History & Heritage Pillar
The history and heritage pillar was one of many pillars set up to represent Limerick’s rich cultural heritage specifically during its year as National City of Culture 2014.
Limerick’s local history groups and associations are and have been a very dynamic group of people and were pivital in the success and celebration of culture during 2014.
I was elected chairperson of the History & Heritage pillar in May 2013. My role was to co-ordinate a number of voluntary run historical societies in order to produce a calender of events for the city of culture. Many of these projects received funding from the ‘Made in Limerick’ initiative designed specifically for local projects during 2014 for the City of Culture.
Upwards of six separate history conferences were undertaken by a number of local history and academic groups throughout the year. It was a huge learning curve for all involved but it was also a very successful year showcasing our history and heritage. The projects undertaken were in the main by local volunteer groups and through collaboration retold and highlighted the story of Limericks history and heritage to new audiences locally, nationally and internationally.
Limerick City Museum and Archive hosted a number of very successful events throughout the year.
Two photographic exhibitions kick started the new year and proved to be very popular. Shannon Airport was the venue for their ‘From Limerick with Love‘ celebrating Limerick in the 1970s. The photographs belonged to the Limerick Leader our local newspaper, who were celebrating their 125th year anniversary. The second exhibiton was held at City Hall, Merchant’s Quay with ‘The Haselbeck Collection’ and the work of professional photographer Franz Haselbeck as he had recorded the development of the city from 1912.
In March, Christ Church Presbyterian / Methodist Church organised and hosted a very successful Genealogy day with over 500 people attending. This was a free event and people had a chance to chat with professional genealogists on how to trace their families. A mix of computer databases and an opportunity to search some of the rare school and parish registers were on display.
A second genealogy event took place in August 2014 at the Strand Hotel. This was organised by New Yorker Bridget Bray and the Limerick based Irish Ancestral Research group. Conference papers were given by historians, archivists and genealogists with lots of exhibits and stands to help people to connect across the miles.
Limerick City Museum and Archive introduced a mobile exhibition, highlighting the religious buildings in the city. Entitled ‘City of Churches’, the exhibition moved to a number of venues bringing history to the people in a unique way. A very original booklet was produced by the archive, written by Emma Gilleece and which showcased the work of a young local artist Jacob Stack.
One of the most successful community based projects was ‘Are You Dancing?’
The project focused on the dance hall movement in Limerick from 1940-1970. A number of community groups across the city were involved. They hosted public conversations and invited people to share their stories of the dance halls. The project also included dancing lessons in Milk Market, Southhill, Ballynanty and St. John’s Pavilion. Final phase of the project was an exhibition in the Stella Ballroom which ran for two weeks, ending with a major splash as they held an open air tea dance in John’s Square with large numbers turning up.
Limerick woman Ailish Drake, Architect and Landscape Designer won a gold medal at Bloom, a National Garden Show held in Dublin, with her design entitled the Limerick Culture Garden. Her inspiration was based on the theme of Medieval gardens linking it to the history and heritage of Limerick city. After the exhibition the garden was rebuilt at city hall and is a permanent gift to the city and its people.
One of the most successful community events of the year was the Georgian Pop Up Museum which ran for twelve weekends in June, July and August. Over 4000 visitors came to view the project.
The project was managed and designed by Dr. Ursula Callaghan (Historian) and Cait Ni Cheallachain (Conservation Architect). This project was completely run by volunteers and friends of the Limerick Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society. There were no artefacts as the house was the only artefact. The project ran on two floors of the house and highlighted the rich architectural and historical value of Limericks rich Georgian history.
September continued to bring new revelations to those interested in Limerick’s history. The Civic Trust ran an outreach project for the city called ‘That’s Limerick City’. The venue chosen was the Milk Market and it housed a temporary community museum highlighting the histories of Limericks five city parishes. People were encouraged to curate and share their histories in a most unusual way.
The Hunt Museum once the cities Custom House built in 1769 links the old medieval city with the newer Georgian city and was a fitting venue for a conference and exhibition entitled ‘My City My Home’. They produced a booklet that captures some aspects of the exhibition based on antique maps, prints, artwork and photographs of Limerick through the centuries.
Over a long weekend in September the Spanish Civil War was remembered with the Limericks International Brigades Memorial Trust who unveiled a monument at city hall. It was a weekend of walks, talks and music. They also launched a book ‘From the Shannon to the Ebro the Limerick men who went to fight Franco’.
October gave us the opportunity to link with our European counterparts with The Thomond Archaeological Society and the Walled Towns commission.
Their weekend conference entitled ‘The Art of War’ and its focus was on the three significant Sieges of Limerick in the 17th Century. As part of their conference they included a walking tour to the old sites along the old walls of the city. They also brought new thinking and discussion on Limerick’s pivital role in history to a whole new audience.
If history is a pathway to our future, it is important to tell history to a 21st century audience. I had the opportunity to work on another collaborative project. Mark Manning, Serena Hartigan of Bundlebee and Tara Hartigan developed a new mobile website for Limerick called So Limerick. They also developed a virtual historical walking tour of Limerick using a QR code. A further collaboration with Limerick Writers Centre whose Dominic Taylor and Dr. Matthew Potter added a Limerick to each historical site. The project was called Limericks Limerick!
Check out Twitter @limericksWalk and http://www.LimericksLimericks.com
Dr. Ursula Callaghan