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  • Emigration-related heritage centers

    Friday, July 24th, 2009

    There are several heritage centres around Ireland with an emigration-related theme. Here are a few:

    Jeannie Johnston

    On-board museum highlighting the ship’s 16 voyages to America, in which the ship never lost any of its 2,500 passengers. Purchased as a cargo ship in 1848 by a Tralee merchant, it was used to transport emigrants over the next seven years.

    Cobh Heritage Centre, Cork

    Museum tells the story of the port of Cobh, the single most important point of embarkation and the 2.5 million people who departed there between 1848 and 1950.

    Ulster-American Folk Park, Tyrone

    Open-air, living-history museum telling the story of emigration from Ulster to America in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    Dunbrody Emigrant Ship, Wexford:

    Replica of three-masted barque built in Quebec that carried emigrants to New World from 1845 to 1870.

    For more information on emigration-related cultural institutions around the world, see UNESCO’s Migration Institution’s website.

    Photographer explores Irish-American loss, landscape

    Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

    An Irish-American artist’s exploration of her family’s emigrant heritage is on display at the Indiana State Museum’s “Making it in the Midwest” exhibition. Cynthia Dell’s project, called “Migrations”, features transparencies of old family photographs juxtaposed against a backdrop of the landscape of her ancestral home.

    Several of the photos are available on her website. The artist says on the site, “In this work I am seeking to find beauty out of the loss that is the history of so many Irish Americans.” The images are haunting, as the ghostly figures of the photographs contrast with the bright, solid backgrounds.

    O’Dell expands on her work in an article from Depauw University Press:

    “I am trying to recreate my own family album in an impossible scenario, and as a result I am creating a new story,” O’Dell says. “Growing up, I was told that I was Irish. In Migrations, I was interested in posing the question, ‘How do I make sense of that identity?’ By symbolically taking my ancestors back to their native country, I attempted to complete the circle of their migration pattern – to convey loss while also exploring the redemptive and beautiful qualities of the Irish landscape in the midst of pain.”

    The group exhibition is on display from June 20 to October 18.

    Related websites:

    Exhibition on Irish men’s experience in Britain to tour Spain and US

    Monday, March 9th, 2009

    An art exhibition exploring the experience of male Irish immigrants to Britain in the 20th Century is premiering at PM Gallery in West London this month before it goes on an international tour.

    The Quiet Men is the work of five artists drawing on their own lives to depict the London-Irish experience: Bernard Canavan, Daniel Carmody, John Duffin, Dermot Holland and Brian Whelan.

    From the gallery’s press release:

    Each featured artist is an immigrant, or child of immigrants, from Ireland. This immigrant status informs the work, which observes the margins of society and is full of stories, humour and tragedy. The church and pub appear, as do the launderette, bus and train. The theme of the journey is often present in the songs, toasts, poems and prayers of the immigrant and the artists do not stray far from the vehicles that brought them to the city and might take them away again.

    Exhibition curator and featured artist Brian Whelan says,

    ‘Irish music, literature, poetry and dance are celebrated all over the world. However, when asked to bring to mind Irish paintings, sculpture or architecture or to name an artist, many will have difficulty as very few have been celebrated outside Ireland. One reason for this may be that a people that experienced famine, war, economic hardship and mass immigration, carried only their portable culture with them in their heads, hearts and suitcases. Poems and songs have few requirements short of a good memory or the ability to carry a tune, whereas painting, sculpture and architecture are less portable and need peace, prosperity and time in order to flourish.’

    The exhibition will run from 11 March to 18 April at the PM Gallery, before it goes to Spain, Philadelphia and Chicago.

    Complementing the exhibition is a photographic exhibition, “Irish Londoners 1950-1975”, which chronicles the lives of the London Irish after the Second World War. The photographs are from the Paddy Fahey Collection at Bernt Archive.
    See more information at the PM Gallery’s website.