Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Secrets of the Archive

This is Heritage Week when people discover all sorts of things all over the place.

And increasingly they are discovering them at home as more and more records are digitised.

However, during this week the Heritage crowd are trying to tempt you out of your comfort zone and into the field, so to speak.

One such occasion was last evening's talk by Mary Clarke, the Dublin City Archivist, in my local library in Raheny.

Now, the title of this post is intended to be provocative. Mary actually went out of her way to stress that she had no secrets. The archive belongs to the people of Dublin and they are welcome to come in and share all of it.

Mary's task was to tell us just what she had in her archive in Pearse St. And that is just what she did in a most entertaining half-hour tour de force.

I am a frequenter of the Dublin City Library and Archive on the first floor of the Pearse St. public library. But after Mary's talk, I realised I hadn't even scratched the surface of the place.

Admittedly, I hadn't gone back as far as the medieval period in my local (Killiney) or family history research, so all that stuff was new to me. But it sounded like a fascinating treasure trove not to be ignored, even if the most exciting period in Killiney's history was not the medieval period itself, but what came before and after it.

And, as far as my family history is concerned, unless I meet some famous ancestral branch along the way, I'm not going to get within an ass's roar of that period.

However I can empathise with the terrified Dubliner, with his helmet and his bow and arrow, in the picture above. No, it has nothing to do with an impending appearance in Croke Park. It concerns the defence of Dublin City against the marauding O'Byrnes and O'Tooles from the Wicklow hills. This guy was supposed to keep the dispossessed Dubliners at bay as they tried to retake their native city from the foreign invader.

This was still the position when I started on my local history at around 1500 AD. The area around Killiney had earlier been given to the "old English" Goodman family on condition they kept the natives at bay. But during the seventeenth century they found they shared a common religion with the dispossessed and against that of the new post Reformation planters. So things got a bit muddled and the defenders in turn became the dispossessed and many of them lost their heads, so to speak.

Mary went on to cover a lot more, including modern photo, oral and written archives.

An education and a night's entertainment in what must have been the shortest and most thrill packed talk in my local library for yonks.

A fitting contribution to this year's Heritage Week.

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