcoming centenary of the 1916 Rising will provide us with the impetus to do so.

— 52. Bourke, M. (2011) The Story of Irish Museums 1790-2000; Culture, Identity and Education, Cork University Press, Cork, 331 53. Irish Times, 27 September 2014 54. www.egurian.com; See also Bourke, M. (2012) ‘Future Forecasting and the Challenges Facing Museums’, Challenges Facing Museums On-Site and Online in the 21st Century, Proceedings of the Roundtable and Symposium, National Gallery of Ireland, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 16 55. Letter from Keeper of the Art Division to Secretary, Department of Education, (NMIA, AI/140/001, Hist. and 1916: Exhibitions etc, 1941). Gogan, as Keeper of the Art Division, had been responsible for the preparation of the 1941 exhibit.

82

Museum Ireland

The American museologist Elaine Heumann Gurian contends that a museum that is linked to and engaged with its community will have a community that will want to help, protect and defend it.54 In this respect, it is submitted that the 1916 collection is one of the Museum’s most important assets. As previously mentioned, the 1916 exhibition has been one of the most popular in the Museum’s history and one of the most effective in overcoming the “inertness [of Irish people] in regard to their museum facilities” and reminding them of the importance of this national institution in Irish society and the need to ensure its protection.55 If the upcoming centenary is used to position the Museum as an integral place in which to preserve and challenge the memory of a historical event cherished by many and ignored by few, it may go some way to ensuring that the under-resourcing of an institution of such national importance becomes a historical event in itself.

Emma Libreri is a recent graduate of Trinity College Dublin’s newly developed M.Phil. in Public History and Cultural Heritage and a Trinity scholar of Law and French.

Volume 24 2014


The importance of museums in shaping Qatar’s national identity CAITLÍN DOHERTY

Introduction1 until recently Qatar was relatively unknown outside of the Middle East, but due to its exponential growth this small, oil-rich nation has now established itself on the international stage. The state-led development of the museums and galleries sector is reflective of this, and particularly interesting since it is playing a role not only in preserving Qatar’s past, but also in forging its current and future identities. This article highlights major developments in Qatar’s museums and galleries sector, including the opening of the Museum of Islamic Art, and the soon-to-be-completed National Museum of Qatar. These institutions, together with a raft of other museums, galleries and heritage sites due to open over the coming years, act as storehouses for Qatar’s past, and tell the story of a Bedouin tradition and a pearl diving industry which has almost completely disappeared today. Qatar also embraces its future, however, and it is therefore perhaps not surprising that contemporary art is playing such a significant role in the nation’s development. Mathaf, the Museum of Modern Arab Art, opened in 2010 and elsewhere exhibitions have taken place by high profile international artists including Murakami, Damien Hirst and Richard Serra, alongside an impressive – if somewhat controversial – public art programme.

Qatar museums — 1.This article is based on a talk presented at the Irish Museums Association Annual Conference, Museums & Memory: Challenging Histories on 22nd February 2014, Waterford 2. Formally Qatar Museums Authority (QMA).

Qatar Museums (QM)2 is the umbrella organization governing the development of museums and galleries in the country. Established in 2005 by Sheikh Hamad bin khalifa Al Thani, former Emir of the State of Qatar, QM aims to centralise resources and provide a comprehensive framework for museum development, management and organization. Moreover, it seeks to engage and connect diverse audiences, both nationally and internationally, with an ambitious programme that it is

The importance of museums in shaping Qatar’s national identity

83


hoped will position Qatar as a world-class cultural destination and a global leader in the museum, art and heritage sectors. Fundamental to this, and perhaps most challenging, is the desire to promote modernization, development and an increasingly globalized vision, while at the same time preserving local cultural traditions and maintaining a uniquely Arab-Islamic identity. This was summed up in 2010 by H. E. Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin khalifa Al Thani, sister of the current Emir and Chairperson of QM, when she stated, “We are revising ourselves through our cultural institutions and cultural developments. Art becomes a very important part of our National Identity”.3 One of the ways that QM is achieving these goals is through major, almost unprecedented investment in the sector. Several museums are planned to be opened over the next ten years, many based around collections of art and antiquities currently held in private ownership. Some of these have been conceived as great storehouses for Qatar’s cultural heritage, and it is noteworthy that they are to be housed in spectacular buildings by some of the world’s most eminent contemporary architects. Museums, galleries and heritage sites currently being developed include the Qatar Olympic Sports Museum, a national institution focusing on sports history and sports heritage, and the Orientalist Museum that will be based on one of the most significant collections of Orientalist art in the world. In addition, Al zubarah archeological site in northern Qatar has recently been designated as Qatar’s first uNESCO heritage site.

— 3. TEDWomen. December 2010. ‘Globalizing the local, localizing the global’ www.ted.com/talks/sheikha_al _mayassa_globalizing_the_loc al_localizing_the_global accessed 20 September 2014 4. Jodido, P. (2013) Museum of Islamic Art: Doha, Qatar, Prestel, Munich, 24

84

Museum Ireland

QM’s flagship project, however, is the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), designed by I M Pei, which opened in 2008 and occupies a prominent position rising from the water at the end of Doha’s Corniche. The building itself has been inspired by Islamic architecture and includes two floors of permanent gallery spaces, one main temporary gallery, two outdoor courtyards that overlook the city, an education centre, library, gift shop and a breathtaking atrium area with a café affording spectacular views of the Persian Gulf. While it may be suggested that the building itself is the masterpiece of this museum collection, it also houses an outstanding body of manuscripts, ceramics, metal, ivory, glass, textiles and precious stones which represent the vitality and richness of the Islamic world from the 7th – 19th centuries. Thus in many ways the architect has “sought and found the real cultural links that inevitably should bring past, present and future together”.4

Volume 24 2014


The National Museum of Qatar The National Museum of Qatar further exemplifies the country’s commitment to this vision. Currently under construction and due to open in 2015, it has been designed by Pritzker-Prize winning architect jean Nouvel. When complete it will cover 430,000 sq. ft., made up of a series of interlocking discs whose design was inspired by the desert rose, a sand formation that grows organically around the original 20th century palace of Sheikh Adbullah Bin jassim Al Thani on the site. Indeed, this palace has been preserved at the very heart of the new building, creating a physical as well as a conceptual connection between the past and the present. This vision will be further strengthened by the proposed museum exhibitions which will explore the natural history of the desert, the Persian Gulf and Bedouin culture, the history of the tribal wars and the establishment of the Qatari State, the discovery of oil, and present-day social developments. until its completion, the National Museum has presented temporary exhibitions at QM’s gallery at katara Cultural Village Foundation, an initiative that brings together numerous different arts and leisure experiences including museums, galleries, theatres, artists’ studios and restaurants. In fact, the QM gallery acts as a very important link to the local community, since katara is one of the few venues in Doha where expatriate and Qatari communities spend leisure time together. It is interesting to note, therefore, that the space has been used to articulate future museum development in Qatar, as well as some of the major themes and ideas that these museums will explore. In this way a specific sense of national identity, based on a defined narrative, is made relevant today; moreover, the inclusion of contemporary exhibitions by both Qatari and local artists has added a significant voice to that discussion.

Discussions around national identity

— 5. Education City in an initiative of Qatar Foundation that brings together educational facilities, including branch campuses of eight international universities

Other venues focusing on modern and contemporary art are also participating in the discussion around national identity. Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art, opened to the public in 2010 and hosts exhibitions, programmes and events that celebrate modern and contemporary art from Qatar, the region, and the world. Located in a converted schoolhouse in Education City,5 Mathaf also acts as a platform for dialogue and scholarship on issues relating to contemporary art. Founded by H. E. Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani, the museum’s permanent collection comprises his private

The importance of museums in shaping Qatar’s national identity

85


‘treasure-house’ collection of works by artists from every Arab country. Alongside this, important temporary exhibitions have also showcased artists including Cai Guo-Qiang, Adel Abdessemed and, most recently, Mona Hatoum with her largest show to date in the Arab World. ‘Turbulence’, curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, brought together more than 70 of Hatoum’s works from over the past 30 years and explored themes that seemed particularly appropriate to the place – “turbulence echoes the artist’s questioning of self vis-à-vis one’s grappling with issues of alienation and displacement…of belonging and collective memory”.6 A consideration of identity is in fact at the core of Mathaf ’s mission in Qatar, although it is worth noting that despite its conception as a museum of Arab Art for the Arab people, one of its biggest challenges has been to engage the Qatari population – only about 13% of Mathaf ’s visitors are in fact Qatari.7

Current challenges Similar challenges are confronted directly by QM at their ALRIWAQ temporary exhibition space that has hosted a number of very high profile contemporary art exhibitions including Murakhami’s ‘Ego’ in 2012. This exhibition coincided with the Qatar japan year of Culture, but was misunderstood by many Qatari visitors who interpreted its bright colours, manga style images and huge inflatables as being only for children. This has led to criticism that this type of high profile ‘blockbuster’ exhibition by an international contemporary artist is in fact somewhat divorced from its host society – how can Murakhami’s work be understood when it has little or no relevance to the place in which it is being exhibited?

— 6. Anon. (2013) ‘Mona Hatoum: Turbulence’, Mathaf www.mathaf.org.qa/en/exhibition s-list/170-mona-hatoumturbulence accessed 10 February 2014 7. Figures based on samples of visitors 2012 – 2014 supplied to the author by Rima Ghanem, Visitor Services Specialist, Mathaf.

86

Museum Ireland

Criticism was also levelled at the ‘Relics’ exhibition by Damien Hirst that took place at the ALRIWAQ gallery the following year. This major retrospective of Hirst’s work, the largest ever assembled, was visited by over 62,000 people, the most visited exhibition in the gallery’s history.8 In a bid to address concerns, QM made a concerted effort to reach out to the community through a comprehensive programme that included school tours, family days, art competitions, a university debate and an interactive social media strategy. The most recent of these high profile exhibitions was by Richard Serra, featuring installations in both ALRIWAQ and katara, as well as a newly commissioned work, East-West/West-East (2014). This

Volume 24 2014


permanent piece of public art is installed in the desert – physically ‘planted’ into the Qatari landscape – in a remote area about an hour’s drive from Doha city. With no signage, and off road driving a necessity to get there, this is an uncompromising, brave move by QM – instead of bringing art to the people, the people must go to the art. The stillness of the place seems entirely fitting for its new inhabitants, and there is certainly something refreshing about a public art programme that has not been ring-fenced by council bureaucracy, ‘percent for art’ restrictions, or committee approvals. These sculptures complement another work by Serra, 7, which was commissioned and unveiled by QM in 2011. Measuring 80 feet, it is the tallest outdoor sculpture ever conceived by the artist, and his first to be displayed in the Middle East. The work is constructed from seven steel plates, arranged in a hexagonal form, and celebrating the significance of the number seven in Islamic culture. Thus cultural and religious tradition is understood and visualized through the contemporary.

Reaction to exhibition pieces and public art works

— 8. Anon. 4 Feb 2014. Damien Hirst Website www.damienhirst.com/news/20 14/relics-visitor-figures accessed 12 October 2014 9. Khatri, Shabina, S. 13 October 2013. ‘Art depicting chickens on fire at Mathaf ruffles feathers in Qatar’, Doha News http://dohanews.co/artdepicting-chickens-on-fire-at-ma thaf-ruffles-feathers-in-qatar/ accessed 20 September 2014

Despite governmental backing, however, some exhibition pieces and public art works have proved controversial and have led to discussions, very often on social media networks or in the local news. Abdmessemed’s solo exhibition at Mathaf, for example, led to complaints due to the inclusion of Printemps (2013),9 a film which depicts a number of chickens hung on a wall and on fire. Despite the artist describing the work as a homage to the suffering of those involved in the Arab Spring revolutions, many Qatari (and non-Qatari) residents found the film distasteful and offensive, with accusations of animal cruelty, and even suggestions that it was contrary to Islamic values. Another of Abdmessemed’s works, Coup de Tête, which was purchased by Qatar Museums Authority in 2012, further outraged many conservative Qataris, and was eventually removed from its public outdoor site on Doha’s Corniche. The five metre high bronze sculpture, which depicts the moment when French footballer zinedine zidane head-butted Italian Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final, prompted public outcry when it was unveiled, with some conservative Muslims describing the work as anti-Islamic since they believed it encouraged idolatry and promoted violence. One commentator used social media to offer, “Congratulations on having new idols”, while

The importance of museums in shaping Qatar’s national identity

87


another wrote, “It is sad that our youth see in this art and modernity. Our children do not differentiate between the right and the wrong, or the haram (prohibited) and the halal (permissible)”.10 Islamic jurisprudence prohibits statues in a human or animal likeness, and while some Muslim countries do display statues in public, conservative Gulf nations generally do not.11

Fig 1: The unveiling of Damien Hirst’s The Miraculous Journey (2005 – 2013) Image courtesy of the author

88

Museum Ireland

Sheikha Al Mayassa, however, remains committed to her belief that contemporary art is a vital component of Doha’s landscape, and despite public reaction she is clear that “it’s important to have an ongoing conversation”.12 This conversation continues most directly around what is undoubtedly the boldest of QM’s public art installations to date, Damien Hirst’s, The Miraculous Journey (2005-2013), which was unveiled last year in front of Qatar Foundation’s Sidra Medical and Research Center, a state of the art facility specializing in woman’s and children’s health that is due to open in 2015. Consisting of 14 monumental bronze sculptures, the work chronicles the development of a baby inside the womb, from the moment of conception right through until the birth of a 46-foot tall anatomically correct baby boy. Reporting on the grand unveiling of the piece, New york Times journalist Carol Vogel noted, “Even for a Persian Gulf country that is aggressively buying its way into modernity, this installation takes official acceptance of Western art to a new level”.13 Shortly after their unveiling, the sculptures were re-covered, however, and have remained so ever since. Despite QM stating that this is because the Sidra site remains an active construction site,14 rumours abound as to whether the controversial nature of the works has prompted a reconsideration of their suitability for such a prominent public site. Indeed, speaking to Doha News following their unveiling, Hirst himself acknowledged the potential cultural difficulties surrounding his work saying, “you know culturally, it’s the first naked sculpture in the Middle East”.15

Volume 24 2014


Conclusion

— 10. Posts from Twitter. Anon. 31 October 2013. ‘Qatar removes Zidane statue after outcry’, Al Jazeera http://www.aljazeera.com/news/mi ddleeast/2013/10/qatar-removeszidane-statue-after-outcry-2013103 02338612974.html accessed 3 October 2014 11 Posts from Twitter. Anon. 31 October 2013. ‘Qatar removes Zidane statue after outcry’, Al Jazeera http://www.aljazeera.com/news/mi ddleeast/2013/10/qatar-removeszidane-statue-after-outcry-2013103 02338612974.html accessed 3 October 2014 12. Vogel, C. 7 October 2013. ‘Art, From Conception to Birth in Qatar’, New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/ 08/arts/design/damien-hirstsanatomical-sculptures-have-their-d ebut.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 accessed 20 September 2014 13. Vogel, C. 7 October 2013. ‘Art, From Conception to Birth in Qatar’, New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/ 08/arts/design/damien-hirstsanatomical-sculptures-have-their-d ebut.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 accessed 20 September 2014 14. Update to Scott, V. 7 October 2013. ‘PHOTOS: Damien Hirst’s “Miraculous Journey” unveiled at Sidra’, Doha News http://dohanews.co/photosdamien-hirsts-miraculous-journey/ accessed 20 September 2014 15. Update to Scott, V. 7 October 2013. ‘PHOTOS: Damien Hirst’s “Miraculous Journey” unveiled at Sidra’, Doha News http://dohanews.co/photosdamien-hirsts-miraculous-journey/ accessed 20 September 2014

As we can see from this brief summary, the essence of this controversy is the belief by some that such works are alien to, or even at odds with, their host society. Ironically, however, such controversy and criticism may also provide a useful opportunity for Qatar, since in many ways it can stimulate debate, discussion and the consideration of issues that, within Qatari society, might otherwise be problematic to acknowledge or address. It must be remembered that cultural tradition is valued greatly in this Arab-Islamic society. A particular challenge – and unique opportunity – therefore exists for museums and galleries in Qatar that have been charged with playing a role not only in preserving the nation’s past, but also in reconciling that past with the country’s rapidly changing future.

Caitlín Doherty is Exhibitions and Speaker Curator at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar.

The importance of museums in shaping Qatar’s national identity

89


90

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Presenting the past: evaluating archaeological exhibitions in museums in the Republic of Ireland DONNA GILLIGAN

Introduction1 Museum exhibitions are one of the primary and most effective forms of communicating archaeological information to the public. Exhibitions have slowly evolved from their traditional style of object-led, curatorially biased formats towards a reconsideration of the way in which artefacts are displayed and interpreted, and the audiences for whom this is carried out. The display of archaeology in museums presents a number of challenges, as prehistory is a complex, heavily layered subject, which ideally requires careful and well deliberated means of display and interpretation in order to fully present its value, interest and importance to the public audience.

— 1.This research was undertaken as part of a Master’s thesis in Museum Practice & Management completed at the University of Ulster in 2013. Thanks are due to my supervisor, Dr Elizabeth Crooke, for her guidance and support throughout my studies.

New and exciting exhibition styles which maintain intellectual integrity while banishing the stereotypical stigma of elitist academic museum institutions are important in order to serve the needs and interests of the public and maintain a sustainable position in modern society. This research article is the outcome of an evaluation of the range, methods and diversity of current Irish archaeological exhibitions. using the archaeological exhibitions on display in the Republic of Ireland, this research examined the presence of innovative, creative and well developed exhibit formats which have replaced the traditional archaeological display style of cases, labels and chronology. Research explored and assessed a number of exhibition components and techniques which have been subject to change, development and debate within the wider museum archaeology sector throughout the uk and Europe. Research has uncovered a need for re-assessment and revitalisation of the ways in which archaeological collections are exhibited in the Republic of Ireland. Archaeological exhibitions which present clear aspects of innovation and development within their formats are unfortunately limited, and a number of institutions would benefit from

Presenting the past: evaluating archaeological exhibitions in museums in the Republic of Ireland

91


a form of exhibition evaluation and an assessment of their communication methods. The exhibition examples discussed here are not intended to highlight instances of best practice, but instead act as samples of institutions engaging with the concepts of innovation and development in their exhibitions.

Museum archaeological exhibitions It is an unfortunate common issue that archaeology is often poorly communicated by its practitioners to a misunderstood public audience, resulting in incomprehension and boredom. Archaeology has previously tended to be quite traditional in its display style, focusing on the conventional pattern of artefacts in glass cases accompanied by text-heavy labels. It has been demonstrated that archaeological exhibitions in museums have often failed to improve public knowledge and awareness of the ancient past.

— 2. Stone, P.G. (1994) The redisplay of the Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury, and the National Curriculum in England. In Stone, P.G. and Molyneaux, B.L. (eds) The Presented Past: Heritage, Museums and Education Routledge Press, London, 190205. 3. Cotton, J. (1995) Illuminating the twilight zone? The new prehistoric gallery at The Museum of London. In Denford, G.T. (1995) (ed.) Representing Archaeology in Museums. Society of Museum Archaeologists Conference Proceedings. Museum Archaeologist, Volume 22, pp. 612.

92

Museum Ireland

Visitor surveys carried out at the Alexander keiller Museum in Avebury, Wiltshire2, and at The Museum of London3 found that the public held little detailed understanding of chronological periods, and that their knowledge was skewed by generalisations and misconceptions. Research into visitor attendance in this sector has also found that the public had a poor expectation of enjoyment from archaeological exhibitions, and that visiting museum exhibitions did not feature in a high position on a list of ways in which people preferred to engage with the past3. Innovation, progress and development of archaeological exhibition styles and methods are crucial in order to create effective public learning, interest and engagement. Archaeological museums have previously suffered for their traditional exhibition methods and curatorial, academic-centred approach to interpretation and display. Theorists have demonstrated that the potential for learning in museums is abundant. Advancements in the understanding and application of learning theory have hugely influenced and developed exhibition styles in the museum sector over the past twenty years. While traditional exhibition styles focused mainly on the basic transference model of learning through labels and display panels, the museum sector today embraces advanced active, constructivist and participatory models of learning within their exhibition methods.

Volume 24 2014


Archaeological exhibition in the Irish museum sector Archaeological exhibitions are a common feature of the majority of museum galleries in the Republic of Ireland. For the purposes of this research, attention was focused on institutions with larger permanent display collections, as they would have more opportunity and potential to display aspects of creativity and development within their exhibitions. Research visits were carried out during a period between October 2012 and May 2013. Visits were carried out to all of the museums with designated status, with the exception of Limerick City Museum, closed during this research period. The research criteria also highlighted a need for inclusion of the Hunt Museum in Limerick city, Carlow County Museum, and The National Museum of Ireland – Archaelogy. An additional research visit was carried out to the ‘Dublinia’ institution in Dublin city, based on its inclusion of a permanent gallery of archaeological finds, and its year-round accessibility in contrast with the traditions of national heritage centres.

Evaluating archaeological exhibitions For the purposes of this paper, evaluation of innovation and development has focused on a number of common exhibition constituents which have undergone notable change and development within the wider museum archaeology and exhibition sectors over the past twenty years. These include the aspects of chronology and the presentation of time, text and labels, interpretation, multisensory exhibition elements, the use of models, replicas and reconstructions, and the use of wider contextual explanation – in this case, the presentation of the work of the archaeologist. One of the recommended effective ways for an exhibition to establish the links between objects and their contexts is to present public discussion of the work of the archaeologist. This serves to present the full background of the displayed objects, as well as the validity and emerging results of the living archaeological profession. Evaluation was grounded in a framework guided by critical discussion by three prominent museum archaeologists – Susan Pearce, Graham Black and Hedley Swain – as well as through current exhibition best practice standards and appraisal of the application of effective learning theory. Appraisal of exhibition developments in the wider u.k. and European museum archaeology sector provided comparative references

Presenting the past: evaluating archaeological exhibitions in museums in the Republic of Ireland

93


which demonstrated former and ongoing experimentation and advancements with the highlighted exhibition constituents, as well as discussion on their effectiveness and suitability. Overall, evaluation involved the assessment of any significant aspects of change which deviated from traditional archaeological display patterns of cases, labels and chronology, as well as from an emphasis on didactic academic interpretation.

Research results and discussion: chronology and the presentation of time With the exception of a small number of institutions, research has shown that Irish archaeological exhibitions mainly still adhere to the traditional chronological format of display. Museums have habitually presented archaeological displays within the format of a chronological timeline or gallery pattern, beginning with prehistory and ending in the late medieval or post-medieval period. A small minority of the research examples use a thematic style in replacement of a chronological one, which evaluates artefacts from differing periods through discussion of a common topic. As an example, Clare County Museum presents its varied collections through dialogue relating to four overall themes – Faith, Power, Earth and Water.

Fig 1. ‘Power’ colour-coded themed gallery in Clare County Museum. Author’s images.

94

Museum Ireland

The traditional chronological display format has recently been challenged, with some archaeological exhibitions abandoning these restraints, and instead engaging with a thematic display format. The use of a thematic style has proven to be a successful and innovative method, as studies have shown that comprehension of the distant past for the visitor requires a link to their own lives in order for it to be fully understood. Combination of this non-traditional format with the limited inclusion of a chronological display can provide a touchstone for detailed understanding of the thematic displays, without presenting an overwhelming style which removes the human aspects represented in the themes and resorts to unimaginative classification and order. Experimentation with the presentation of time could potentially lead to a greater public appreciation and understanding of the past through themes, ideas and stories.

Volume 24 2014


Text and labels Research has shown that the majority of Irish archaeological exhibitions maintain traditional label styles and formats. Artefact labels tend to deal simply with basic object identification, and display panels present didactic text-heavy summations of chronological periods. Many text examples also still rely on the use of specialist terms and artefact classifications, which largely do not translate well to a general nonspecialist audience. A small selection of the research group showed experimentation with the provision of different levels of information for different ranges of visitor type – such as the flip label trail specifically for children used by kerry County Museum. The importance of engaging, understandable labels and effective communication methods remains an important issue within exhibition comprehension and enjoyment4. Labels accompanying archaeological displays have previously been written by curators, but it is now widely recognised that text and labels should ideally be composed by a professional with advanced knowledge of communication styles, who can produce engaging, understandable and non-specialist text. Experimentation in the use of theoretical discussion, contextual images and discursive engagement with the visitor through text and labels may further serve to revitalise this component of Irish archaeological exhibitions.

Interpretation

— 4. Lack, G. (2008) A meaningful connection to the past demands active engagement: an interpreter’s thoughts on the display of archaeology. In Swain, H. (ed.) (2008) Presenting the Past. Museum Archaeologist, Volume 31.

Interpretation remains an issue of high importance and ongoing debate within archaeological exhibitions. Research visits have revealed an overall lack of engagement with academic discussion and theory within the interpretation of prehistoric material displayed in Irish archaeological exhibits. In the majority, interpretation is of a didactic, reserved nature which informs the visitor rather than actively engaging them in thought and debate. With the exception of a small number of examples, examination has also revealed that the role of human involvement in the display of prehistoric artefacts is still a muted and poorly referenced subject. The isolation of displayed objects from their human origins results in object-led displays, with a lack of public connection and appreciation of the artefacts as examples of human craft and ability. The avoidance of discussion and refusal to deal with the subjects of the unknown stalls the development of these exhibitions and help to propagate the preconceptions and stereotypes of the prehistoric

Presenting the past: evaluating archaeological exhibitions in museums in the Republic of Ireland

95


period as one devoid of life, humanity and progress. Research suggests that the ongoing need for museum professionals to talk with visitors rather than at them still appears to be a contentious issue in current archaeological exhibitions in the Republic of Ireland. The ongoing need for museums to develop from the image of hallowed temples of didactic knowledge into public forums for debate and discussion has been well recorded5. The exhibition of prehistory presents an ongoing challenge for curators and museums. Due to the absence of interpretative certainty and a limited range of material remains, prehistoric exhibitions have often suffered in their display and interpretation. This has resulted in prehistoric material culture becoming unimaginatively displayed and showing traditional chronological and artefact classification presentations that are static and limited in their approach. They often exclude the interpretation of intangible and unknowable elements such as societal norms, gender roles and religious beliefs due to a reluctance to participate in theoretical engagement, and a hesitancy to expose the gaps in archaeological knowledge. Museum visitors hold an inherent interest in the presentation of people, particularly in that of individuals like themselves, with a specific interest in accessible similarities such as social constructs and daily life. With the absence of additional research resources such as a written record, it is the duty of the archaeologist to suggest theories which fit the evidence of the extant material remains. Curatorial staff have previously been reluctant to engage with the process of open interpretation, preferring to maintain a safer, conservative and traditional method. Museums are also slow to surrender their traditional image as places of academic authority and didactic learning in return for their admittance of curatorial doubt and presentation of views which challenge their established knowledge. Their attitudes may reflect a fear of a descent towards relativism through engagement with this form of interpretation. This reluctance for exhibit development and innovation can be said to have contributed to poor public preconceptions of prehistory and a general disinterest within this chronological period, compared to those with better surviving material remains and more engaging and informative interpretation. — 5. Serrell, B. (1996) Exhibit Labels: An Interpretative Approach, Altamira Press.

96

Museum Ireland

However, the uncertainty and theoretical possibilities of the prehistoric past actually provides the opportunity for the museum to actively

Volume 24 2014


engage the visitor in ongoing academic discussion and theory regarding several aspects of prehistoric life, transforming their role as a passive consumer into an active participant. It is important to maintain that the prehistoric exhibitions displayed by museums are only interpretations of this chronological period rather than an accurate representation of the past. Thus, there always remains a gap in our archaeological knowledge, and a need for the use of creative theory to explain our material evidence. One of the main ways that the visitor can be engaged and intellectually provoked is through the discussion of academic theory in exhibition interpretation. The use of open-ended possibilities and the admission of ignorance or conflicting theories have previously been found to be a popular approach with visitors, giving a sense of validity to their own opinions.

Multisensory exhibition elements Very few Irish archaeological exhibitions engage the use of multisensory components. A small number experiment with tactile, auditory and olfactory senses, but these institutions are very much a rarity. kerry County Museum and Dublinia both use a combination of these multisensory styles to provide an immersive medieval life experience within their galleries, experimenting with sound, smell and touch in their exhibits. Fig 2. Multisensory immersive reconstruction in ‘The Medieval Experience’ in Kerry County Museum. Author’s images. — 6. Merriman, N. (2000) The crisis of representation in archaeological museums. In McManamon, F.P. and Hatton, A. (2000) Cultural Resource Management in Contemporary Society – Perspectives on managing and presenting the past, Routledge Press, London and New York, pp. 301-309.

The aspect of multisensory stimulation in Irish archaeological displays remains underutilised and provides wide-ranging potential for exhibition innovation. Research and practice related to the addition of multisensory experiences within exhibitions have proven to heighten visitor accessibility, improve experience and understanding, and enhance learning possibilities6. The engagement of additional senses such as touch, smell and sound provide a multi-layered exhibition experience for the visitor, and offers a more engaging and understandable context for learning.

Presenting the past: evaluating archaeological exhibitions in museums in the Republic of Ireland

97


Contextual exhibition elements – presenting the work of the archaeologist Only a small number of permanent archaeological exhibitions in the Republic of Ireland give prominence to presentation of the work of the archaeologist in their galleries. Despite the excellent potential of archaeological practice for use in effective hand-on media, this is also not an element commonly employed within current Irish museum displays, and is used within only three permanent archaeological galleries in the author’s research group of museums. For several years the role and work of the archaeologist have remained absent from the museum exhibition. Artefacts were displayed with the presumed assumption that the museum visitor would possess an already implicit knowledge that they had been uncovered by the work of an archaeologist. This approach conceals the full story behind the origins and journey of the displayed artefact, removes the importance of the role of the archaeologist in the retrieval of artefacts and information, and further widens the gulf between the archaeological practice and the public.

Fig 3. Reconstruction of an archaeological excavation in Louth County Museum. Author’s image

— 7. Davidson, B., Heald, C.L. and Hein, G.E. (1999) Increased exhibit accessibility through multisensory interaction. In Hooper-Greenhill, E. (1999) (ed.) The Educational Role of the Museum (Second Edition), Routledge Press, London and New York.

98

Museum Ireland

Museums have slowly begun to improve communication between archaeological work and the public, lifting the veil from a profession and process from which the public may previously have felt excluded. Swain7 comments on the common public misconception that ‘much current archaeology is undertaken by a small closed profession, by itself, for itself ’, and the need for social inclusion in order to communicate the importance of cultural heritage and foster a sense of public interest, ownership and value within it. Over the past two decades, the temporary archaeological exhibitions curated by the National Roads Authority have brought recognition of the associated work of archaeologists to the fore of the Irish museum sector. While the artefact displays of the NRA exhibitions remained in a traditional style, the detailed presentation of the stages of the archaeological process, combined with expanded archaeological site and artefact interpretation, provided a complete and detailed contextual presentation style for comprehension of the displayed objects.

Volume 24 2014


With consideration of our current economic climate, it is an important responsibility of the museum as a heritage institution to demonstrate to the public the validity of the role of the archaeologist, whose work and research serve to constantly provide us with new information and artefacts which reveal further detail about our rich past. The support and interest of the public in archaeological work helps to ensure the continuation of the profession. An effective and well developed archaeological exhibition should include and recognise the value of archaeological practice, and thus provide the full story and background in the life of its displayed artefacts.

The use of models, replicas and reconstructions Replicas are frequently used in Irish archaeological exhibitions in order to provide representations of artefacts which are in permanent display in the National Museum of Ireland. However, research has shown a significant degree of curatorial reluctance to engage in the use of threedimensional and pictorial reconstructions, possibly due to a fear of peer criticism and the reluctance to delve further into interpretation beyond didactic classification and identification. A small number of the institutions researched explored the aspects of interpretation through scale physical reconstructions or visualisations. unfortunately the majority of these examples do not discuss any other potential possibilities or alternatives to the theorised representations presented, which, in the absence of challenge, appears to provide a defined archaeological fact. The inclusion of additional text discussing a number of other options, or a number of illustrations displaying the latter, would contribute significantly to the potential learning and advanced levels of interpretation which could be conveyed by these depictions. While often subject to limitations and professional criticism, reconstructions and dioramas serve to create a visual context for comprehension of object interpretations. Objects simply displayed in isolation on a modern background often remove an understanding of the original role and function of the artefact. While authenticity and accuracy are a contentious issue with the use of models and reconstructions, and is one which should be acknowledged in the exhibition, their use as a supportive role in exhibitions often serves to heighten visitor interest, stimulate thought and engage them in debate and discussion. While the quality and authenticity of human models or dioramas in archaeological exhibitions can be debated, it can also be argued that

Presenting the past: evaluating archaeological exhibitions in museums in the Republic of Ireland

99


their inclusion serves to keep human representation at the forefront of the interpretation, and provides a human connection and more understandable context for the public. The diorama can also be argued to represent a creative development in archaeological exhibition, aiming to provide a representation of a directly relatable context for the artefacts displayed, as well as presenting a clear human presence and significance within the exhibition, an issue which has often been lacking within previous object-centred prehistoric exhibitions.

Comparison with UK and European archaeological exhibitions Throughout the united kingdom and Europe, several museums have experimented with a range of learning methods and display formats when exhibiting archaeological material in an attempt to heighten public understanding and better present the complexities of the archaeological past. These examples include exhibition approaches such as polyvocalism8, dioramas and illustrations representing opposing theoretical possibilities for our prehistoric ancestors9 and the use of empty exhibition cases to symbolise the lack of material evidence which tells us about the role and actions of prehistoric women10.

Fig 4. Use of a divided image of a Neolithic man to represent the difficulties in prehistoric interpretation from the Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury, England. Image courtesy of English Heritage.

— 8. Swain, H. (2007) An Introduction to Museum Archaeology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 284. 9. Bender, B. (1995) Multivocalism in practice: Alternative views of Stonehenge. In Denford, G.T. (ed.) Representing Archaeology in Museums, The Museum Archaeologist Volume 22, pp. 55-58.

100

Museum Ireland

Certain exhibitions have also experimented with replacing the use of a chronological layout with a thematic style, actively humanising the past of an artefact11 and overall immersive multi-sensory exhibition experiences. Exhibitions have also presented open admittance of curatorial uncertainty and theoretical discussion regarding prehistory12. The innovations, experimentation and progression seen within these examples serve as comparative studies and inspiration for advancements within the archaeological exhibition sector in Ireland.

Future recommendations for Irish archaeological exhibitions With consideration of current budgetary and staffing restrictions imposed upon the museums in the Republic of Ireland, there are a

Volume 24 2014


number of ways in which static exhibitions could be revitalised through the use of low-cost additions.

Sensory experiences

— 10. Stone, P. G. (1994) The redisplay of the Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury, and the National Curriculum in England. In Stone, P. G. and Molyneaux, B. L. (eds.) (1994) The Presented Past: Heritage, Museums and Education Routledge Press, London, 190205. 11. Swain, H. (2007) An Introduction to Museum Archaeology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 215 12. Van der Donckt, M. and Callebaut, D. (2001) Case Study 7.2: The Feast of a Thousand Years at the Ename Provincial Museum, Belgium. In Lord, B. and Dexter Lord, G. (2001) The Manual of Museum Exhibitions, Altamira Press, 247-258.

Research has shown that the use of the sensory experience of touch is particularly underused as an archaeological exhibition element. Ideally, each museum should have a handling collection which should be accessible to all of the visiting public, rather than just selected school and education groups. These collections, comprising of robust, conservationally stable artefacts from the museum archive, could potentially be firmly affixed to a parallel display panel and within scope of a security camera, allowing tactile, hands-on visitor interaction in an exhibition setting. As an alternative means of display, the collection could potentially be placed for handling on a volunteer-manned desk within the gallery. Evaluation has shown that as well as providing an enjoyable and unique experience, handling authentic artefacts creates memorable and potent experiences, which are unequalled and which greatly enhance the learning experience. The sensory experience of sound within static archaeological exhibitions could potentially be utilised by the addition of a noise or music soundtrack to a gallery. Olfactory experiences through smell are frequently excluded from exhibitions, and often create issues in their use separate to a contextual diorama, but these could be used sparingly by museums with a number of galleries which separate their collections by chronological periods or themes. Sensory additions serve to enhance disabled access, as well as visitor entertainment, learning and memory retention.

Text and labels The addition of flip labels to a static text panel provides an inexpensive and popular medium with which to layer information and provide heightened interaction with the visitor. In the case of text-heavy panels, the layering of information through flip labels encourages engagement with a wide range of audiences, particularly children. The simple yet effective inclusion of a clear, unambiguous image illustrating the original appearance or use of the displayed archaeological object can also result in the significant enhancement of visitor comprehension and appreciation. This provision of visual context and examples of use produces a form of reconstruction which presents an immediacy of communication for the visitor.

Presenting the past: evaluating archaeological exhibitions in museums in the Republic of Ireland

101


Archaeological interpretation The presentation of archaeological artefacts in unusual, non-traditional styles has previously been successfully explored by a number of museums, most notably through the juxtaposition of contemporary and ancient objects in order to present a modern equivalent of the artefacts and archaeological sites. These techniques could potentially be used to enhance public comprehension of the role and use of the objects through the use of familiar symbols and themes. Research has shown a notable lack of engagement with the possibilities of archaeological theory in exhibitions in the Republic of Ireland. Active engagement with a range of archaeological theories in exhibition would present the museum with the opportunity to involve the museum visitor in ongoing discussion, sparking their imagination and provoking further thought and contemplation. In cases where budget limitations hinder the revitalisation of new interpretative panels, the addition of a number of laminated factsheets or flip labels would provide an inexpensive and easily altered format which would add an additional layer of information to the display.

Presentation of the archaeological process The presentation of the archaeological profession and its work is a necessary and important development in archaeological exhibitions. The discussion of this subject matter should hold a place within the permanent exhibition gallery, providing an explanatory context for the displayed artefacts, and imparting a representation of a living, continuous profession, whose ongoing work provides the constant potential for further discoveries and information. An honest presentation of the dynamic archaeological process, which often deals with the interpretation of limited and uncertain material remains and conflicting academic theory, would help to demystify archaeology for the public.

Conclusion Overall, the author’s research has uncovered a need for regeneration and development of the ways in which archaeological collections are exhibited in the Republic of Ireland. It can be argued that only approximately half of the fifteen research museums exhibited an overall adherence and commitment to the subjects of innovation and development, with only three offering a consistent and combined range of examples. Research revealed a common continuation of the 102

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


traditional style of archaeological exhibition within a large percentage of the museums. This consisted of simple chronological displays of artefacts labelled according to specialist classification, and a reliance on text-heavy labels or an overuse of technical terms and academic language. A number of museums lacked the inclusion of multi-sensory experience, and the majority excluded the use of active engagement with archaeological theory and discussion within their interpretations. Discussion of the work of the archaeologist was overlooked in several of the permanent archaeological exhibitions of the institutions, with discussion of this subject mainly dealt with through the means of former temporary exhibitions. Museum exhibitions are undoubtedly one of the best mediums through which to communicate the research, findings and discoveries of archaeology to an eager and interested public. Archaeology is a fascinating, absorbing subject and a living, stimulating profession, which requires considered and appropriate interpretation, communication and display in order to fully capture its value and potential for the public. The museum exhibition provides an excellent forum for the presentation and discussion of these aspects, and an opportunity to inform the visitor of the importance of the preservation and research of their cultural heritage for future generations. It is imperative that museums embrace the importance of continual innovation and development within their exhibitions, and work to exhibit their archaeological collections to the highest and most effective standard possible. It is hoped that the outcome of this study may contribute to a better understanding of the current interpretative capabilities, standards and needs of Irish archaeological exhibitions, as well as prompt debate and consideration of possible future requirements and changes within the wider museum archaeology sector.

Donna Gilligan is a Documentation Assistant at the National Museum of Ireland.

Presenting the past: evaluating archaeological exhibitions in museums in the Republic of Ireland

103



Developing early years programming at the National Gallery of Ireland JOANNE DRUM

Introduction1 Most of our institutions take in a good deal of very young visitors, who we want to see return. knowledge of how children learn is developing all the time. New research is showing that children are thinking and making neurological connections which even 20 years ago might have been thought impossible. Scientists are examining babies’ eye movements, reflexes, brain waves, and reactions, and are constantly learning new information about how children, particularly those too young to communicate by speaking, learn2. In an article in the Museums journal from May 2013, Esme Ward, of the Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Museum, concluded that “clearly babies in museums is about much more than enjoyment. Isn’t it time we started taking them seriously?”3

Fig 1 Baby Workshop © National Gallery of Ireland

— 1. This article is adapted from a presentation made at the Irish Museums Association Education and Outreach Forum on 27 June 2014, Dublin 2. TEDGlobal. (2011)’What do babies think? Online at: http://www.ted.com/talks/alison_ gopnik_what_do_babies_think 3. Ward, E. (2013) ‘Can babies enjoy museums?’ in Museums Journal Online at: http://www.museumsassociation. org/museums-journal

My experience in taking a Child Development certificate course has been fascinating in looking at how babies learn, and seeing how this knowledge can be applied to our work. I also completed a free online child development course. Some of these are fantastic and I would recommend them. At the National Gallery of Ireland, we have a huge programme of events and resources for families. Since September of last year, we have also provided workshops for babies and toddlers.

Why are we doing this? The area of early years programming and provision in cultural institutions is an area for which there is growing demand, and although it is being addressed on a wider scale in the uk, there is not a great deal of provision for it here in cultural institutions. We all know that families

Developing early years programming at the National Gallery of Ireland

105


are increasingly seeking out ways to enhance a visit to a cultural institution, and we strive to make the NGI as family-friendly as possible. We already have a huge programme of events, as well as resources for families. In recent years, there has been an increase in visits by families with very young children. These families, with their babies and toddlers, were not being served by our formal programming, aimed at children aged 4+.

New parent’s tour We have been running monthly tours for new parents since 2005, but these tours were aimed at the adult, rather than the child. Since our aim is to enhance the experience and enjoyment of the collection by providing a range of support services tailored to the differing tastes and needs of a diverse public, it follows that we provide support to those who are looking for it, such as parents of young children. We also need to be aware that babies and very young children are capable of enjoying museums and galleries from their own perspectives. It doesn’t have to be about a specific learning outcome, about teaching them the difference between baroque and Rococo. It’s about getting them comfortable here, enhancing their experiences of the place, and, ultimately, creating lifelong visitors (though this a very long-term approach to audience development and we don’t see it as that kind of exercise).

What are we doing? And how are we doing it? In mid-2013, the Head of the Education Department suggested to me that I should look into devising workshops for babies and toddlers. I was a little reluctant, as I had returned from maternity leave a few months before, and thought it would look like I had personal motives! I have since discovered how having a child has been very helpful to me when planning the workshops, and I have brought her to several of the tiny tots ones. The NGI is currently undergoing a process of refurbishment and rebuilding (2011-2016), and three-quarters of the Gallery is closed to the public, though we remain as busy as ever. It is a good time, however, to test new ideas. After researching the kinds of programmes that are available for babies and toddlers in uk museums, I planned a short series of workshops for autumn 2013 – just three workshops for babies and three for tiny tots. The babies’ workshops were to take place on the third Monday of each month at 2pm, and were aimed at babies who were not walking, so up 106

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


to about 12-14 months. The Tiny Tots workshops took place on the third Saturday of each month at 2pm (just before our 3pm family programme) and were aimed at children who were walking to those under 5. In September last year, I managed to attend a kids’ in Museums seminar on Babies in Museums in London.4 We are listed as supporters of the kids in Museums manifesto on their website. I also met with colleagues at the Museum of London and Tate Britain, both of which are leading the way in early years provision in cultural institutions in the uk.

Fig 2 Tiny Tots Workshop © National Gallery of Ireland

We already had an existing database of family contacts, so, when sending the pdf of the july to December events brochure, I let them know that we were doing these workshops. Bearing in mind that most of our family contacts were on our list because of previous trips to the gallery and engagement with education events, I wondered how we might contact first-time parents. Being a recent first-time parent myself, I knew that one of the things all new parents do is visit (or get a visit from) their local public health nurse. I made a list of all the HSE clinics in the Dublin area and wrote to the public health nurses explaining my plans, and asking them to get in touch if they would like me to send multiple copies of our brochure to give to the mums. The response was better than expected, and many nurses began to spread the word. I also knew from being a new mum myself, that once we had established a programme and an audience, that mums would begin to spread the word amongst themselves. I know one mum has told me that she shared this information with her Cuidiú group and other mums from that group have attended. I also sent the brochures to libraries in the Dublin area with mum and baby groups.

Equipment

— 4. Kids in Museums. Online at: http://kidsinmuseums.org.uk/

I bought equipment for the babies’ workshops (amongst other things; a circular rug, cushions, shapes, noisemakers, a parachute, feathers sensory equipment – lots of things that would be kept separate for the babies workshops and cleaned before and after each workshop). Things have to be kept separate of course because there isn’t a lot of money to spend on equipment. The biggest hit was for tinfoil. One must remember that the world/environment is stimulating to babies anyway.

Developing early years programming at the National Gallery of Ireland

107


Feedback

Fig 3 Young Babies Workshop © National Gallery of Ireland

I asked parents for feedback at each workshop. The results were overwhelmingly positive, and negative feedback was constructive. Time related feedback said that the time was perfect, that later would be best, and that earlier would be best. We decided to keep it as it was, as this suited us best! With regard to the age group, nonmovers and crawlers were suggested for baby workshops. In an ideal world we might do this, but we don’t have the resources. Some of the parents suggested that we provide lyric sheets when we plan on singing songs. We have done this for some of the longer songs, or the tutor has gone over it quickly. They aren’t that hard. We decided to continue with them in 2014. While the baby workshops remained the same (third Monday of the month at 2pm), we made some changes to the structure of the Tiny Tots workshops, increasing the provision from 1 to 2 workshops per month, and reducing the age from walking to age 5, to walking to age 3. The two workshops that we do each month are the same, and take place on consecutive days, a Friday and a Saturday. We feel that this facilitates parents who may be working full-time, and also parents who stay at home with the kids. I’ve noticed that a lot of activities for toddlers take place during the week, and most are aimed at aged 3 and up, or, in rare cases, ages 2 and up. The workshops are free, but must be booked in advance by e-mail. They are very popular, and we have a waiting list every time. We kept the booking system after the pilot period, as anecdotal evidence (Museum of Scotland) suggests that allowing a drop-in workshop could cause problems. The babies’ workshop is limited to 10 babies, and the Tiny Tots workshop is limited to 15 children. In reality, we book 20 kids in for the tiny tots workshops, as temperatures and schedules often mean that not everyone who books shows up, and we can accommodate a few extra if needs be. These are family workshops, and the adult is expected to participate as well. The workshops last 35 minutes and most include

108

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


plenty of singing and movement. All of the tutors on the workshops so far have been mothers and/or grandmothers as well as artists, and they have put huge work into their plans. Table. 1 Attendance at Workshops on 2013 and 2014 Year

2013

2014

Tiny Tots

85 (3 workshops)

367 (10 workshops)

Babies

77 (3 workshops)

113 (5 workshops)

Total

162

642

Conclusion Since beginning our pilot programme in September, we have catered for over 800 people. The feedback has been very positive. I am confident that introducing these workshops was the right thing to do. My next project will be on age and stage worksheets, based on contemporary understandings of children’s development. The idea would be that even a parent with a baby could pick up a worksheet at the desk on the way in to the gallery, and enhance both their and their babies’ experience of the gallery.

Joanne Drum is an Education Officer at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

Developing early years programming at the National Gallery of Ireland

109



“I go to seek a Great Perhaps”: engaging youth audiences AOIBHIE McCARTHY

Introduction1 Ireland has one of the youngest populations in the European union and yet, young people form just 10% of Irish exhibition audiences2. The received wisdom, Mulhearn tells us, is simply that ‘“museums and teenagers don’t mix”3

As Article 27 of the united Nation’s universal Declaration of Human Rights states, everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community”4. In facilitating the exercise of that right, The Council of National Cultural Institutions’ Policy Framework for Education, Community and Outreach acknowledges that, as publicly funded institutions, we have a “particular responsibility in respect of children and young people”5. This research study interrogates the received wisdom – the notion that teenagers are a lost generation to museums and galleries – to explore the potential of such institutions in enabling young people to become active custodians of Irish cultural life.

1. This article is adapted from a presentation made at the Irish Museums Association Education and Outreach Forum on 27 June 2014, Dublin. 2. Arts Audiences (2012) Arts Attendance in Ireland 2012. Accessed December 14, 2012, from http://artsaudiences.ie/wpcontent/uploads/2012/11/Arts-Att endance-in-Ireland-2012.pdf , 18 3. Mulhearn, D. (2010) Teenage Kicks. Museums Journal 110: 34 4. United Nations (1948) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved March 13, 2014, from http://www.un.org/en/document s/udhr/ 5. Council of National Cultural Institutions. (2004) Policy Framework for Education, Community, Outreach: Policy Framework for Education, Community, Outreach. Dublin, 14

This practice-based research study, conducted through the Shinnors Curatorial Scholarship, involved the author, as Curator of Education, working with young people from 12-23 years in Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA), to examine the impact of a variety of formats for effective youth audience engagement. This article will present the findings arising from this dynamic youth programme, which culminated in The young Curatorial Programme- an exploration of the potential of youth participative practice and the involvement of young people in the curatorial process. In addition, this article will present the experiences and insights of other gallery and museum-based professionals in creating genuine access for youth audiences – examining particularly the challenges and benefits which both young people and institutions experience. This article will also present the findings of a consultative process with young people themselves in which members of The Butler Gallery kilkenny’s Red Square youth

‘‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps’’: engaging youth audiences

111


group and Waterford young Arts Critics were invited to join LCGA’s young Curators to capture their unique insights into the barriers to access which persist for young people, the benefits they experienced through participatory practice and their recommendations for ‘youthfriendly’ culture and heritage institutions.

Youth engagement programming: the professionals’ perspective A sample of nine gallery, museum and arts centre-based curators and educators, in national and regional institutions across Ireland were interviewed, as part of this research process, in relation to their institutions’ youth audience profile, their provision for young people, the challenges and benefits they have experienced in engaging this audience sector and the benefits and barriers they felt young people experience in engaging with cultural institutions. Interviewees all indicated that their engagement of youth audiences was a mutually beneficial process – they perceived it as an investment in their institutions’ future survival by cultivating new audiences and practitioners, promoting positive peer-to-peer word-of-mouth marketing, enabling institutions to stay ‘in touch’ with popular culture and cultivate fresh insights and interpretations into their collections and exhibitions.

Fig 1. Brian’s Swing installation Photo by Siobhán O’Reilly, Limerick City Gallery of Art, 2013

112

Museum Ireland

Particularly in cases where the institution provided long term youth programmes, interviewees suggested that, in their experience, young people derived significant benefits in relation to personal development, skills development and positive attitudinal changes towards arts and heritage institutions. However, it must be noted that these reported benefits are largely based on interviewees’ perceptions of young people’s experiences. Significant discrepancies between interviewees’ perceptions of youth audiences and the findings from consultation with young people themselves reveal the

Volume 24 2014


need for institutions to engage in regular audience surveying and profiling. For example, the top three most frequently identified benefits of museum and gallery attendance, noted by young people themselves, were not mentioned by any of the interviewees. To create genuine access for an audience requires accurate knowledge of that audiencehaving a clear understanding of youth audiences’ needs in relation to our institutions, particularly the ways in which they benefit from engagement, will enable us to more effectively provide for young people and advocate for resource allocation. According to interviewees, the persistent challenges young people face in engaging with cultural institutions are practical barriers such as lack of awareness, distance and demanding schedules and psychological barriers such as perceived elitism, intimidating architecture and security measures. For museum and gallery professionals, communicating effectively with and promoting awareness amongst youth audiences was frequently identified as a significant challenge, as was the lack of human resources to support youth engagement programmes. Interestingly, lack of funding was only mentioned by one educator to be a barrier for their institution in creating better provision for youth audiences. However, the establishment of partnerships with other cultural and youth organisations emerged as an effective means of sharing staff, resources and expertise to make youth programming more labour and cost effective for individual organisations. The provision of second level school tours is the primary form of engaging youth audiences with the majority of institutions consulted, which commands significant resource allocation. ultimately, in all but two cases, there was little evidence to suggest that school tours were effective in translating this experience into return visits and future independent engagement by young people. While school tours are undoubtedly effective in terms of ensuring that the otherwise nonattendee or infrequent young visitor crosses the threshold at some point in their lives, this finding in relation to the value and impact of school tours ought to problematize the persistent widespread dominance of this format as the lens through which most of our young people will experience our institutions- particularly where resource allocation is being deflected away from approaches which have been found to be more effective amongst our youth audiences. The development and availability of curriculum-focused resources and activities, however, which tailor the visitor experience to their studies and interests – such

‘‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps’’: engaging youth audiences

113


as exhibition response worksheets, pre-engagement packs for teachers, Leaving Certificate revision courses and Transition year work experience placements – were seen, in both the experience of individual interviewees and that of the author in Limerick City Gallery of Art, to be a more effective method of engaging youth audiences through their formal education. Reaching and attracting independent young visitors was acknowledged by all of the interviewees consulted to be generally more challenging than other audience groups – they indicated that in order to effectively engage independent young visitors, there is a need for targeted provision for this audience which is tailored to their specific needs and rooted in their interests. Within the institutions consulted, for example, practical workshops in animation, street art and film enabled young people to engage with and explore collections creatively through popular art forms which appeal to them – often resulting in the production of peer-led resources, such as videos about the collection, by young people for young people. In Limerick City Gallery of Art, the author teamed with local youthorientated festivals to share resources and, significantly, to identify positive youth role models within the community – those elusive ‘cool people’ who have the necessary klout to engage our traditionally hardto-reach audiences and signpost the way for young people across our thresholds in an ongoing capacity. For example, LCGA partnered with Outbreak zombie Festival to facilitate a movie special-effects artistry workshop in which young people explored essentially traditional sculpture and painting techniques, applied through an area of popular interest. As part of our partnership with Limerick’s Make a Move Hip Hop Festival and its Street Art programme – LCGA acted as a venue but more significantly as an advocate in brokering with Limerick Council to make derelict sites available to prominent international street artists such as MASER and RASk, to work with local young people in creating urban community murals. In order to open up a meaningful dialogue with young people in our community and ultimately impact their perceptions of this institution, it was necessary to first move beyond our walls to help them change the writing on theirs. While once-off events and short term practice-based programmes of this nature were seen to be effective in terms of engaging larger numbers of traditional non-attendees or infrequent young visitors and 114

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


positively impacting their perception of the institution, the ongoing surveying processes conducted as part of the LCGA youth programme indicated that such activities are less effective in terms of cultivating future independent attendees than long term youth engagement programmes, in which young people have the opportunity to engage with the institution through participative practice. As Fogelman argues, this generation is part of a “larger ‘participatory economy’ in which social connection eclipses consumption”6 and young people need to have a sense that they can impact the experience that they can have in order to fully engage. Engaging youth audiences through participative practice means involving young people in the integral decision making processes of the institution such as devising and facilitating audience programming, developing audience resources, curating exhibitions and acting in an ongoing advisory capacity. — 6. Fogelman, P. (2012) Innovative public programming of the future. In The challenges facing museums on-site and online in the 21st century and Future forecasting: The challenges facing museums and cultural institutions. Proceedings of the roundtable and symposium, The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 26 7. Lenz Kothe, E. (2012) Beyond Art Waitressing: Meaningful Engagement in Interactive Art Galleries. Art Education 65 (4): 24 8. Lenz Kothe, E. (2012) ‘Beyond Art Waitressing: Meaningful Engagement in Interactive Art Galleries. Art Education, 65 (4), 21 9. Fogelman, P. (2012) Innovative public programming of the future. In The challenges facing museums on-site and online in the 21st century and Future forecasting: The challenges facing museums and cultural institutions. Proceedings of the roundtable and symposium, The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 26 10. O’Neill, M. (2005) What would museums be like if they took young people seriously? In Museums, galleries and young people: Are museums doing enough to attract younger audiences? Symposium proceedings, Dublin, 4th November 2005 The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 43

The young curatorial programme: participative practice and peer audiences As Lenz kothe argues, the adoption of participatory practices in the engagement of youth audiences is part of a wider “fundamental shift in the museum field towards participatory educational practice”7 whereby “visitors are essential partners in making meaning”8. young people particularly, as Fogelman suggests, place “value on a more immersive and interactive experience than is possible through mere observation”9. youth participative practice is premised upon the assumption that youth-led programming in museums and galleries impacts positively on their peer’s propensity to engage – the assumption is that the involvement of young people in such processes automatically ensures universal appeal for their peers. In developing a programme of participatory engagement in which a group of local young people mount an exhibition of the LCGA Collection, by young people for young people with young people, the aim was not only to measure the impact of participative practice on young participants themselves but critically – to measure the impact of youth participative programming on peer audiences. Cultural institutions “taking young people seriously”, according to O’Neill involves “consulting young people about what interests them, representing the culture and experience of young people, past and present, in displays and temporary exhibits and ensuring the core displays are designed for young people and their parents/carers as well as for other audiences”10.

‘‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps’’: engaging youth audiences

115


The young Curatorial Programme aimed to act upon all of these recommendations by bringing together a group of young people to curate an exhibition of LCGA’s Permanent Collection which resonated with the culture and experience of young people. Over a two month period, seven recruits between the ages of 14 and 20, self-elected to come together twice weekly to curate this exhibition. In order to enable participants to freely express their opinions and work as a team, the programme began with a series of ice breaking and team building activities. A series of initial mind mapping discussion sessions exploring themes and ideas pertinent to youth experience formed the basis of a preliminary selection from the Permanent Collection by the author. As there are over 830 works in the LCGA Collection, a preliminary selection was made by the author, in order to avoid overwhelming the participants. However, from that point on, participants were supported in assuming full ownership of the project as a team of young Curators. Initial training sessions with both the author, as their main facilitator, and invited facilitators, focused on developing participants’ visual literacy and expressive skills. During this process, the young Curators made visits to other local museums and galleries to compare and contrast curatorial approaches. Following these sessions, participants took the lead in selecting, researching and justifying the inclusion of artworks within the team, composing artwork labels, planning the hang and installation process, advertising the exhibition through local press, maintaining a blog to track this process and selecting a title – ‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps’, the last words of François Rabelais, a French Renaissance humanist – a title which captured the potential of this process so eloquently and demonstrated that when young people are genuinely empowered and given a public platform- they will not waste the opportunity. As a result of their participation, each of the young Curators developed new skills such as enhanced visual literacy, verbal and written presentation skills and the ability to work well within a team to meet tight deadlines. In terms of personal development, the programme saw many of the participants grow exponentially in terms of their self-confidence. For three of the participants particularly, their experience as a young Curator reportedly galvanised their interest in the visual arts and they have now gone on to pursue third level studies in the area. In order to gauge the impact of youth curatorial programming on peer audiences, a sample of young visitors between 13 and 18 years of age 116

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


were surveyed. 58% of respondents indicated that the involvement of young people in the curatorial process would make them more likely to attend an exhibition. Of those respondents, 89% felt that the involvement in young people in the curatorial process, increased their enjoyment of this exhibition, 89% stated that it helped them to engage with the artworks in the exhibition, 85% indicated that it made them more interested in the artists/ artworks the young people selected, 81% said that it made them feel more at ease in the exhibition space, 85% said it made them feel more at ease in the exhibition space, 86% indicated that the involvement of young people in curating this exhibition made them feel more comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions about the artworks and made them feel more valued as a young visitor and, crucially, 85% of respondents stated that the involvement of young people in curating this exhibition made them feel more inclined to visit this gallery again. It is therefore clearly evident that youth participation in the curatorial process does have a positive impact on peer audience experience and propensity to engage.

Creating youth-friendly cultural institutions through consultation

— 11. O’Neill, M. (2005) What would museums be like if they took young people seriously? In Museums, galleries and young people: Are museums doing enough to attract younger audiences? Symposium proceedings, Dublin, 4th November 2005 The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 37

Consultation with audiences ought to be an integral aspect of exhibition and programming development, particularly in relation to young audiences who, O’ Neill states, “need to have a sense that they can influence the experience they can have” in order to develop a sense of ownership of cultural institutions11 In order to capture the unique insights of young people who had engaged with their local cultural institution through participative programmes, members of The Butler Gallery kilkenny’s Red Square youth group and Waterford young Arts Critics were invited to meet with the LCGA young Curators, during their exhibition run, to discuss their experiences and recommendations for youth- friendly museums and galleries. Through a series of workshops and focus groups, participants identified what they felt were most significant barriers to engagement for themselves and their peers, as well as the most important benefits they experienced and which they felt their peers stood to gain from engagement with museums and galleries. The most significant challenges facing young people in accessing and engaging with cultural institutions, as identified by participants, were largely practical barriers such as a lack of time, distance and availability of transport. Participants suggested that a lack of awareness amongst

‘‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps’’: engaging youth audiences

117


young people of museums and galleries impacted on youth audience attendance. The two most significant psycho-social deterrents for young people, according to participants, were the ‘language barrier’, lofty and impenetrable language employed in exhibitions material which made young people feel ‘locked out’ and the ‘atmosphere’ in museums and galleries which they suggested could often be intimidating for young people: “it’s so quiet and you’re coming into a room and there might be people there who are ten years older than you, I don’t know- you could assume that they’re artists or curators and you kind of feel as if, you know, why are you in the room, you know nothing, it’s not really your place”.

Fig 2. Participants suggested there needs to be better orientation Original Artwork by Jacob Stack, 2014

The most significant benefits which participants derived from engaging through their respective programmes were in terms of their personal development. The programmes, they stated, had given them the opportunity to express themselves and develop confidence in doing so, to try new things, to socialise with different people and to relax and enjoy themselves, in a manner not available to them through formal education. Their programmes enabled them to develop new skills – ranging from written and verbal presentation skills to project management to blogging – and enhance their CVs. They felt that the opportunity to learn more about arts, culture and heritage made them feel more confident about visiting and engaging with cultural spaces. The findings of surveying processes revealed that while once-off youth workshops and events are more successful in engaging the first-time or infrequent young visitor with the institution, long term programmes are more successful in translating their participation into future regular independent museum and gallery attendance. The final activity of the forum asked participants to consider what would be the features of an ‘ideal gallery or museum’ for young people, the qualities which render a cultural venue ‘youth-friendly’. Participants were encouraged to use Limerick City Gallery of Art as a basis for a critique. Their resultant insights and recommendations are as follows:

118

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Youth- friendly environment . . . The everyday operations of the gallery and museum render such spaces familiar for professionals and we often are desensitised to the potentially disorientating aspects of the architecture itself and curatorial devices. In order for young people to feel comfortable and welcome in a space, participants suggested, there needs to be better orientation – a clear layout and guidance as to which parts of the exhibition spaces and building are available to them. “Sometimes when you come in, you’re not sure what places are off limits. . . it would need to be really clearly marked what you’re allowed to do and what are restricted areas because I get that with nearly every gallery I’m in, like – am I allowed to actually enter.” Simple interventions and signage, they suggested, make the space more navigable for young people – “even an arrow pointing in would have been so awesome.” Friendly and approachable staff, they suggested, were key in the orientation process. Participants recommended that in order to be welcoming, exhibition spaces needed to be comfortable – comfort, in their opinions included “wide open spaces” which were bright and warm, with the availability of facilities.

Youth friendly language . . . The academic language used in exhibitions and associated material was identified during earlier sessions as a significant deterrent for young people. Participants advocated the approach adopted by the young Curators’ exhibition of welcoming in wider audiences through incorporating the viewpoints of young people and other visitors. They noted how the labels in the exhibition, written by young people with their interpretation of the artwork, had effectively engaged them with the exhibition “It can be cool to have layman terms because not everyone understands art terms like tone and colour so it’s kind of cool to have just ordinary explanations that everyone can kind of get to grips with.”

Youth friendly marketing . . . Although word of mouth marketing proved most effective amongst participants themselves, with 46% joining their respective

‘‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps’’: engaging youth audiences

119


programmes as a result of a peer-to-peer recommendation, participants argued that print media marketing is most effective and that such marketing, in order to engage wider audiences, would be most beneficially distributed in “public places like TESCO” – to be considered a natural part of everyday life by young people, marketing must appear, naturally, in their everyday lives. The findings of a focus group held by Irish youth website Spunout.ie in june 2013 indicated that young people were most responsive to wordof-mouth marketing amongst their peers and, to a lesser extent, print-based marketing such as flyers, posters and local newspapers. These findings are consistent with the experiences of many of the interviewees who acknowledged that word-of-mouth often proved most effective amongst this age group: “It is just getting the word out there, because its word of mouth, word of mouth, word of mouth, it’s all about friends bringing friends. . . We Facebook, we tweet, we website, I send out an e-shot as well but what they’ve said to me is we don’t look at their emails and that’s the truth of it.” As the participants of the Arts Council of Ireland’s ‘Arts- youthCulture: FyI’ youth consultation argued: “young people are seen as being part of the youTube generation, but that it is a misperception that this is the only way to communicate with young people.”12

Fig 3. Participants identified varied exhibitions programmes as important Original Artwork by Jacob Stack, 2014

Youth friendly exhibitions and programming. . . In both the artwork/artefacts and the subject matter explored, participants identified having a varied exhibitions programme was important to engage youth audiences. They also identified a need for clarity in the subject matter and issues explored by exhibitions through the language used – to this end, participants recommended that relevant speakers, such as artists and historians, be invited to discuss their work with young people. — 12. The Arts Council of Ireland (2010). Art-youth-culture: FYI. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from http://www.artscouncil.ie/en/areasof-work/actions/FYI.aspx , p.26.

120

Museum Ireland

In order to engage youth audiences and communicate that this is a space that is for young people, participants argued for the creation of a designated physical ‘creative space’ within museums and galleries for

Volume 24 2014


young people to engage with. One participant suggested that this could be as simple as a wall space to which young people could contribute their responses to artefacts or their own artwork. Participants also advocated for galleries creating opportunities for young artists to exhibit in order to engage younger audiences by visibly supporting young talent. The opportunities which programmes such as the LCGA young Curators and The Butler Gallery’s Red Square presented to young people to engage their peers through their involvement in the curatorial process were lauded by participants, who advocated for the wider adoption of youth participative curatorial practice in museums and galleries’ regular exhibitions programming.

Youth friendly atmosphere . . . “A young person would walk into the gallery and just see all white and pristine, they think they shouldn’t be here if they’re not dressed to the nines and all this stuff, they think it should only be like old rich people should only be in a gallery rather than them.”

Fig 4. The importance of having friendly and approachable staff was identified. Original Artwork by Jacob Stack, 2014

The “aura of exclusivity inscribed in the museum walls” (McClellan, 2003 p.2) is something which participants suggested that youth audiences are sensitive to and something which presents a barrier particularly for young people, for whom feelings of inadequacy or being ‘out of place’ will arise, as this participant identifies. The importance of having friendly and approachable staff was identified as being key in cultivating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere and challenging persistent perceptions of elitism which present barriers.

Conclusion In order for youth audience engagement programmes, particularly youth participatory practice, to be sustainable, Fogelman argues that there is a need for the structure and format of such engagement to develop from “special event-based projects requiring new improvisational work groups and distinct, often unsustainable financial

‘‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps’’: engaging youth audiences

121


support”13 into a fully operationalised aspect of the museum and gallery experience. To achieve this, she argues, there is a need to explore, as the LCGA case study does- “incremental innovation sustained over time that involves visitors in an ongoing participatory relationship with the museum” – by institutionalising experimentation in this way through our youngest visitors, there is potential to substantially shift the nature of wider audience engagement.13

Aoibhie McCarthy, a former Shinnors Scholar, is Education & Development Officer of The People’s Museum Limerick and Visual Art Curator of Galway Fringe Festival.

— 13. Fogelman, P. (2012) Innovative public programming of the future. In The challenges facing museums on-site and online in the 21st century and Future forecasting: The challenges facing museums and cultural institutions. Proceedings of the roundtable and symposium, The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 31

122

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Caring for your family collections – preservation workshops at National Library of Ireland L O U I S E O ’ C O N N O R a n d B R Í D O ’ S U L L I VA N

Introduction1 The National Library of Ireland (NLI), founded in 1877, collects preserves and makes accessible the shared memory of the Irish nation at home and abroad. This is more than 10 million items, including books, newspapers, manuscripts, prints, drawings, ephemera, photographs and, increasingly, digital media. Front of house, the NLI runs a programme of events on an ongoing basis, encompassing tours, workshops, lectures, genealogy events, performances and family-focused events. Behind the scenes, NLI conservators work with exhibitions, loans, incoming acquisitions and a legacy of large collections donated to the library. As part of the National Library of Ireland’s programme for Age and Opportunity’s Bealtaine Festival, a public workshop entitled ‘Caring for your family Collections’ was organised by the Learning and Outreach and Conservation departments for three consecutive years (2010-2013). This paper presents the origin, development and unexpected positive impact the preservation workshops have achieved.

Background The two library departments have developed a strong working relationship by collaborating on several projects as part of the NLI’s Lifelong Learning programme.

— 1. This article is adapted from a presentation made at the Irish Museums Association Education and Outreach Forum on 27 June 2014, Dublin

In 2009, for example, ‘The ‘Magpies’ Nest Project’, drew together local historians from Co. Wexford and Wexford artist Michael Fortune who organised an exhibition under the same title, which ran during the Bealtaine Festival that year. In preparing for the exhibition, the participants learned about the conservation issues that were involved in preparing and putting library material on display. Their questions mirrored many that had been asked by other visitors on guided tours of the NLI exhibitions, “Why is the exhibition so dark?”, “How is the material in the exhibition conserved?” or “How much of the exhibition material is

Caring for your family collections – preservation workshops at National Library of Ireland

123


real/facsimile? “Similarly, it is not uncommon during tours of the Reading Room for visitors to be curious about the book support cushions on the desks and also the reasoning behind the non-use of ink pens. All these issues led us to believe that a workshop that explained preservation and conservation to a general audience and demonstrated how it might be useful to them would prove popular. The idea was also impelled by the increase of open days and tours of conservation studios and conservation themed exhibitions, such as the National Museums Liverpool and the British Library.2

Young collectors’ workshop With former colleague, Sarah Shiel (NLI education officer), the initial focus was a workshop for older children aged between 7 and 13. This matched similar activities which were already very popular in the NLI education schedule. In 2009, we held two workshops for small groups entitled ‘young Collectors – From Manuscripts to Match-Attack’ during the Easter and summer school holidays. The aims of the workshop were to: n promote collecting and to encourage participants to care for and

take pride in their own collections n introduce the collections of the National Library of Ireland n introduce the work of the Conservation Dept and some of the ways

the library cares for its collections The group was limited to 15 and was well-attended. The workshop began with a tour of the yeats exhibition, where it was highlighted how the space is designed to help preserve the objects on display. This included noting the bandit-proof glass cases or how low ultra-violet filtered light prevents the fading of colours on the objects. Participants were encouraged to use alternative means of experiencing the collection such as the Turning The PagesTM interactive screen in the exhibition space. It was explained that this technology allows indefinite display of the digitised item without suffering damage from display or handling. — 2. Shenton, H. (2008). Public Engagement with Conservation at the British Library. Conservation and Access: Contributions to the 2008 IIC Congress, London, 130-135

124

Museum Ireland

Next, the group was brought to the seminar room, where each child showed their own collection such as comic books or Match Attax® trading game cards (see fig. 1). It was then explained how library users handle similar items, such as postcards, in the NLI reading room during

Volume 24 2014


their research. The use of support cushions was demonstrated and it was explained how cotton gloves will protect such items from damage during access. In the review of this workshop, it was noted that while the white gloves proved popular with this audience, the concept was not as relevant to the participants. This may have been because the collected items were ‘swapable’ and not necessarily items that they would keep for a long time. Fig. 1 Young Collectors’ Workshop 2009- each participants talk about what their collections.

Adult workshop format With the ever growing popularity of the televisions programme ‘Who Do you Think you Are?’ and a steady stream of queries from the public to the reading room, providing a workshop for adults became the next focus. The event was included in the Heritage Week 2010 schedule and entitled ‘Caring of Personal Collections’. We deliberately avoided the ‘ation’ words, such as preservation or conservation, as this can be a hurdle to gaining the attention of the public, who are unfamiliar with such terms. The workshop was aimed at amateur collectors of paper based materials. Attendees were asked to register and also to bring along items on which they would like conservation advice. It was made clear that no appraisal on the monetary value of the items would be given. Based on the enquiries previously received, we set the following learning outcomes: n understand risks and causes of damage to paper collections n recognise the need for preservation in heritage collections n implement practical knowledge to own family papers collections n share and discuss collections in practical open-forum learning

experience n value library collection use in holistic manner

Caring for your family collections – preservation workshops at National Library of Ireland

125


Adult workshop content Seating was arranged in a u-shape, to encourage an informal atmosphere. With a short 20 minute presentation, the workshop first covered the basics in preserving paper collections, such as light and temperature and humidity, pests and handling. There was some discussion on how the terms conservation, preservation and restoration are frequently interchanged and mixed up. Images of the common causes of damage on different formats such as books, letters or framed objects were shown (see Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 The adult preservation workshop began with a short presentation illustrating the common risks to paper collections.

— 3. Smith Margit J. (In Press). White gloves – required or not? Care and conservation of Manuscripts 15, Proceeding of the fifteenth international seminar held at the University of Copenhagen, 2 – 4 April 2014, Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen (publication pending 2016)

126

Museum Ireland

Next, the polemical issue of wearing cotton gloves was discussed with the group3 In recent decades the white cotton glove myth, popularised by amateur history and genealogy television shows, has popularised the belief that cotton gloves must be worn when handling library and archive collections. However wearing cotton gloves when handling single paper items, such as letters or newspaper clippings, may cause even more damage, as the gloves dulls the sense of touch. Washing hands will prevent the transfer of dirt and natural skin oils onto the absorbent paper surface. Workshop participants were encouraged to handle their objects with clean hands, or if items are dirty, to wear well-fitting plastic nitrile gloves. The long-term storage of paper objects was then covered. Normal stationery supplies are not suitable for long-term storage. Participants were encouraged to avoid any old cardboard box to house their collections. Ideally the box needs to be acid-free, lignin-free and with an alkaline buffer for ‘permanent’ storage. Non-archival material samples such as old Sellotape® and plastic ‘polypockets’ were passed around. Participants were encouraged to feel, touch and smell differences between good and bad folders and sleeves. The interactive session led to an exchange of knowledge and advice from the conservator with participants sharing their own experiences.

Volume 24 2014


Many of the participants were family historians, who brought in family letters or certificates of high sentimental value. They wished to hand on these items to the next generation in good condition, to encourage them to appreciate and care for them. With this common interest established, the group also exchanged stories about how the items came into their family’s possession. Others brought collections linked to their hobbies and passions, such as old and rare music books. For items in poor condition which needed treatment, emphasis was placed on minimal intervention, the basis of modern conservation. Participants were encouraged not to repair their own objects. Instead advice on contacting a professional conservator was shared and emphasis placed on respecting the original materials and methods4

Fig. 3 Workshop participants receive conservation and preservation advice on personal items.

Attendees were also encouraged to consult online resources from reputable heritage institutions worldwide but to avoid non expert online material. Preservation Booklets by British Library Preservation Advisory Centre and a short workshop hand-out were distributed to participants to take away5.

Feedback

— 4. More information can be found on The Conservation Register website http://www.conservationregister.co m/PIconWorkingWithAConservator.asp 5. The Preservation Advisory Centre closed in April 2014, but booklets are still available online. http://www.bl.uk/blpac/index.html

Over the last three years, the adult workshops have been consistently over-subscribed, with 25+ attending each event. In feedback from the 2013 event, participants stated that the workshop met or exceeded their expectations. Many people considered the workshop “very interesting”, “helpful” or “useful”. Most people found that the personal advice on their own objects was very beneficial (see fig.3). They also enjoyed the information provided on different formats such as photographs and newspapers. The information given on storage of items also seemed very helpful to the participants, particularly where to purchase storage materials. In 2011, Fred O’Callaghan kindly noted that “the whole

Caring for your family collections – preservation workshops at National Library of Ireland

127


approach to the event and the atmosphere made it a very pleasant experience, and will make me look forward all the more to future visits to the NLI”.

Impact Since 2010 there has been a FAQ page on preservation and conservation on the NLI website. For Heritage Week 2013, a preservation entry ‘Looking after your family collections -Prevention is better than Cure’ was also posted on the popular NLI Blog, receiving 1,279 views in two months6. This blog was then published on the online Irish newspaper thejournal.ie and received over 11,829 views by the general public7. The 2013 workshop was also recorded for radio by Colm Coyne and was broadcast on 1st November on RTE Lyric FM.8 Awareness of the NLI and preservation of heritage collections has therefore reached more diverse new audiences then could have been imagined in 2009. Conservation stories have already proven very popular on the NLI blog and in the NLI exhibition ‘Particles of the Past’, part of Science Week 2012. In 2014 we have engaged with new and different audiences to share the Pearse Papers Conservation Project, funded by the Heritage Council, both online and in workshops. A very popular series of short 15 minute talks on this project, attended by over 60 people were held for Culture Night 2014. A high level of engagement during the question and answer sessions demonstrated a genuine interest among the attendees. Science Week 2014 will provide the opportunity to present and to share the conservation treatment story with secondary school groups.

Reflections — 6. National Library of Ireland blog http://www.nli.ie/blog/index.php /2013/08/23/your-familyarchives/ 7. http://www.thejournal.ie/preservi ng-archives-family-history1135827-Oct2013/ 8. The piece is available as a podcast http://culturefilepod.tumblr.com/ post/65985600190/paperconservators-rather-like-tiger-wra nglers

128

Museum Ireland

The content of the preservation workshops was therefore well received both in person and via online streams. The workshop format encouraged active participation and user engagement. In a friendly and open atmosphere, they were able to exchange ideas and learn new and more appropriate ways of maintaining their paper collections. This made the workshop content more meaningful, accessible and relevant to those attending. It created awareness and encouraged learning and access to conservation and preservation to new audiences. It demonstrated that conservation has a practical connection with the

Volume 24 2014


‘amateur’ collector. The workshop therefore brought information which traditionally sits ‘behind-the-scenes’ to the general public while also directly benefiting heritage collections in private hands. As a result, thousands of people have been made aware of the National Library of Ireland and have learned about the preservation of heritage collections though the education initiative. It has allowed the NLI to show that as well as collecting material, this material also has to be conserved. ultimately it showed that preservation of our cultural heritage is of public interest! Louise O’Connor is paper conservator at the NLI since 2007. She previously worked as assistant paper conservator at National Gallery of Ireland, following a fellowship at the Chester Beatty Library.

Bríd O’Sullivan has worked in the Learning and Outreach section of the NLI since 2007.

Caring for your family collections – preservation workshops at National Library of Ireland

129



Donegal County Museum remembering the shared histories of Donegal JUDITH McCARTHY

Introduction1 “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” George Santayana, Spanish born American Philosopher. Donegal County Museum is part of the Cultural Services Division of the Community Culture and Enterprise Directorate of Donegal County Council. The Museum is based in the reception block of Letterkenny workhouse built in the 1840s. The aims of the Museum are to collect, record, preserve, display and communicate the material heritage and associated information of County Donegal to the widest community possible. Since it opened, the Museum has endeavoured to remember and communicate the shared histories of its communities. Donegal has been shaped by its history. Its culture, language, landscape, and people have all been influenced by the past. From the ulster Scots words and phrases in use in everyday language to the war graves to be found around the County the impact of this history can be seen in every community. The influence of the past can also be ‘seen’ in less tangible ways. This is particularly true when we examine the legacy of the last 400 years on the story of Donegal. From the Flight of the Earls in 1607 to the Good Friday Agreement and beyond, from how we were taught history in school to the stories our parents and grandparents told us, the ‘story’ of Donegal has influenced how we view the past, our communities and ourselves.

— 1. This article is adapted from a presentation made at the Irish Museums Association Education and Outreach Forum on 27 June 2014, Dublin

Therefore it is not enough to just remember. Museums should endeavour to understand the past and use this understanding to enable communities to shape a better future. How have we in Donegal County Museum remembered and explored our histories and what have we learned through this remembering?

Donegal County Museum remembering the shared histories of Donegal

131


How we remembered Donegal County Museum in association with other services in Donegal County Council and external groups and organisations has remembered and explored key events including the First World War, World War II/Emergency, The Flight of the Earls, The Plantation of ulster, the Troubles/28th Infantry Battalion and the ulster Covenant 1912. We have done this through projects, exhibitions and activities and have used these to examine and communicate the story of the past to a wide variety of audiences. Our audiences have varied from schools to the general public, from special interest groups to community organisations. We have used a variety of mechanisms for communicating with these audiences including exhibitions, talks, seminars, drama, workshops and demonstrations.

How we remembered the first World War For many generations the story of the War and of those who participated in it was largely ignored and forgotten by families, communities and the State. Medals and letters were consigned to attics and the history we were taught in school rarely included the Great War. This was particularly true in Donegal where communities remembered – or not – separately and in very different ways. In 2001, in an attempt to address the lack of understanding and knowledge of the War, the Museum organised an exhibition entitled Donegal and The Great War 1914-1918. Through the exhibition we emphasised the importance of giving people the opportunity to remember. For many visitors this was the first occasion they had felt able to talk openly about their family’s involvement in the War. We provided these visitors with a safe and welcoming space in which to remember.

Fig. 1. Remembering World War I in Donegal County Museum 2014

132

Museum Ireland

In 2006 we launched ‘Before I joined the Army…’ a touring exhibition, which highlighted the contribution of ulster Men and Women to the First World War. The exhibition consisted of a series of freestanding information

Volume 24 2014


panels and was designed to tour to venues such as community centres and libraries thereby increasing its accessibility. The exhibition subsequently travelled throughout the island of Ireland. In 2014, this exhibition was on display during the 48th Plenary Session of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in the Royal Hospital, kilmainham. In September 2014, through a Peace III funded project entitled The Hands of History the Museum was given the opportunity to examine more closely the story of World War I and in particular the experiences of Donegal men and women at home and abroad. We created an exhibition entitled ‘Remembering World War I: The Donegal Story’ and were overwhelmed by the number of people who came forward to share their family stories and to lend us images, archives and artefacts. We worked closely with the 28th Infantry Battalion of the Irish Defence Forces based at Finner Camp, Donegal throughout the planning stages of these exhibitions. They provided invaluable assistance in creating replica trenches for both exhibitions and provided a Flag Party (from the RDF) for the opening of Remembering World War I: The Donegal Story. It is clear from the response to the exhibition that there is a new willingness to remember the Irish men and women who participated in World War I. The Decade of Centenaries provides an opportunity for this remembering to be inclusive and encompassing.

How we remembered World War II/The Emergency In 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War we organised an exhibition entitled ‘Our War: Donegal, the Emergency and World War II’ which told the story of the Emergency/World War II as experienced by the men and women of County Donegal. The exhibition included artefacts, photographs and documents as well as stories from those who experienced the War at home and abroad. Men and women from Donegal were involved in the War on all fronts and they provided us with a wealth of information and memorabilia. As part of the exhibition we organised an event, which we called ‘Meet the

Donegal County Museum remembering the shared histories of Donegal

133


Veterans’. We invited schools to come to the Museum to meet 3 men who had been involved in some way with the Emergency/ World War II. This was a wonderful opportunity for the children to talk to people who had actually experienced something they themselves had only read about in schoolbooks. unfortunately we did not record the stories that these men shared with us at the time and now they are lost to us forever. Fig. 2. Meet the Veterans event, Donegal County Museum

How we remembered – The Flight of the Earls The Flight of the Earls, which took place in 1607 from Rathmullan in Co. Donegal, is considered a pivotal event in the history of ulster and of Ireland. It signalled the collapse of the old Gaelic order and paved the way for the introduction of a new way of life with the Plantation. The four hundredth anniversary in 2007 provided an opportunity to explore and commemorate not just this event but also vital elements of Donegal’s culture before, during and after the Flight. Donegal County Council worked with a wide variety of groups and organisations throughout the County to organise a comprehensive programme of events throughout the year. The Museum worked with our colleagues in the Archives Service and in Derry City Council’s Heritage and Museum Service to organise a major exhibition exploring the story of the Flight of the Earls. This exhibition included archival material on loan from the National Archives, uk. In order to make the exhibition and its subject matter accessible to children we produced an activity booklet, jigsaws and a specially designed board game based on the Earl’s journey to Italy. The exhibition subsequently toured to venues in Ireland and to Switzerland (Basel and zurich) and Italy (Rome).

134

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


During the planning stages of the exhibition we discovered that opinions could vary widely (and wildly) on how and what we should remember. In Donegal the story of Flight of the Earls had been taught differently from school to school depending on the viewpoint of the teacher. As a result we were questioned on more than one occasion as to why we would be ‘celebrating’ this event. It is important therefore to take into consideration that the language we use to remember can have an impact on how people react to commemorative events.

How we remembered the Plantation of Ulster Between 2008 and 2010, we organised a series of projects to commemorate the Plantation of ulster. This was considered to be a natural progression from commemorating the Flight of the Earls and is a period in our shared history, which has left a lasting legacy in Donegal and the North West. The Plantation of ulster is often considered to be a single–identity history with little or no understanding of the impact that it has had on all communities. The anniversary was a good opportunity to cooperate on a cross border and cross community basis. We worked on a variety of projects with different groups and grant aided by a number of funding bodies. Because the Plantation took place over a number of years it was legitimate for us to organise events over a similar time period. Working with our cross border partners over a number of years resulted in a wider reaching and more effective overall project.

Plantation of Ulster booklets We began our commemoration of the Plantation by trying to dispel some of the myths associated with the period. In 2008 we commissioned 3 booklets on the Plantation in Derry and Donegal funded by the Cultural Institutions unit, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and the Heritage Council (through the County Donegal Heritage Plan). It was a joint project with Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service. The aim of the booklets was to provide an insight into this important period in our history and to examine the influence of the Plantation on the environment and landscapes in which we live.

Plantation schools’ workshops To further inform communities about the Plantation and its impact we delivered a Plantation project to secondary schools in 2009, which was funded by the Cultural Institutions unit, of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.

Donegal County Museum remembering the shared histories of Donegal

135


Working in conjunction with the Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service we commissioned Heritage Stories of Port Stewart to undertake a series of living history workshops in secondary schools in the Derry City Council area and in County Donegal. The workshops consisted of interactive drama performances with two costumed facilitators. Drama and living history proved to be a very effective mechanism to engage children in the topic and we used this format and other similar formats in future projects.

The Planter and Gael Finally to broaden the target audience we organised a project between 2009 and 2010 entitled ‘The Planter and the Gael: Perspectives on the Plantation of ulster’. We again worked with Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service, with funding from the Donegal Peace III Programme under its Small Grants Scheme. The programme brought together groups of volunteer adult learners in cross-border and cross-community contexts over a four-session course of study and creative reflection on the Plantation of ulster and its impacts upon their communities. As part of the workshops the participants created a number of digital stories on the theme of the Plantation. The programme of study concluded with a final seminar where the participants, and other interested individuals and groups, came together to share learning and engage in a wider discussion of the legacies of the Plantation

How we remembered recent history – the 28th Infantry Battalion In 2011 the Museum worked with the Public Art Office of Donegal County Council on the ‘How We Remember’ project funded under the Peace III programme. Through Public Art, an exhibition and an education programme the project told the story of the servicemen and women of the 28th Infantry Battalion of the Irish Defence Forces. The 28th Infantry Battalion were formed in 1973 as a direct response to the beginning of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. The Battalion members and their families played a significant role in the economic, social and cultural lives of Donegal. It was important therefore that the Museum work closely with both serving and retired members of the Battalion to organise the exhibition. The exhibition featured a Border 136

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


checkpoint, archives, uniforms, equipment, images and oral histories, as well as ‘Rockhill Remembered’ a short documentary of the stories of ex-servicemen.

Fig. 3. How We Remember project Education Programme, Donegal County Museum

An education programme consisting of a booklet, facilitated tours and a small touring exhibition aimed at primary schools accompanied the exhibition. This programme examined areas such as peacekeeping at home and abroad, the role of women in the army and symbolism. Over 1,700 school children participated in the programme. This exhibition highlighted the often forgotten fact that recent ‘history’ has had an impact on our communities and that this impact is not always recognised. It provided a space to remember and acknowledged the role of the Defence Forces at home and abroad.

How we remembered the Ulster Covenant In 2012, we commemorated the centenary of the signing of the ulster Covenant. The Thiepval Memorial Loyal Orange Lodge, Convoy and the Donegal ulster Centenaries Committee approached us to organise an exhibition looking in particular at Donegal and the Covenant. While the signing of the ulster Covenant has particular resonance for some communities in Donegal it is not widely acknowledged. This exhibition was seen as an opportunity to recognise its importance in 1912 and in the events of the following decade. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Reconciliation & Anti-Sectarianism Funds funded the exhibition. As part of the exhibition we displayed some of the original signed Covenant sheets from Donegal, on loan from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. We received an anonymous letter during the exhibition, which criticised us for purportedly supporting a terrorist organisation. This reinforced the need for us to continue to remember our shared histories in a balanced and inclusive manner.

Donegal County Museum remembering the shared histories of Donegal

137


Remembering through collaboration The Museum has been involved in a number of cross border, cross community projects which have enabled us to explore and examine our shared histories through a variety of mechanisms. These partnerships, with organisations, groups and individuals have proved to be an invaluable method of learning and sharing and have enabled the Museum to reach out to a wide variety of audiences throughout Donegal and the border counties.

The plantation to partition project Between 2012 and 2013, the Museum participated in Plantation to Partition: Shared understanding, Remembrance & Legacy, a collaborative heritage programme led by Derry City Council’s Heritage and Museum Service working in partnership with Strabane District Council, Omagh District Council and Donegal County Council, represented by the Museum Service. The programme explored the 400-year period from Plantation to Partition and its legacy in a cross community, cross border capacity. It promoted shared use of spaces and resources as a means of developing an understanding of our shared heritage and a deeper awareness of our cultural identities. Participants were recruited on a cross-community and cross-border basis and the project included, a facilitated programme of workshops; a touring exhibition; a History Ireland Hedge School on the ulster Covenant; an interactive archaeological dig; a drama production for schools entitled ‘Planters, Paupers and Rebels’; a booklet on the impact of World War I in each Council area; and 4 short docudramas on the themes of Emigration, WWI, Partition and Alice Milligan/Gaelic Revival.

Fig. 4. Famine Master Chef in Donegal County Museum

138

Museum Ireland

One of the most successful elements of this project was the creation of Planters, Paupers and Rebels, a Horrible Histories style drama production for schools. This production entertained and

Volume 24 2014


educated in equal measure and was popular with both children and adults. It included a 1914 Match of the Day with the unionist team captained by Edward Carson and the Irish Volunteers team captained by john Redmond; an Emigration opera and Famine Master Chef. Children will remember this creative and imaginative view of our history.

The Hands of History project Between 2013-2014, we participated in The Hands of History Project (Phase I and II), an Action of the Donegal Peace III Action Plan. The aim of the project was to develop and deliver a programme exploring how we remember key events in our history, and how the legacies of these events have impacted on our communities. The programme offered opportunities to challenge attitudes and share perspectives. Two elements of the project were delivered directly by the Museum Service. These were; a series of workshops and exhibitions exploring themes related to local history with the production of 5 exhibitions using research carried out by community groups and schools. These exhibitions were displayed in the County Museum and then throughout the County. The second element delivered by the Museum was the exhibition ‘Remembering World War I: The Donegal Story’. All elements of the project were open to the public either as participants or as attendees and the programmes included seminars; facilitated study visits to Belgium (World War I), the Balkans (recent conflict) and Poland (WWII); schools projects delivered to primary schools throughout Donegal and a drama production examining the challenges faced by Protestants in Donegal immediately after Partition. The success of the project lay in the diversity of both its events and its participants. This diversity ensured that the content and outcomes of the project were truly cross community. Furthermore the project did not deviate from its overarching theme of exploring how we remember key events in our history, and how the legacies of these events have impacted on our communities.

Future remembering Through our exhibition and events programme Donegal County Museum has built relationships with individuals and organisations to preserve and communicate our shared histories. We have addressed a

Donegal County Museum remembering the shared histories of Donegal

139


wide variety of themes. We have learned that it is vitally important to be inclusive, to be open to hearing all stories and to recognise that people have pride in their histories and cultural traditions. There is however more work to be done. There are individuals and communities we have yet to connect with. The Decade of Centenaries provides a not-to-be-missed opportunity to engage these communities in a meaningful way. We can give people the opportunity and space to remember and explore their histories in a balanced and inclusive manner. Through the relationships we build we can come to a better understanding of who we are and where we come from. Perhaps we can also work together towards a shared future.

Judith McCarthy is Curator at Donegal County Museum.

ote

Preserving History Today

Products for: Archivists Conservators Curators Librarians Preservers Private Collectors Restorers Picture Framers

Material and Supplies: Archival Conservation Museums Preservation Disaster Recovery Restoration Storage & Handling Safety & Ergonomics

OTE the Irish supplier of archival and conservation products, providing quality supplies you can trust. You’ll find all the archival, conservation, preservation and restoration materials you need at www.ote.ie

T +353 (0) 404 49129

W www.ote.ie

E info@ote.ie

On The Edge Ltd. / OTE, Archival and Conservation Products, Ballinahinch, Ashford, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

140

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Exhibiting the Invisible – Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin CLAIRE ANDERSON

Introduction1 In 2014, the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology in kildare Street, Dublin unveiled a new temporary exhibition commemorating the millennium anniversary of that legendary and most famous battle of early medieval Ireland – the Battle of Clontarf. Traditionally viewed as the victory of Ireland’s greatest high king, Brian Boru, over the Viking settlers led by Sitric Silkbeard, king of Dublin, much myth and folklore grew up around the battle both in Irish and Scandinavian traditions. Later revisionist authors have attempted to reframe both the events that took place that day and the outcome of the battle. It is in this spirit that the NMI – Archaeology (NMI) has endeavoured to re-examine the evidence for events leading up to, including and following on from that Good Friday, the 23rd April, 1014.

Brian Boru The Battle of Clontarf was traditionally portrayed as a righteous victory for the ‘true’ high king and Christian leader, Brian Boru, over the pagan Viking ‘invaders’. Brian was seen as the saviour of Ireland, a united Christian country, in direct contrast to the ‘foreigners of Dublin’ who were completely defeated and finally driven from our shores after centuries of oppression. This view of Brian as a national hero was revived in the Irish independence movements of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It became an accepted part of the national consciousness in Ireland but could the story really have been that simple?

— 1. This article was undertaken as part of a collaboration on the Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin’ exhibition. Thanks are due to Dr Andy Halpin, NMI lead curator for his input and advice.

This version of the Clontarf story derived from the earliest and most important source for the battle, Cogadh Gáedhel re Gallaibh (‘The War of the Irish against the Foreigners’), a tract written around 1100AD. Although written relatively close in time to the events themselves, and possibly even based on accounts from survivors of the battle, the Cogadh is essentially an excellent piece of medieval propaganda. It may have been commissioned by Brian’s great-grandson, Muirchertach ó

Exhibiting the Invisible – Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin

141


Briain, in order to boost his own claims to the high-kingship of Ireland by portraying his ancestor Brian as a national hero. That is not to say that the Cogadh does not contain any historically accurate facts about the battle, however caution must be exercised in taking the story at face value.

Alternative interpretations One of the first academic attempts to re-assess this version of the battle was by Fr. john Ryan in 1938. Rather than a national struggle, Ryan reinterpreted Clontarf as the climax of an attempt by the kings of Leinster and Dublin to assert their independence from Brian Boru. He highlighted the role of Mael Mórda, king of Leinster, in this rebellion and thus recast the battle more as a conflict between Munster and Leinster, than as a war between the ‘Vikings’ and the ‘Irish’. Although Ryan’s theory has received much support from later historians, it has made surprisingly little impact on the popular imagination which remains heavily influenced by the nationalistic view proposed in early sources for the battle. The most recent and authoritative voice on the subject is Sean Duffy’s Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf published in 2013. Although Duffy rejects Ryan’s interpretation of Clontarf as a Munster-Leinster conflict, seeing Máel Morda as subordinate to Sitric Silkbeard, he emphasises the importance of Sitric’s recruitment of Scandinavian forces from neighbouring settlements such as Orkney, the Isle of Man and possibly further afield. In 1013, the year before Clontarf, the Danish king, Sweyn Forkbeard, conquered England. Duffy argues that there is some evidence to suggest that Brian’s victory at Clontarf may have foiled any similar attempts on the island of Ireland. This could be seen as reinforcing the nationalistic view of Brian Boru as the saviour of Ireland, however Duffy’s theory is much more subtle and complex.

Exhibition design In designing an exhibition on the Battle of Clontarf, the National Museum wanted to challenge existing popular perceptions about the battle and its key players. This it does by evaluating sources available for the battle and asking what we really know about how events unfolded on that day. The exhibition focuses on what led up to the battle and what was Brian Boru’s real motivation in fighting. Although there are many different interpretations of events at Clontarf, the National 142

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


Museum’s research pointed to the importance of the city of Dublin in Brian’s overall campaign. The earliest and most accurate sources for the battle, the Annals of ulster and of Innisfallen, do not refer to Clontarf specifically but instead state that the battle occurred near Dublin. Clearly fighting did take place at Clontarf – however Brian’s real goal was to take control of Dublin town itself. Thus the Museum’s exhibition begins by examining popular perceptions of the battle, its key participants and its outcome, and by illustrating the various source materials available on the subject. Visitors to the museum’s first floor are met by a large curved feature wall at the entrance to the exhibition, which mirrors the shape of the replica Viking ship, the Gokstad Faering, directly in front of it. Graphic panels on this introductory wall illustrate sources for Clontarf such as the Annals of ulster and of Innisfallen, the Cogadh, the Scandinavian sagas and myths such as Njáls saga and finally archaeological evidence. The key players at Clontarf are also introduced here; Brian ‘Boru’ mac Cennétig, high king of Ireland, and his main ally Máel Sechnaill MacDomhnaill, king of Tara, Sitric Silkbeard, Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin, Máel Morda mac Murchada, king of Leinster, and Sigurdr, jarl of Orkney. Before the visitor turns a corner into the main body of the exhibition, they are greeted by a large stand-alone glass case dedicated to the main player at Clontarf, Brian Boru. Although archaeological evidence for Brian’s life is scant, certain valuable objects illustrating his rise to power are displayed here; the Liathmore shrine fragment (Figure 1), the Scattery Island bell shrine, a selection of Viking silver from Munster and an inscribed slate fragment from Brian’s base at killaloe, Co. Clare. Brian Boru rose to prominence from the Dál gCais whose small kingdom was located in north Munster. A rise to high king of Ireland would not have been expected from such obscure origins. From an early stage in his career, however, Brian understood the importance of harnessing the power of Scandinavian settlements in Ireland more than any other king before him. Brian became over-king of Munster following the deaths of both his father, Cennétig, and brother, Mathgamain. In 977 he killed Ivarr, Viking king of Limerick, and his two sons at Scattery Island effectively bringing the Limerick Vikings under his control. He subsequently controlled the Viking settlement at Waterford and after the Battle of Glenmama in 999 had also secured control of Dublin. The military and naval technologies coupled with

Exhibiting the Invisible – Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin

143


Figure 1: This fragmentary inscription from a shrine or reliquary is one of the few known objects directly related to Brian. It currently reads: ….[M]AC CENEDIC DO RIG E[RENN] It can be reconstructed as “A prayer for XXX son of Cenedic, for the king of Ireland”. © National Museum of Ireland.

the economic wealth of these various Viking settlements were now at Brian’s disposal, and were critical factors in his eventual rise to high king.

Viking Dublin The National Museum’s rich collection of archaeological objects from Viking Dublin make it very well placed to illustrate why control of the town and its resources was Brian’s key motivation in the Battle of Clontarf. When Sitric rebelled against Brian in 1013, Brian knew he had to fight back in order to retain control of these resources and Dublin itself. Scandinavian naval technology was among the most advanced in Europe and shipbuilding was taking place in Dublin. The largest exhibition case displays ships timbers excavated in Dublin by the NMI from Viking sites around Wood Quay. Dublin’s military technology was among the most advanced in Europe in 1014. Displayed in this exhibition is a wide selection of iron spearheads, swords and axeheads and a wooden bow with arrowheads. Exciting additions to the exhibition are three Viking-style iron axeheads with wooden shafts, found in 2013 in a sunken boat in Lough Corrib and excavated by the underwater Archaeology unit of the National Monuments Service (see Figure 2). These axes illustrate that Irish warriors were also using Viking-style military technology. One very advanced weapon only available to Dublin’s Hiberno-Norse warriors however was the crossbow, represented in the exhibition by a number of crossbow bolt heads and a fragmentary crossbow nut from Dublin. Dublin’s wealth is also clearly evidenced from a number of artefacts on display in the exhibition. Three silver coin hoards, cached in Dublin in the 990’s, illustrate the emergence of the first coin-based economy in Ireland and also the town’s trade with England. Although these hoards contain English coins, Sitric was the first king to mint his own coins in Ireland and one of these is also on display. Dublin’s wealth was partly based on trade in slaves, a practice common across early medieval Europe, as represented in the exhibition by an iron slave chain and

144

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


collar from the Irish midlands. A silk cloth from Dublin is evidence that the town was also trading luxury goods with cities as far away as Constantinople. Clearly therefore, control of Dublin meant control of its great wealth and economic prosperity – something which was of huge value to the high king.

A Hiberno-Norse society Figure 2: Three Viking-style iron axeheads with wooden shafts found in 2013 in a sunken logboat in Lough Corrib. © National Museum of Ireland.

Figure 3: Zoomorphic-headed bronze stick pin found at Cashel, Co. Tipperary. © National Museum of Ireland.

This exhibition also aims to highlight the fact that Scandinavian and Irish cultures had, by this time, merged together into a new ‘Hiberno-Norse’ society in towns such as Dublin, Waterford and Limerick. Two zoomorphic pins, one bronze from Cashel (see Figure 3) and one bone from Dublin, are used to illustrate this point. The style of decoration on both pins is almost identical, yet they were found in so-called ‘Irish’ and ‘Viking’ areas of the country. Ringed pins in the exhibition also show that an Irish type

of cloak fastener was being used and made in Hiberno-Norse Dublin. Furthermore, many of the characters in the Clontarf story were related! Gormlaith, the main female character in the story, was the mother of Sitric, ex-wife of Brian, sister of Máel Morda and possibly also sometime consort of Máel Sechnaill. Sitric was married to Brian’s daughter, and was born in Dublin to an Irish mother and Viking father. Vikings had been in Ireland for over two centuries at this stage and had integrated into Irish society to a large degree. Therefore it is more accurate at this stage to refer to them as ‘Hiberno-Norse’.

The Battle of Clontarf Brian Boru’s campaign against Dublin had started by the autumn of 1013, when Sitric and Máel Morda had risen up in an attempt to

Exhibiting the Invisible – Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin

145


overthrow his control in Leinster and Dublin. He camped outside the walls of the town in the winter of 1013, besieging Dublin and her residents. When supplies ran out Brian’s forces had no option but to return to Munster, although everyone knew he would be back. Loss of control of Dublin’s wealth and military and naval technologies would have greatly weakened his position as high king. When both armies finally came face to face on the battlefield in Clontarf that day, we know that they would have been fighting with quite similar weapons. The National Museum has commissioned two illustrations of warriors from each side for this exhibition. These show that although both sides would have fought with spears, axes and swords, Sitric’s warriors would have had superior weapons such as the crossbow available to them. They may also have had an advantage due to their chain mail armour, while the Irish warriors probably fought in inferior leather protective clothing. All accounts of the battle agree that fighting on the day was protracted and bloody, ending in enormous loss of life on both sides. Brian Boru, although probably not fighting in battle due to his age, was killed at Clontarf and his son Donnchadh succeeded him as king of Munster. His claims to the high kingship, as illustrated in this exhibition on the Stowe missal shrine, do not seem to reflect reality. Certainly, he was never as powerful as his father had been. Sitric watched the battle from the safety of the walls of Dublin, so that although his forces lost, he himself continued to reign as king of the very prosperous and powerful settlement of Dublin. The image of Brian Boru as the saviour of Ireland and a national hero is explored in the final cases of the exhibition. It is hoped that the visitor may view this idea with a perhaps slightly more questioning eye at this point. Although the legend of Brian Boru was much loved by authors down through the centuries, in effect, there were no winners at Clontarf as all sides had been greatly weakened and Dublin continued to prosper. One of the main challenges facing the National Museum in commemorating the Battle of Clontarf in 2014 was how to design an exhibition around a battle for which there is no battlefield and there are no actual artefacts. The exact site of the battlefield is unknown and there are no artefacts in the national collections or elsewhere from the battle itself. The Battle of Clontarf is thus ‘invisible’ in the archaeological record. A further challenge to the curatorial team was to balance the many, often contradictory, existing theories about the battle, 146

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014


its causes and outcomes in order to tease out an accurate and meaningful interpretation for the museum’s wide range of visitors. The Museum realised that one of its main strengths in terms of exhibiting Clontarf was the large collection of artefacts from its excavations in Viking Dublin in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. In particular, the ships timbers and range of weaponry excavated from these sites are used in the exhibition to illustrate the importance of the town’s naval and military technologies. The curatorial team aimed to emphasise the overall importance of Dublin as a motivating factor in the battle. Control of the wealth, naval and military technology of Hiberno-Norse Dublin was extremely important to Brian’s reign as high king of Ireland and when Sitric rebelled against him in 1013, Brian knew that he had to respond.

Conclusion The exhibition concludes with two cases displaying later representations of the nationalistic view of Brian Boru the Irish hero whose most famous victory liberated Ireland from foreign oppression. Having challenged these popular perceptions of the Battle of Clontarf throughout this exhibition, it is hoped that at this stage the visitor will have gained a new appreciation for both the motivations of the main protagonists and the complexities of the events and outcomes of the Battle of Clontarf.

Claire Anderson is Assistant Co-ordinator (Culture & Heritage Studies LTI) at the National Print Museum

Exhibiting the Invisible – Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin

147



Museums and Exhibitions

Answer the Call: First World War Posters Mairéad Quinn

Venue: ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, Belfast, BT9 5AB Admission: Free Opened: 23 May 2014 Website: http://www.nmni.com

On the 23 May 2014 National Museums Northern Ireland launched their ‘Answer the Call: First World War Posters’ exhibition in the ulster Museum, Belfast. This exhibition is part of the Decade of Centenaries programme of events and was developed to mark the 100th anniversary of World War One. The exhibition, curated by Dr Vivienne Pollock, takes a look at the changing conditions of Britain and Ireland’s involvement in the war, and more particularly the changing approaches to voluntary recruitment, through a series of propaganda posters aimed at Irish citizens over the period of 1914-1918. The exhibition offers a glimpse into the changing attitudes towards enlistment by Irish citizens. This can be traced through the evolving messages portrayed in the poster campaigns, beginning with the characterisation of voluntary enlistment as

encompassing the virtues of patriotism and adventure; the natural step for a man to take. The exhibition also explores the various uses of cultural signifiers to encourage men to enlist. These include posters identifying war with sporting games, and the call for the ‘real Irish spirit’ to come forth and join the ranks, a direct reference to Ireland’s reputation as a drinking culture. As voluntary recruitment took a downturn we can see a change in the campaigns’ approach. Messages changed from those focused on the virtues of enlistment to those forewarning of the consequences of failing to enlist. The use of children as emotional triggers can be seen in various posters, most particularly those asking fathers what their answer will be when their children ask ‘what did you do to help when Britain fought for freedom?’ Children and women are also used as emotional leverage through poster campaigns that

Museums and Exhibitions

149


accentuated the dangers of war to children and female relations. These campaigns played on the role of men as protectors of the family and a failure to do one’s duty in joining the war effort was synonymous with an unwillingness to do one’s duty to protect their family. The use of women as a tool for male enlistment can again be seen through a series of posters sending out the message ‘Women of Britain say...Go’. This imagery shows the strong female character who is concerned with the safety of her children and knows best the duty of her husband to fight for their protection. These posters purposefully exploited women’s fear for their families and exaggerates their influence on their husband’s decision to enlist. Of particular note was the failure of such

150

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014

campaigns that used bullying tones to promote recruitment. The financial hardships of war are also explored through emotionally-focused poster campaigns that encourage those not fighting to invest in war bonds, and the need to ration food supplies for the men fighting on the front line, thus giving every citizen an opportunity to play their part. This exhibition proves a thorough and engaging way to explore World War 1 from a unique perspective and is accessible to audiences of different knowledge levels. In all, a great addition to the museum’s programme. Mairead Quinn is a Ph.D. student of Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies at the University of Ulster


Publications Schmitz Compendium of European Picture Frames 1730-1930: Neoclassicism, Biedermeier, Romanticism, Historicism, Impressionism, Jugenstil, Solingen Tobias Schmitz; translator: Faith Puleston. 2012. Author’s edition. ISBN 13: 9783000395673, €73.91 320pp, Hardback Anne Hodge

This spare, not particularly attractive volume, presents schematic drawings of historical frames with short texts on the background and genesis of the frame type, grouped under six basic stylistic categories. In the introduction the author notes that the book is designed primarily to support the work of conservators, but would, he feels, also aid the work of curators and auctioneers and be of interest to general art lovers. It begins with a brief overview of the current status of research into picture frames, noting that until the 1980s, such research was very much on the fringes of art history. Earlier publications, mainly German language books are referenced, but jacob Simon’s authoritative study of English portrait frames is also mentioned. Throughout, the art-historical context is somewhat cursory with the introduction quotes from a fifty-year old book World Art History three times in the first page. The next section sets out the common types of frame construction, illustrated by grainy black and white photographs taken by the author. This section is informative, but would have benefitted from higher quality illustrations.

The main part of the book (the compendium) groups frames into six roughly chronological ‘artistic trends’: Neoclassicism, Biedermeier, Romanticism, Historicism, Impressionism and jugenstil. 444 different frames are discussed, each with drawings of frame corners and cross sections. These simple, easily readable drawings are positioned at the top right corner of each page which makes browsing or searching for a particular frame type or form of ornamental detail straightforward. An appendix lists artists in alphabetical order, which is useful for finding the type of frame a particular artist favoured at a particular point in their career. There is also a listing of 15 frame-makers but this is a little confusing as it includes both commercial framemanufacturers but also artists like Millais who occasionally designed frames for their own paintings or those of artist friends. This listing is followed by a ‘Register of Materials’. This list is misnamed, since it does not function as a glossary of the main types of material used in frame construction. For example ‘composition’ or ‘compo’ the plaster used widely to create the ornamental detail on frames during the second half of the nineteenth century, is not listed.

Publications

151


However the term ‘gilder’s plaster’, probably a direct translation from the German is mentioned in the descriptive texts on frames in the compendium. Compared to the clear, comprehensive glossary in jacob Simon’s 1996 volume, this listing of materials is poorly done.

Biedermeier and jugenstil feature heavily. The German art-historical term ‘Historicmus’ has been literally translated into English as ‘Historicism’ but it does not have a direct equivalent in English so its use is quite confusing.

Schmitz’s Compendium was originally published in German in 2003 and this English translation by Faith Puleston came out in 2012. It appears to be a rather literal translation of the German text into English, without a sufficient understanding of, or sensitivity to, the language of art-history and conservation. This results in awkward, convoluted sentences like this from the preface: ‘In the late 1950s a blatant “framestorming” set in at many museums, in which many paintings were robbed of their part in still original frames and – following the “framing dogma” of the time – inserted into plain mouldings.’ Many of the frames listed are from German collections and, as a result, specifically German frame styles such as

Although the title states that it is a compendium of ‘European’ picture frames, it is in fact strongly weighted in favour of German frames. Sixteen collections were used to compile the book, but only four non-German collections were referenced: Amsterdam, Paris, Prague and Budapest. It is very much a book written by a conservator for his fellow conservators. It most definitely would be of use to paintings and frame conservators, and to a lesser extent, curators, but, despite the author’s hopes, I doubt it would hold much interest for the general reader.

152

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014

Anne Hodge is Curator of Prints and Drawings in the National Gallery of Ireland.


Migrating heritage: experiences of cultural networks and cultural dialogue in Europe Perla Innocenti, 2014. Ashgate Publishing Limited ISBN 978-1-4724-2281-1, £63, 332PP, Hardback Emily Mark-FitzGerald

‘Migrating Heritage: Experiences of Cultural Networks and Cultural Dialogue in Europe’ is one of the published outputs of the European Commission-funded project MeLa – European Museums in an Age of Migrations (2011-2015). MeLa is designed as ‘an interdisciplinary programme aimed at analysing the role of museums in the contemporary multi-cultural context, characterized by an augmented migration of people and ideas, and identifying innovative practices and strategies in order to foster their evolution’ (http://www.mela-project.eu). More precisely, the project has posited the concept of migration ‘as a paradigm of the contemporary global and multicultural world. The main objective of the MeLa project is to define innovative museum practices that reflect the challenges of the contemporary processes of globalisation, mobility and migration’ The project has involved the participation of nine European partners – unfortunately (and perhaps surprisingly) none of them Irish – and six research fields: (1) Museums and Identity in History and Contemporaneity; (2) Cultural Memory, Migrating Modernity and Museum Practices; (3) Network of Museums, Libraries and Public Cultural Institutions; (4) Cultural and Artistic Research; (5) Exhibition Design, Technology of Representation and Experimental Actions; and (6) Envisioning

21st Century Museums. The length and extent of the full MeLa project has generated many published proceedings and research outcomes, most of which is freely available from its website. As a consequence, some readers may be disinclined to purchase this edited volume, which is very similar in nature and content, and has been generated from the third research field. undoubtedly the MeLa project has been a major milestone in the study of contemporary museology and cultural heritage, and its research outcomes offer kaleidoscopic perspectives into current European conceptualisations of migration and cultural politics. The intersection of migration and the GLAM sector (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) has attracted significant attention over the past decade, framed by numerous policy initiatives, conferences and symposia at a European level in the domains of cultural heritage, diversity and policy – managed and promoted by uNESCO, Council of Europe, the International Organisation on Migration, and innumerable national and transnational cultural networks. Indeed the metaphor of the ‘network’ functions as a core concept for the collection, which proposes that the ‘network’ offers both a theoretical model better suited to the cross-territorial nature of migration and its heritage, as well as a functional mechanism

Publications

153


that allows for institutional and community collaborations supporting exhibitions, digital projects, and other cultural initiatives. The book itself constitutes the published proceedings of the MeLa conference ‘Migrating Heritage: networks and collaborations across European museums, libraries and public cultural institutions’, held in Glasgow in December 2012. As its introduction notes, the concept of ‘migrating heritage… encompasses not only the migration and mobility of post-colonial artefacts, but also migration of people, technologies and disciplines, crossing boundaries and joining forces in cultural networks and partnerships to address new emerging challenges of social inclusion, cultural dialogue, new models of cultural identity, citizenship and national belonging’ Furthermore the editor posits that European cultural institutions are increasingly turning away from presenting forms of nationalism, towards a fluid engagement with ‘unbound identities’ unrestricted to singular territories or categories of heritage. Despite some initial problematizing of the concept, the notion of a ‘common European culture’ or public sphere persists as a framing device throughout the Introduction, if not the volume which follows, which often reverts to nation-specific examples and experiences. As the editor observes, ‘this seems to be an Eu top-down policy agenda, whose priorities seems to lack effective feedback mechanisms into civil society.’ This is undoubtedly true, yet the Introduction’s exhortation to move ‘beyond Eu rhetoric’ is unevenly achieved. The shadow of European policy-speak looms large over the text of the Introduction (‘triangulating and enriching the first volume’s initial findings’),

154

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014

and the general reader may soon be flummoxed by the proliferation of ‘transnationalisms’, ‘hybridisations’, ‘transversalities’, ‘translocalisms’, and other metaphors of indeterminancy. Arranged as a sequence of twenty-four short contributions, the volume offers a diversity of case studies of museum, library and heritage initiatives. Given the brevity of each essay, they are more often useful as signposts to additional reading and projects, than as substantial engagements with the topic at hand. As with collections of this kind, the contributions vary significantly in quality and presentation – some merely two to three pages long, others brief summations of concluded exhibitions or projects. The most compelling of these contributions include Alexander Badenoch’s elegantly written reflection on the iconicity of a photograph of an itinerant salesman of Singer sewing machine in Finland, relating it to his own experience managing the ‘Inventing Europe’ project, a collaboration between an academic network and cultural heritage institutions, which examined the relationship between technology and European identities. Sharon MacDonald’s reflection on the limits of ‘migrating heritage’ usefully problematizes the concept via a brief discussion of Islamic heritage in European museums, pointing to how the aesthetic has, in some cases, negatively functioned as anaesthetic. Andrew Dewdney and Victoria Walsh’s contribution on ‘Postcritical Museology’ offers an excellent summation of their conceptually and methodologically sophisticated research project ‘Tate Encounters: Britishness and Visual Cultures’, which addressed ‘the


formation and impact of uk cultural diversity policy, narratives of Britishness and curatorial practices at Tate Britain, and the expanded field of contemporary visual culture generated through new media’. A series of essays by Francesca Lanz, Guido Vaglio, Frauke Miera and Lorraine Bluche also bring together discussions of European city museums in Italy and Germany, and their approaches to exhibiting and collecting diverse urban histories. Of particular interest to an Irish audience may be the description of the process behind ‘On Their Own – Britain’s Child Migrants’, a travelling exhibition on child migration from the 1860s – 1960s organized by the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool. Developed in a politically sensitive climate, it offers insight into the challenge of representing institutional abuse and a range of perspectives on a contested history that is still part of living memory.

As with all of MeLa’s publications to date, this collection is testament to the innovative and sophisticated approaches of European museums on the subject of migration and globalisation, at varying scales and localities. As an introduction to the application of network theory to museum practice, it provides useful starting points easily transferable beyond the subject of migration. Although suffering somewhat from a recourse to European policy determinism and jargon in its initial framing, and not as consistently developed as MeLa’s other engagements with the project’s themes, its wide range of contributions ensure a lively (if variable) degree of interest and content. Dr Emily Mark-FitzGerald is a Lecturer at the School of Art History & Cultural Policy in University College Dublin.

Publications

155


Museums in the new mediascape jenny kidd. 2014. Ashgate Publishing Limited. 978-1-4094-4299-8, £60, 176 pp, Hardback Oonagh Murphy

By adopting a breath of interdisciplinary critiques kidd manages to successfully convey the complexities of the new “mediascape” that museums now find themselves operating within. Whilst grounded in the fields of cultural studies and museum studies, kidd identifies nine distinct academic areas that have influenced her critique. These range from performance studies to gaming literature, art history to digital media. A valuable framework for the original empirical research contained throughout this book, is the focus on how new media, digital technologies, and the increasing role of the museum as media producer has had not only on museum work, but also museum experience. kidd manages to successfully highlight the impact of this new cultural landscape on both the media producers (museum professionals) and media consumers (museum visitors). Breadth of practice and breadth of interdisciplinary relevance is a reoccurring theme throughout this book. unlike areas of defined museum practice from curatorial practice to education, the role of “media” in museums is increasingly ubiquitous. Through a benchmarking audit of media content across 20 museums in the uk, kidd identifies a diversity in practice from memes to social media and proposes a model of “The Transmedia Museum”. Through empirical

156

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014

research kidd outlines how museum experiences have moved away from satisfying, contained experiences, to challenging and ubiquitous experiences that exist beyond the walls of a museum. This book intelligently critiques the pros and cons offered to museum professionals through the creation of media content in museums. Whilst such content provides opportunities to engage visitors in deeper more meaningful experiences, it also lays the potential for “chaotic storytelling” where fact and fiction become confused and the authorial voice of museums is lost. However, through available literature and analysis of social media content, kidd suggests that from 2008 to 2014 we can see a move towards a more playful, responsive and authentic voice from museums online. This is a valuable analysis as it demonstrates that amidst the chaos of technologies, platforms and media content, museum professionals are beginning to find a more nuanced and appropriate voice for the mediascape in which they now exist. Moving beyond the role of museum professionals, this book adds a valuable contextual and academically rigorous critique of visitor producers. By analysing the role of remix culture from a media studies perspective kidd provides tangible examples, and arguments which will help museum professionals develop a long view and strategic


response to visitor appropriation. This text is a valuable reader for senior managers who want to develop a strategic rather than reactive response to media production. Likewise for those responsible for media production in museums it provides a range of critiques and signposting to potential interdisciplinary collaborations. In conclusion, kidd notes that often the official museum stance on remix culture does not run in parallel to legal frameworks, a challenge that will only increase with the increased availability of media content produced by museum staff and by museum visitors in the course of their museum experience. Dr Oonagh Murphy is an artist working in the field of performance and theatre-making.

Publications

157


Australian artists in the contemporary museum jennifer Barrett and jacqueline Millner. 2014. Ashgate Publishing Limited ISBN 978-1-4094-4249-3, £27.65, 166 pp, Hardback. Johanne Mullan

Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum is a timely and practical assessment of how the contemporary museum works with artists in a multi-faceted manner to recontextualise – reconfront – revitalise historical collections and objects; to engage and target new and old audiences; and to allow the museum to become a site for artistic interventions and dialogue between museum professionals and artists. As staff members of Sydney College of Art the authors are well placed to present a critical analysis of the Australian context. Focusing on the past twenty years the book aims to evaluate the process and the outcomes for the various stakeholders: the artist, the museum and the audience. Drawing from interviews with over 30 artists, curators and museum professionals, the content has been broken down into four broad areas: artists challenging the museum’s institutional authority; artist examining the construction of history; artist working in curatorial capacities; and artists accenting beauty and sensual engagement in their responses to museums. Each chapter is well structured and covers an extensive range of collaborative practice from aesthetic interventions to the curatorial. The thematic approach of the book allows the writers to demonstrate and explore the

158

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014

complex relationship between artist and museum: how artists are inspired by museum collections while challenged by the perceived authority of the institution. A key strength of the publication lies in the extensive research, comprehensive bibliography and documentary evidence. Case studies outline fascinating projects such as the development of a new curatorial approach for the Djamu Gallery (1998 – 2000). During this time Director john kirkman gave artists such as Brook Andrew the freedom to question the status quo and bring new thinking to curatorial deliberations about interpretation and display of Indigenous Cultural material held by the Australian Museum. Although portraying a continuous clash between artistic expression and the reading and presentation of museum collections, the authors do conclude that within this complex and fraught relationship, mutual benefits have evolved. The writers highlight the important contribution artists such as Peter Cripps have made to the discourse of institutional critique in Australia. Among the wealth of examples, the most impressive outcome is where the collaboration has led to changes in institutional practices and artistic approaches. For example, Museum


Victoria appointed a number of artists and granted them relatively free rein to strategize, form industry partnerships and mount projects, as well as undertake research. The authors point to an enhanced institutional capacity to engage with artists and audience as an outcome of these collaborations. The authors also illuminate the potentially conflictual relationship whereby the artist can take risks that museum curators may resist perceiving their role as to explain and conserve while the artist can provoke and confuse. unlikely collaborations can lead to special consequences. Though obviously written from an Australian perspective, the critique and learning translate to an international audience. The postcolonial backdrop to the case studies can indeed draw parallels with Irish artistic practice. The level and extent of engagement and relationship-building between artists and the contemporary museum in Australia has been evidenced in this publication and serves as a valuable reference point for Irish Museums and artists. Johanne Mullan is National Programmer at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Publications

159


Board of Directors, Irish Museums Association Ltd, 2014 Brian Crowley IMA Chair William Blair IMA Director Dr Elizabeth Crooke IMA Director ken Langan IMA Treasurer and Secretary Paul Doyle IMA Director Anne Hodge IMA Vice-Chair Dr Hugh Maguire IMA Director Dr Emily Mark-Fitzgerald IMA Director Carla Marrian IMA Director Nigel Monaghan IMA Director Aoife Ruane IMA Director Rosemary Ryan IMA Director

160

Museum Ireland

Volume 24 2014