(access at: catalogue.corkarchives)
Archive Catalogue Launch, A Story of Belonging
Cllr Kieran McCarthy †
29 May 2014
Lord Mayor, Director of Services, Brian McGee, ladies and gentleman. I wish to quote a line from an article in Culture Magazine in the Sunday Times from a number of years back. The article was about exploring an old battle landscape in England from the 14th century. Mr Gill, the author, eloquently noted the following of the intertwining memories on the landscape;
There is another history here. A story handed down that has grown fluent and smooth and rhetorical, that expands and shrinks with the needs of the moment. It is a story of belonging, the events that stitch us into this landscape, and in turn sew this landscape into a country. It is a tapestry of us…and there in those words and in that silence, is the thing that history does when you meet it halfway. It bends in on itself and folds the run of years to touch the present, not with a cold hand but with the warm breath of a moment ago (Gill, 2008, p. 35).
Using Mr Gill’s perspective what we launch this morning is about this city. This catalogue gives us access to our sense of belonging; these papers are part of the tapestry sewn into our identity and citizenry – ultimately who we are and do help us in where we need to be.
An online catalogue is ideal to improve public access to such a wealth of materials that our Archive possesses. However, this morning it is not about only improving the tools the public have in examining such archives but also another step in supporting, framing and enhancing our relationship with it. On any given day in the City and County archives, it is a busy place, full of people engaging with our past. We’ve also seen such energy in our library and museum. Over the last number of years, the study of genealogy and local history has grown in the city.
This city is not alone in the engagement with the past. Indeed, globally investigations of social and cultural memory have become a major field of inquiry throughout the humanities and social sciences. Every country, social, cultural or family group, has undergone a deep transformation in the connection it traditionally enjoyed with the past. Growing individual self-awareness and collective consciousness has influenced the creation of new links to the past and an associated growing respect for it.
An archive is one of those tools that works in the consideration of the past. It has huge value to nations and regions, organisations, communities and individuals. It can take you on an adventure into a very real past; the records we have are cherished by people like Brian and his staff but also by all of those who engage with them. Our archives is a site of ideas, each paper giving us piece of the puzzle on how everything from family life to nationhood has been played out in the city over many centuries. This online catalogue gives us a new tool that brings the archive further into the public realm seeking further public involvement with it – widening collections access to new and diverse communities and encourages an exploration of its warmth and depth.
There is a huge depth to this city’s development. It was a combination of native and outside influences, primarily people that shaped its changing townscape and society since its origins as a settlement. The city possesses a unique character derived from a combination of its plan, topography, built fabric and its location. Indeed, it is also a city that is unique among other cities, it is the only one which has experienced all phases of Irish urban development, from circa 600 A.D. to the present day. Hence we have a very diverse set of archive records, some of which are very complete and some which are very fractious.
Daniel Corkery in his book, The Threshold of Quiet, noted;
Leaving us the summer visitor says in good-humoured way that Cork is quite a busy place, considering how small it is. And he really thinks so, because whatever little we have of pastors, postmen, urchins, beggars; of squares, streets, lanes, markets; of wagons, motors, tramcars, ships; of spires, turrets, domes, towers; of bells, horns, meetings, cries; concert halls, theatres, shops – whatever little we have all these – as humdrum a collection of odds-and-ends as ever went by the name of city – are flung higgledy-piggedly together into a narrow, double-streamed, many-bridged river valley, jostled and jostling, so compacted that the mass throws up a froth and flurry that confuses the stray visitor, unless indeed he is set on getting at the true size and worth of things. For him this is Cork. But for us it is only ‘the flat of the city’.
Our archive is a busy place, it has a humdrum a collection of odds-and-ends, the mass of info does throw up a froth and flurry, the stray visitor is always confused – and that is perhaps one of the many reasons why this new online catalogue is important, it does let us the public see the extent of the jig saw pieces and the rich tapestry of ideas and perhaps we can step forward again in trying to continue to understand the identity and the DNA fabric of this southern capital. I would like to thanks Brian McGee and his staff for this trojan work; I think being off campus, the archive doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. Best of luck with this new venture.
† Cllr Kieran McCarthy, (heritage website www.corkheritage.ie); Kieran will have a number of events on for heritage week (2014); please see his website, www.kieranmccarthy.ie under community activities for more information.