My role as Historian-in-Residence at EPIC is varied and allows me to work on many exciting projects: researching fascinating past lives, communicating their stories to the wider public, and collaborating with passionate historians, scientists, and creative professionals.
February was very busy indeed, as I completed research for the exhibition, ‘Across the Waves: The Seafaring Irish’. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work in curating an exhibition – the initial longlisting demands a lot of research, as I build on my existing knowledge to build a rounded portfolio of stories. The shortlisting process can be brutal and even heartbreaking – every exhibition has its limits, and sadly, we can’t tell every story, no matter how much we may want to! Then there’s the in-depth research on each character, and chasing up images. It’s easy to forget, when we take photography so much for granted, that even many people living in the twentieth-century rarely had their picture taken – and that those pictures may not have survived. Perhaps we should all be thinking about the fact that the thousands of digital photographs we all own today may not be readable in just a few years!
An image of an emigrant family, featured in the exhibition: Bigger & McDonald Collection, Derry Central Library. Courtesy of Libraries NI.
To accompany the exhibition, the team at EPIC helped to create a short video highlighting the experiences of Irish Naval Service personnel on Operation Pontus in 2015–17, a Mediterranean search-and-rescue mission that saved almost 18,000 lives. It was humbling to meet people who have done such crucial work – real heroes. It was also fascinating to get a tour of Haulbowline naval base in Cork, and getting to board a working naval vessel. Watch the video below.
Also this month, EPIC hosted the Bad Bridget Project to kick of Women’s History Month (March). Dr Leanne McCormick and Dr Elaine Farrell came to the museum to share their findings – the sometimes sad, sometimes funny but always thought-provoking stories of Irish criminal and deviant women in North America in the nineteenth century.
For the next big plans – you will have to watch this space!