On Saturday 16th November the Linen Hall Library hosted a ‘Women in the Archives Showcase Event’ which brought together five groups across four separate programmes who, over the past few months, have been busy delving in to various aspects of women’s history with a view to making a positive contribution to the future.
The Showcase Event was an opportunity for each of the groups to display their project outputs, however it was also a chance for the groups to meet one-another and share their own positive experiences of the Women In The Archives programme.
The aims for these community engagement programmes were, in the first instance, to raise the profile of women’s history, to introduce more people to archives (and women’s stories within them), to produce tangible outputs that groups could be proud of, and also to meet new people while building relationships during the process. These aims were successfully achieved, but in reality much more has been accomplished which can often go unnoticed. This was most evident from the cross-border, cross-community programme between Ballybeen Women’s Centre and Cavan Women’s Network who, in an emotional section of the Showcase Event, revealed two beautiful artworks to one-another. These were unique artistic responses to the history and heritage of the other group, in this case it was East Belfast and Virginia, County Cavan. The unveiling of these pieces was punctuated by spontaneous applause from the audience before both groups went on to talk about renewed friendships, perceptions that had been challenged, and their hopes for the future on either side of the border.
Other work that was showcased on the day included wonderful creative writing responses from Greater Village Regeneration Trust. Titled ‘A Journey to the Workhouse’ and ‘Give Me My Name’, their work was inspired by female inmates of the workhouse system and also the anonymity of women in history. The Whitehead Suffragette Society attended the event in custom made period dress inspired by the suffrage movement of the early 20th century. They have been working towards an App-based suffragette walking trail of Whitehead which is due to be officially launched at the Victorian Street fair in Whitehead on Saturday 30th November 2019. Finally, Carrickfergus Historical Society (in partnership with Mid & East Antrim Museum and Carrickfergus Townscape Heritage Initiative) have been exploring female inmates of Carrickfergus Gaol. Their fascinating research was featured at the event in the form of a poster display and they will now work towards a future publication of their findings.
This event was initially billed as a ‘finale’, a positive ending to a series of successful programmes. However, it was evident that this Showcase Event evolved into something different than had first been imagined. For the groups in attendance it was clear that this was not the end of a process for them; rather it is the beginning of a new chapter. Each individual group spoke of a legacy that will live beyond the life of their project. The group exploring the Women In Carrickfergus Gaol, for example, will go on to do further exciting work on their chosen theme with a view to producing a publication; the women from Greater Village Regeneration Trust have already begun exploring new history programmes that they can get involved in; the Whitehead Suffragette Society will have a new App which they can continue to improve and promote as well as having developed a new working relationship with the Carrickfergus group.
Our thanks go to Niall, Paul and Jude (Nerve Centre) who have assisted at various points throughout the programmes. Also to our project partners at PRONI who have facilitated most of the groups at various points over the last few months, and to the Linen Hall Library also facilitated most of the groups and kindly opened their doors for the Showcase Event on a day when they would normally be closed to the public. Our main thanks, however, go to all of the participants who have engaged so enthusiastically with the programme, because without their ongoing commitment we would not have been in a position to showcase such wonderful outputs.
Women In The Archives is part of the Making The Future project, funded by Peace IV and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.