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The Photo Album of Ireland Project

Our photo albums give an insight into our private and public histories. Photographs from family albums or private collections often reveal details about how people lived and worked that official records don’t always capture. As generations pass our knowledge about this valuable social history is often lost. The Photo Album of Ireland Project is a virtual archive project inviting people to digitally share photographs from their private photo collections or family albums, contributing to a new emerging archive.

The projects aims to build a democratic archival resource which reflects the ordinary and extraordinary histories of a broad cross section of people. This new archive will give a new insight into our history by focussing on the viewpoint of private as opposed to state or institutional perspective. In this decade of centenaries we want to uncover and share new visual resources. The project will cover the period from the the invention of photography in 1839 up until the advent of digital photography in the late 1980s early 1990s.

For the current phase of the project – The Photo Album of Ulster – we are working in partnership with Heritage organisations to research specific histories across the nine counties of Ulster. Funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund, this cross-border, cross community phase of the project is researching and exploring specific themes of conflict and marginalisation.

Invited participants contribute to this digital archive by bringing their photographs to one of our scanning workshops where a high spec digital copy is made and retained. Their original photograph is returned.

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A Photo Album of Ireland scanning workshop with the members of St Michael’s Parish Women’s Group, Inchicore, Dublin 8, 2014

A Democratic Archive

The projects aims to build a democratic archival resource which reflects the ordinary and extraordinary histories of a broad cross section of people. This new archive will give a new insight into our history by focussing on the viewpoint of private as opposed to state or institutional perspective.

As well as gathering fascinating personal photographs we are interested in looking at the role photography plays in our lives. We want to find out where photographs are kept, who acts as custodian or keeper of the photographs, what knowledge is retained about the photographs, who took the photograph and why, what are the earliest family photographs..

In this decade of centenaries we want to uncover and share new visual resources. The project will cover the period from the the invention of photography in 1839 up until the advent of digital photography in the late 1980s early 1990s.

What are type of photographs are we looking to collect? 

We are looking to gather photographs from peoples’ personal private family albums or photographic collections held in private hands. We are interested in photographs with a connection to Ireland – photographs of people who lived in Ireland, people who left Ireland or relatives of people who are now living in Ireland. Of particular interest are photographs that show how past generations lived: their clothes, living and working conditions, social activities and more public historical events.

Background

The project commenced in May 2013 with a series of open call scanning workshops organised as part of the Bealtaine festival. This first round of scanning workshops invited members of the public to come to regional scanning workshops held at Gallery of Photography, Dublin and in our partner organisations: The Hunt Museum, Limerick; and Monaghan Heritage Office, with thanks to Monaghan Arts Office and in Donegal County Museum in collaboration with Donegal Heritage Services.

For the first phase of the Photo Album of Ireland project we invited 40 members of the public to contribute their family photographs, laying down a democratic base to actively include and cherish ‘ordinary’ quieter histories. The archive has, to date, scanned over 4,000 photographs spanning the history of analogue photography, from the earliest photographs taken in the 1850’s to the advent of digital photography in the early 1990’s. It includes an extensive range of images – from informal snapshots, studio portraits and ‘official’ photographs through to substantial family archives, many seen here for the first time.

Building our Digital Archive

One-to-one archive scanning sessions have taken place with people from Antrim, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Down, Galway, KIldare, Louth, Limerick, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Sligo,Tyrone, Westmeath, Wexford, and Wicklow.