Explore Projects

    Words and their Meanings Exhibition

    Exploring the role of language in an increasingly visual culture, this project staged a visual exhibition at NUI Galway’s Academic Writing Centre in the James Hardiman Library about the changing meanings of commonly used words. Artists provided a visual commentary on these changes, drawing attention to the importance of words and to the fact that their meanings are historically and culturally conditioned. Words such as ‘excellence’, ‘catastrophe’, or ‘glamour’, to give a few examples, have a rich and surprising history which is recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary. The word ‘glamour’, now associated primarily with pop culture, used to mean enchantment. Tennyson defined glamour as a ‘species of witchcraft’. At its source, moreover, ‘glamour’ is a corrupt form of ‘grammar’.

    Project Updates

    March 2012

    The project has been advertised on the Academic Writing Centre webpage and on the Academic Writing Centre Facebook page. These sites do not only help promote the exhibition, but also increase student awareness of the subject of the exhibition – the changing meanings of words.
    Several artists among the staff and student population have already expressed interest in contributing to the exhibition. There have been two sessions/workshops for interested artists and members of the Art Soc. James Simmons gave a talk about the project; the talk included several examples of words that changed their meanings. Several artists contacted me and James via email and we are helping them find words that suit their ideas. Three artists submitted their portfolios.
    Meanwhile, the space for the exhibition has been determined and agreed with the library staff.
    No money has been spent at this stage.

    April 2012

    James and I have contacted more interested artists to take part in the exhibition.
    We also currently putting up fliers around NUIG to attract more artists.
    At the moment we have 9 artists. One of them has nearly completed her project; four of them are nearing completion.
    We would have liked to attract more artists at this stage. However, the Easter vacation and the exams slowed things down to a certain extent. We are planning to give another talk about our project in early May.

    June 2012

    'Words and their Meanings - A Visual Exhibition' took place in the Library Foyer from 1-21 June. Working with the Academic Writing Centre, NUI Galway artists represented in this exhibition, created a visual commentary on the meanings of various words. Each contributor to this exhibition selected a single word to explore. The primary source for the artists’ research was the Oxford English Dictionary as well as a word list created by the Academic Writing Centre. Etymological dictionaries were used for Irish words. Artists used a variety of media including painting in watercolours and oils, photography, collage, and digital image manipulation. Approaches to the theme of the exhibition are similarly varied. Accompanying each artwork is a description of the word in question and the conceptual development of the piece.

    Words and Their Meanings exhibition is a staff-student collaboration project. The leaders of the project, Dr Irina Ruppo Malone (AWC), James Simmons (AWC), and Helen McFarlane (Art Soc), acknowledge the generous funding of the EXPLORE Initiative (supported by the Students’ Union and the Firelighter Bright Ideas Initiative) and the support of the James Hardiman Library. The exhibition will return to the James Hardiman Library in September 2012. Artists wishing to take part in the second phase of the exhibition should contact the Academic Writing Centre Facebook page no later than 1 August 2012.

    Project Participants

    James Simmons
    Student Partner
    Helen McFarlane
    Student Partner
    Staff Partner

    Contact Us

    Students' Union,
    Áras na Mac Léinn,
    NUI Galway,
    Galway, Ireland.

    +353 (0)91 524810
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