Explore Your Archive 2019 Featured Archives

Dublin City Library and Archives

‘A Christmas Spectacle: The Story of Panto in Dublin’ Exhibition

Dublin City Archives’ latest exhibition is called ‘A Christmas Spectacle: The Story of Panto in Dublin’. This colourful exhibition traces the history of the pantomime tradition in our capital city, through the stories of its theatres and its entertainers. It takes audiences down memory lane with material relating to the Theatre Royal and the Queen’s Theatre, as well as from the collections of Jimmy O’Dea, Vernon Hayden, Cecil Sheridan and Noel Purcell. There will also be lots for the younger audience with features on more recent heroes, such as Twink, Jedward and Joe Conlan. 


The exhibition can be found in the Dublin Room of Pearse Street Library, 138-144 Pearse Street, and will run until the end of January 2020.



Admission free, open 10-8 Monday- Thursday, and 10- 5 Friday and Saturday.

Louth County Archives 

Joseph Dolan Papers

The Joseph Dolan Papers was donated to Louth County Archives in 2004. A mixed collection, it consists primarily of personal correspondence received by Joseph Dolan (1872 – 1930) dating largely from 1901 – 1933. The correspondence relates to the many activities that he was involved in.

Joseph Dolan was a businessman and a scholar of ancient classics and Celtic studies. Upon his father’s death in 1902, he took over the running of the family grocery and hardware business in Ardee. He held a keen interest in antiquities, his local community, industry and enterprise, as well as local and national politics, serving for a time on the Ardee Town Commissioners and Louth County Council. He was known to have been a philanthropist helping many charitable causes and local enterprises in addition to being a member of many local societies and organizations.  

Dolan was the first president of the County Louth Archaeological Society in 1904-05 and later was editor from 1915-30. He was also an Irish language enthusiast and long supported the teaching of Irish in schools. He assisted Patrick Pearse in establishing St Enda’s school. Dolan was a supporter of the Gaelic League where he took an active part in local branches and he was friendly with Douglas Hyde, the President of the Gaelic League.


Part of a letter from Douglas Hyde to Joseph Dolan (1915)                                   Letter from Michael Collins to Joseph Dolan (1920)

Joseph Dolan was a prolific writer who contributed articles on various topics to newspapers and he often wrote to public figures in national politics conveying his point of view regarding Irish nationalism and independence. The collection contains reply letters from several of these figures.

The catalogue to the collection is available here
ESB Archives 

‘Kitchen Power - Women’s Experiences of Rural Electrification’

An exhibition “Kitchen Power’ examining the effect of rural electrification on women in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s was launched by former President of Ireland Mary Robinson at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, in Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co Mayo on Friday 19th July.


The first phase of Electricity Supply Board’s (ESB) rural electrification programme began in 1946 and ran until 1965 with a post-development phase running into the 1970s. Although many rural women worked in offices and shops, as well as on the farm, the marriage bar and prevailing cultural attitudes meant that many women’s experiences of rural electrification were at home, where the kitchen was the focus of domestic work. The free exhibition, now open until July 2020, features extensive material from ESB Archives, including photographs, advertising, public relations pamphlets, films and household artefacts. Curated by Dr. Sorcha O’Brien of Kingston University, Senior Lecturer in Design History and Noel Campbell of National Museum of Ireland, it also includes 60 fascinating oral histories from women who worked in the home through rural electrification and ESB demonstrators. 

The exhibition explores how domestic electrical products were advertised and promoted as part of a modern lifestyle – moving from the traditional hearth to the fitted kitchen without challenging established gender roles.                


Along with artefacts and the oral history recordings – many from members of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association – ‘Kitchen Power’ also includes an ‘Electric Irish Homes textile art project’ commissioned by Age & Opportunity as part of the Bealtaine Festival, who engaged Sligo artist Anna Spearman to work with local women in Mayo to respond creatively to the Exhibition.

It also features a reconstruction of a 1950s ESB/ICA model kitchen which was constructed in the Museum galleries by Phillip Carey, a final year BSc (Hons) Furniture Design and Manufacture student at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Letterfrack campus. 

Speaking at the launch, Director of the National Museum of Ireland, Lynn Scarff said; “We are delighted to have partnered with Kingston University, the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the ESB in the development of this Exhibition, and we’re grateful to everyone who has contributed to it. A special thank you must go to the women who shared their stories, the exhibition is all the richer for their fascinating first-hand accounts of how electrification impacted on their lives.” ESB’s Deputy Chief Executive, Jerry O’Sullivan said; “This exhibition provides a fascinating insight not only into the transformative effect of rural electrification on the lives of women, but also the pioneering role that women played in driving the early adoption of electricity – from the ESB-employed demonstrators whose job it was to educate people on the use of new electrical appliances to women in partnership with organisations such as the Irish Country Women’s Association (ICA), the IFA and Muintir na Tíre, who saw the potential of electricity and championed it within their communities. As we look to a future where clean electricity will play a vital role in addressing climate change, we need to harness the same creativity and leadership within communities to demonstrate the benefits of electric transport and heating, and in doing so create a brighter future for all.”

For more content on rural electrification and other collections in ESB Archives, visit us online


Tipperary Studies

Captain William D.A. Kemmis film collection

The Kemmis collection is a small collection of film reels ranging from the mid to late 1930’s. The reels, stored in an old suitcase came from Moyaliffe House, which was home to the Armstrong family from the seventeenth century to its sale in 1999. Winona (Jess) Armstrong inherited Moyaliffe following the death of her only brother, William in France in 1917. Jess married Captain William Kemmis of Ballinacor, Co. Wexford in 1927..

The suitcase was given to a local family some years ago and brought in to Tipperary Studies in 2018.  While the films could not be viewed locally, a brief index on some of the boxes suggested the contents might be of social and cultural interest.

The 16mm film was converted to digital format by the DVD Centre, Dublin and with the kind permission of family descendants relevant material was placed online in our digital archive.

The archive is accessible here and contains some footage of farming in Tipperary, horseracing and the coronation.


RTÉ Archives

Between the years 1952 and 1953, the English artist Nevill Johnson, supported by a small Arts Council grant
and using a second hand Leica camera, shot a series of photographs depicting the people and places of the
'real' Dublin of that time. As an outsider looking in, he captured a valuable social record of the city before it
changed irrevocably.
A child walks around the iron railings surrounding St George's Church of Ireland on George's Place, Dublin city, 1952 or 1953.

Published in 1981 by Academy Press Nevill Johnson’s book ‘Dublin : The People’s City’, a collection of these
photographs, won an award at the Leipzig International Book Art Fair.
RTÉ purchased the full collection of over 1,500 negatives from Nevill Johnson in 1979. Since then RTÉ Archives
has digitised the collection on two occasions, firstly in the mid 1990s, and again in the mid 2000s. The images
were originally scanned as 18 MB JPEG files using the once cutting edge, but now defunct Photo-CD
Children on Allingham Street in The Coombe area of Dublin city, 1952 or 1953.

RTÉ Archives is currently rescanning the Johnson Collection with the assistance of Grants Advanced PhotoLab
and Digital Bureau. This time the resulting scans are 300MB TIFF files. Whereas previous digitisation attempts
saw the collection reproduced with a certain gloom and dullness, great care is being taken to select an
appropriate tonal range for each frame.
The Brook Dairy at 41 North Cumberland Street in Dublin city, 1952 or 1953.

To date approximately one third of the collection has been rescanned and the results show a collection
completely enlivened by the digitisation process. This is most apparent in the faces of the Dubliners captured
on film over 60 years ago.
Women shoppers examine shoes for sale at Anglesea Market in Dublin city, 1952 or 1953.

The Johnson Collection can be viewed online as JPEG images, and we expect the entire rescanned collection to
be fully available by the end of 2019.
all images  (c) RTÉ Archives in all uses, including social media.



Loreto Archives

“To be Taught Everything Necessary” 
Discover 19th Century Childhood through Loreto Boarding Schools

To be taught everything necessary …..’; these were the instructions of the parents of Ellen Hart, 28 Watling Street, Dublin, when she enrolled as a boarding pupil in Loreto convent Navan in 1838.  

What curriculum included ‘everything necessary’? What was Ellen’s experience of boarding school in 1838? Explore the world of 19th century childhood through a unique collection of boarding school records and memorabilia, held in IBVM (Loreto), Institute & Irish Province Archives. Discover a world of childhood illnesses and remedies exemplified in the letter of M. Frances Teresa Ball IBVM to Mrs Irwin, Rathmile House, Tulsk, Co. Roscommon, on New Year’s Eve 1829, describing her daughter Margaret’s recovery from scarlet fever. Look out for the prescription for wine!

Letter from M. Frances Teresa Ball IBVM to Mrs Irwin, Rathmile House, Tulsk, Co. Roscommon, 1829*

Explore school dress codes in an age before school uniforms, captured in the Loreto Kilkenny class photograph of 1897; lace collars and cuffs proudly on display vie with prominent ‘Children of Mary’ medals for those in senior classes with unblemished records!

Loreto Kilkenny, class of 1897*

Uncover the transition from standard classrooms to laboratories and kitchens as students began to study science and home economics, conduct experiments, study catering and dressmaking skills.

Domestic Economy Class & Science Room, Loreto Convent Gorey, late 1800’s*

Rediscover 19th entertainments through hand painted lantern slides with moving parts, providing entertainment in a world before radio, television or Wi Fi.

Magic Lantern Slide with mechanical lever, Loreto Fermoy, undated*

View the world through the eyes of a young woman captured in her diary, jottings and autograph books such as this from Loreto Wexford.

Loreto Convent Wexford, student Autograph Book, 1930’s*

Discover our archival collections at IBVM (Loreto) Archives, 55 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2 or our online catalogues through the Irish Archives Resource (search for ‘Loreto’ on the www.iar.ie website).

*All images IBVM (Loreto) Institute & Irish Province Archives


Explore Your Archive 2018 Featured Archives


ESB Archives

ESB Archives launch Film Archive

To celebrate Explore Your Archive, ESB Archives have launched previously unseen short films and documentaries commissioned by ESB’s Public Relations Department from the 1920s to the 1980s. ESB Archives film archive offers unique insights into the social, cultural and economic development of Ireland throughout this period.

2018 marked the 90th anniversary of the establishment of ESB’s Public Relations Department. Headed by Ned Lawlor, ESB Public Relations Officer 1928 – 1947, the purpose of the department, described in ESB’s 1928 Annual Report was: ‘to keep the public as fully informed as possible to the Board’s activities’. ESB first dipped its toes in the world of film when they entered an agreement in April 1928 with the First National Pathé Film Company to film Ireland’s first hydroelectric station on the River Shannon at Ardnacrusha, Co. Clare. The film was shown in cinemas, schools and colleges nationwide for educational purposes.

From the 1950s – 1980s many of ESB’s films were produced by the freelance filmmaker George Fleischmann (1912 - 1995). Throughout this period, Fleischmann made c. fifteen films for ESB ranging from films about new power stations to documentaries on rural electrification and ESB’s consultancy abroad, known today as ESB International. The first of the documentaries produced in 1955 by Fleischmann, ‘Power for Progress’, narrated by the broadcaster Eamonn Andrews details ESB’s remarkable contribution to Irish society from its foundation in 1927 to 1955. In addition to footage of ESB’s various hydro, peat and coal stations the documentary provides footage of  domestic scenes from the 1950s, the benefits of the  all-electric house. Social insights are explored through footage of industrial and commercial activity throughout Ireland. Views of the original Georgian landscape on Fitzwilliam Street provide architectural insights before the re-development of ESB’s Head Office in the 1960s.

On a futuristic theme, the short  film ‘Power for Tomorrow’ produced in 1968, explores the countless benefits that electricity has brought to everyday life in Ireland opening with scenes from the air traffic control centre at Dublin Airport. The documentary ‘More Power to the Farmer’ produced in 1957, eleven years into the Rural Electrification Scheme featured the Irish actor John Cowley who later starred in the television series, The Riordans. The documentary details the impactful story of rural electrification throughout this transformative time in Irish history, described as the greatest social revolution in Ireland since the land reforms of the 1880s. The 1961 short film ‘Modern Living Country Style’  filmed at the RDS on the occasion of the Horse Show features the journalist and first female Lord Mayor of Limerick City, Francis Condell demonstrating the most modern country home equipped with new electric appliances transforming the lives of Irish housewives through practical and innovative design. ESB employees were a regular feature in many of the documentaries, in particular the 1972 documentary on Turlough Hill, Co. Wicklow, ‘Peak Power’, dedicated entirely to the workers. It features interviews with the employees who contributed to the largest pumped storage civil engineering project of its time.

For those looking for more detailed technical aspects of engineering projects, the 1977 documentary ‘Poolbeg, Story of a Generation Station’ details the mammoth construction of a generation station and the logistics required. Filmed over a year period the documentary captures significant milestones throughout the project. Footage extends beyond Irish shores, with the 1982 film, ‘Partners in Power’ showcasing ESB’s consultancy overseas, known today as ESB International, documenting electrification projects in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Looking towards the future was a common theme throughout the documentaries and the 1984 film ‘Tomorrow’s House Today’ was no exception. A research project based on the construction of six houses in Kilcock, Co. Kildare, the film depicts the planning and construction of the houses, each fitted with various electrical and insulation systems. The results were monitored and analysed by ESB to ensure that the most efficient building and insulation techniques will be used in the future.

To view the on-line film archive please visit www.esbarchives.ie/film

Deirdre McParland, Senior Archivist, ESB Archives.


Tipperary Studies, Tipperary County Council



Co. Tipperary Poor Law records

In 1838 the Irish Poor Law Act was passed, introducing a new system of state welfare in the country. Over 100 Poor Law Unions were set up.  Each Union had a Workhouse, financed by the payment of rates – taxes on property – on landholders in the Union. The vast bulk of the Poor Law Union (PLU) sources are comprised of Minute and Rate Books. Minute Books contain the records of each weekly meeting of the Board of Guardians – the board entrusted with the administration of the Workhouse – and take account of the finances of the Union, procurement of provisions, hiring of staff, management of inmates and any other issues that may arise as regards the week-to-week running of the Workhouse. Rate Books took account of the occupiers of property and the nature of the property they occupied, and can be very useful genealogical sources.

Tipperary Studies holds records for the following Poor Law Unions Borrisokane, Cashel, Clogheen, Clonmel, Nenagh, Roscrea, Thurles and Tipperary. (please note that Registers for the Workhouses only survive, in part, in Borrisokane, Cashel, Roscrea and Thurles Unions, and Rate Books for Nenagh, Thurles and Cashel Unions);

As part of our digitisation project we have published some of the Registers online. Available to view or download at http://tipperarystudies.ie/digitisation-project/


National Library of Ireland; Seamus Heaney, Listen Now Again Exhibition

In 2011, Seamus Heaney and his family donated his writer’s archive to the National Library of Ireland, joining what he called a “human chain” of other writers whose papers are at the NLI. Catalogued by archivist Frances Clarke, the collection has been extensively consulted by researchers.  Now it has been opened up to an even wider audience, with a selection of the original manuscripts, letters, unpublished works, diary entries, and photographs at the heart of Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again, the National Library of Ireland’s major new exhibition at the Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre on Westmoreland Street.

The free exhibition offers an intimate encounter with Seamus Heaney’s journey, from his childhood in Bellaghy, Co Derry, through to his global renown as a universally admired poet. Exhibition designers Ralph Appelbaum Associates worked with the National Library to display the collection to best advantage, using an elemental colour palette and specially designed individual mounts for each item on view. The manuscripts selected by exhibition curator Geraldine Higgins, Director of Irish Studies at Emory University, show the poet in conversation with himself; revisions and queries scrawled across drafts of his work, appearing on anything from notebooks to the backs of envelopes and loose pieces of paper. More than 100,000 visitors have already visited the exhibition, and been moved and inspired by the story of a writer at work revealed by this fascinating archive.


IBVM (Loreto) Archives

Inspiring women –Sr Rita Garcia IBVM        

‘....women in time to come will do much...’

These are the words written by Mary Ward, founder of the IBVM religious order in the 17th century, more commonly known as Loreto. Her prophetic words are as relevant today as they were 400 years ago. Her words have challenged and inspired generations of Loreto women to respond to the social and humanitarian needs of their time. Sr Rita Garica IBVM was one such respondent. A native of Spain, she joined the Loreto mission in South Africa in 1918 and in 1929, with two other Loreto Sisters arrived at the remote Catholic Mission of Glen Cowie (South Africa) determined to meet the needs of the local communities. Living in the isolated mission and ill equipped for their work, the Sisters travelled on foot visiting homes and villages, providing pastoral and health care.

Recognising the urgent need for health care, Sr Rita embarked on an informal medical career, travelling on her rudimentary cart pulled by two donkeys aptly named ‘Peter’ and ‘Paul’ to visit and later to transport the sick, especially children, to the missionary clinic in Glen Cowie. Sr Rita garnered a reputation for her medical ability, particularly in dentistry, and queues of patients soon formed for her attention! In 1935, she was formally appointed to oversee the management of a new eight bed clinic, and in 1942 was appointed first matron of a new 60 bed hospital; which was renamed St Rita’s Hospital in her honour. During her years as matron she oversaw the establishment and development of a nurse training unit and the progression of the clinic from a rudimentary four roomed clinic to a large, modern hospital. By the early 1960s services offered by the hospital had expanded to include general hospital care, maternity services, paediatric services, surgical theatres and a TB isolation unit. In 1977 the hospital was handed over to the government of Lebowa, fulfilling Mary Ward’s aim of empowering and enabling women, and the wider missionary aim of building independent and sustainable local communities. St Rita’s hospital continues today as a government hospital and a training facility for medical professionals.

Sr Rita died in 1964, and her funeral was attended by ‘over one thousand people’. Guards of honour were formed by the ‘nurses and other staff members of St. Rita’s Hospital, Jane Furze Hospital and the pupils of Guardian Angels’ College, reflecting the deep bonds she had built with the local community. Over 35 years of inspiring ministry in Glen Cowie, Sr Rita Garcia IBVM embodied Mary Ward’s prophetic words that ‘women in time to come will do much’.

Explore the IBVM (Loreto) ministry in South Africa and the inspiring ministries of women who devoted their lives to the prophetic vision of Mary Ward, that ‘women in time to come will do much’, at IBVM (Loreto) Archives, 55 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2; https://loreto.ie/history/loreto-archives/, or our online catalogues through the Irish Archives Resource (search for ‘Loreto’ on www.iar.ie website).