Digital Memories – NUI Galway
Digitised dictionary resources about early generations of university staff and students are currently not available from any Irish university. Suggesting new ways of achieving and strengthening a university memory, this project aims to construct digitised biographies of the first generations of university students and staff in Galway. This will serve as a valuable database of the academic and service foundations of the University. Ultimately, the Digital Memories project aims to add value to the ability of the university to situate itself in the public domain as a place of agency and public interest. Names for inclusion will refer initially to Queen’s College, Galway (i.e. 1849 up to 1908) before proceeding to early University College, Galway (1909-c.1922), and will be selected on the basis of perceived public interest, availability of sources, and diversity. The first phase of the project will develop roughly 30 – 40 biographical entries, which will contain biographical details, references and images. The material will be available as a free University website resource, which is accessible to students, staff and the general public.
Digital Memories will be a knowledge resource about the social classes who studied and worked in the university during the first half century or so. It will generate information for new research and suggest starting points of enquiry. It will enable students and staff to draw upon biographies for teaching or in naming prizes, lecture theatres and promotional events. In addition, it will aid analysis of the interaction between Galway and, for instance, Belfast, Cambridge, or the Sorbonne, offering interesting insight into Galway’s status as a place of learning. The wider community will benefit from Digital Memories by being able to find information for family histories, educational projects and public research purposes.
Since the start of the project, the group has corresponded and met on a number of occasions and shared information received from the EXPLORE office. Each member is notably enthusiastic about participating, thus ensuring that discussion and ideas are readily forthcoming. Group members have defined a set of personal and professional skills and expectations as a further guide to aiding the success of the project.
Meetings: The group has had project meetings in November, 2012 and January, 2013. The meetings enabled the group to define objectives, devise plans, discuss roles and agree tasks. On 21 November, Mary Clancy (lead staff) gave a presentation about historical contexts, resources and doing biographical research. Michelle Moore (lead student) gave a presentation about technology and the process of digitising, drawing upon her previous research expertise in constructing websites. Áine Byrne and Erin Grant (students) contributed questions and suggestions, including questions about staff hierarchies and academic disciplines. The student members raised the possibility of producing additional side-products. Project meetings also are important because students will be away on placement during Semester 2 (Spring, 2013). The discussions, therefore, enabled the group to get to know one another in addition to generating plans for working at a distance.
Decisions: To devise a chronological framework, to draw up an initial list of biographies, to photograph university buildings, to locate existing university images and to consult digitised biographical dictionaries. The group aims to visit archives and sites locally and nationally. Group members will consult digitised secondary sources available through university library e-resources, notably the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society. The group aims to organise additional training workshops over the coming months.
Selected secondary sources: Diarmuid O’Cearbhaill, Galway: town and gown, 1484-1984 (c.1984); Tadhg Foley, editor, From Queen’s College to National University. Essays on the Academic History of QCG/UCG/NUI, Galway (1999); Thomas A Boylan, Tadhg Foley (editors), John Elliot Cairnes: collected works (2004); Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society; Women’s Studies Review (Galway). Selected primary sources: local, national and international newspapers; university archives; government reports; student magazines.
The group is continuing to research available digital sources (e.g. journals) and to extend the list of draft biographies and to photograph university sites. They have raised possibility of public event with CKI and possibility of International Women’s Day related event re Explore findings. Further reading is ongoing re methodology e.g. Visual Research Methods (Sage). The student members are also investigating the possibility of a project blog. The group aims to visit archives when the student placement period is finished and students return to Galway. We will shortly upload short segments of information and images of interest.
The Digital Memories group held a successful presentation on 8 March, International Women’s Day. It was an opportunity to draw attention to some of the students who were able to attend university after passage of legislative reforms in 1878 and 1879 opened up higher education to girls. Almost a decade later, in 1888, Bessie Anderson was the first woman to graduate from Queen’s College Galway. As was clear from audience contributions, there is strong interest in the story of Alice Perry (1885-1969), the first woman civil engineer in these islands who graduated from Galway in 1906 and later worked briefly as county surveyor. Analysis of census returns in 1901 and 1911 allows for a picture to emerge of the women whose work in domestic service enabled both students and staff of the university to pursue academic careers. The presentation also enabled Explore student participants to discuss their experience in researching student publications in the Special Collections department in the university archives. There was lively discussion in what was an informal, informative and enjoyable event, ably chaired by Dr. Pat Morgan, Vice-President for the Student Experience. The group was encouraged to see such interest in the idea, as also the interest expressed by those unable to attend on the day, and clearly benefited from the comments and response.
“Learning and Working: 19th and Early 20th Century University Women, Galway”
Presenters: Áine Byrne, Mary Clancy, Erin Grant and Michelle Moore
Global Women’s Studies Centre
Chair: Dr. Pat Morgan, Vice-President for the Student Experience, NUI, Galway
1.00pm, Friday 8 March
Venue: Alexander Anderson Boardroom, The Quad
Part of the Digital Memories project sponsored by Explore: Innovation through student and staff collaboration, NUI, Galway.
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