News Volume 1 no. 1

Published in Issue 1 (Spring 1993), News, Volume 1

An Historical Zoo?
Two hundred and forty delegates attended the Irish Museums Association annual seminar in Tralee on
26 -27 February entitled Museums and tourism: heritage for all?’The big turn- out reflected the importance of the topic.

Matt McNulty of Bord Fáilte argued robustly for the need to respond to changing patterns in tourism and to capitalise on the potential earning-power of the tourist industry. Aidan Walsh of the Northern Ireland Museums Advisory Committee argued equally robustly that our heritage should not be seen as just another commodity to be sold to tourists. We risked placing ourselves in ‘an historical zoo’, forgetting that the primary role of museums or heritage centres is to cater for Irish people.
An insight into mass tourism in Britain – where, for example, the British Museum alone gets seven million visitors per year – was given by Sue Runyard of the British Museums and Galleries Commission. She explained that heritage was a top earner in the British economy where it was estimated that every visitor to a heritage attraction contributed £33 to the local economy. Museums had held their own in terms of visitors and income whereas new heritage centres and theme parks were losing money. She warned of the dangers of over-exploitation: the National Trust now refuses to publicise certain properties because too many people visit them; recently the Victoria and Albert Museum closed its doors because pressure of numbers was damaging the museum;  in Luxor in Egypt some tombs have now been closed because of damage by tourists.
The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Michael D. Higgins was guest of honour. He spoke of the necessity of valuing our heritage in its own right and not viewing it simply as a commodity. He painted a picture of a society rich in culture and heritage but still able to face the modern world. He also gave specific commitments regarding the funding of heritage-related matters and the governorship of the National Museum.
Despite the lack of agreement, a number of important issues were raised. There was universal recognition of the need for a comprehensive tourism policy in relation to heritage and culture. Markers were laid down; the minister voiced his support; we await to see if anything concrete emerges.

Wiles Conference
for History Teachers

This year’s Wiles Conference for
history teachers in Northern Ireland takes place at  Queen’s University Belfast between Wednesday 31 March and Friday 2 April and will focus on key stage 3 core 3 of the syllabus. The format will be the same as last year with leading speakers and workshops dealing with Nationalism and Unionism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Papers of
Sir William Petty

The British Library has recently acquired 45 boxes and volumes of the papers of Sir William Petty, held until now by his descendant Lord Shelburne. Historians and geographers will now have the chance to study in detail 103 large-scale maps from the ‘Down Survey’ of Ireland. This mapping project, co-ordinated by Petty from 1655-9, underpinned the Cromwellian plantation and recorded an administrative geography that remained unchanged until 1921. It was the first official survey of any part of either Britain or Ireland and the maps are described as ‘major state documents for the history of Anglo-Irish relations’. Other documents include treatises on topics as diverse as reform of the taxation system, preventing the abuse of oaths and building a fire-proof city.

The Emigrant

Galway Labour History Group’s publication The emigrant experience, has almost sold out; published in 1991, it is a compilation of the proceedings of the First Annual Mary Murray Weekend in 1990 on emigration. It includes articles by Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, Michael D.Higgins and Mary O’Malley. Subsequent Mary Murray weekends on Childhood and youth in Irish history (l991) and Women’s work 1850-1950 (1992) have been extremely well-attended by people from all walks of life, and have dealt with both local and national aspects of the overall theme.

and History

The theme of this year’s Irish Conference of Historians is Women and History and it will be held in Queen’s University Belfast in May. There will be several international participants such as Natalie Zemon Davis, Olwen Hufton, Mary Nash and Maxine Berg, and Irish historians like Margaret MacCurtain, Mary Cullen, and Mary Daly will also be taking part. The Irish Association for Research in Women’s History, which has been holding very successful and well-attended conferences over the past four years on various themes in women’s history, will not be holding a conference of its own this year, because of participation by most of its members in the above conference. Mary O’Dowd and Maria Luddy continue to edit the newsletter of the Association, which includes information, opinions and reviews, and is sent to all subscribing members.

Postal History

An article entitled Aspects of Galway Postal History by retired Galway postmaster Jimmy O’Connor won the silver medal at the Stampa An Post exhibition in Dublin last year; the article, which spans the years 1638-1984 is published in Vol. 44 of the journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society. Volume 45 is at present in press, and will contain articles on  Robert Lloyd Praeger in the west (Tim Collins), Merchant marks of Galway (Paul Walsh), Interdenominational relations in Connacht in the 18th century (John Solon), Music in St Nicholas Collegiate Church, (M.K.O Murchadha), Landlords in Mayo after the Famine (P.G. Lane), D’Arcy Thompson and Fenianism (Tadhg Foley) and many reviews.


A new history and archaeology journal called Gaillimh is due to appear in Galway in the next few months. Edited in part by archaeologist Jim Higgins, it will include items on a broad range of interest, aimed at a wide readership.

Conference on
‘Conquest and Union’

A conference on Conquest and Union: forging a multi-national British state 1485-1707 will be held in Galway on 17-19 September of this year. Steven Ellis, Toby Barnard, David Hayton, Sarah Barber and Jenny Wormald will be just some of those taking part, and those interested can contact Steve Ellis in UCG for details.

The Ryans & the Dwyers

Our cover is taken from a painting, The Ryans and Dwyers, calumniated men (1858), by Erskine Nicol (1825-1904). It is based on the story of a rude and rather severe Irish judge of the last century, named Robinson, who at the opening of an assize at Clonmel, directed the gaoler to ‘set the Ryans and the Dwyers at the bar’. An embarrassed Sherriff explained that there were none of those names in the dock. ‘If they are not there’, replied the angry judge, ‘they ought to be there’. The incident was reported in a local newspaper, a copy of which is being perused in the painting of Ryans and Dwyers, the calumniated men of the title, with emotions varing from outrage to complete contempt. It has been reproduced with the kind permission of Desmond FitzGerald and Christie’s, London.


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