Milestone for Irish museums: Irish Museums Survey 2016 launched

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Launch of the Irish Museums Survey 2016 / LAMN 1916 Exhibition. From left: Liam Bradley (Curator, Monaghan County Museum); John Rattigan (Chair, Local Authority Museum Network); Minister Heather Humphreys; Brian Crowley (Chair, Irish Museums Association); Dr Sandra Collins (Director, National Library of Ireland); Dr Emily Mark-FitzGerald (UCD School of Art History & Cultural Policy). Photo by Gary O’Neill.

It’s out! Yesterday more than 100 museum professionals gathered at an event in the National Library of Ireland for the launch of the Irish Museums Survey 2016 by Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

This survey is indeed a milestone: it’s the first comprehensive study of the Irish museum sector in a decade. Funded by the Irish Research Council’s ‘Engaging Civic Society’ scheme, it’s the product of a collaboration between the Irish Museums Association and UCD School of Art History and Cultural Policy.

I was the Principal Investigator and author of the report (along with the research team Gina O’Kelly, Dr Colleen Thomas, and Fernando Sanchez), and I’m delighted it’s now available as an online publication.

The results are alternately fascinating, encouraging, and worrying. Here are a few highlights:

  • There are approximately 230 museums in Ireland (north and south); 118 participated in the survey (ranging from independent/community museums to national cultural institutions)
  • 6.1 million visitors were welcomed by Irish museums in 2014: on average museums reported 35% international and 61% domestic visitors.
  • The positive effects of the Museum Standards Programme of Ireland (run by the Heritage Council) over the past decade in enhancing museum practice nationwide were widely observed
  • Provision of educational services has increased from 31% in 2005 to 60% of museums in 2016
  • Digital engagement has risen sharply: museums reported growing levels of collection digitisation, and high levels of engagement on the web and on social media: 98% of museums have a website; 78% are on Facebook; and 40% are on Twitter

… however …

  • 46% of museums have experienced budget decline from 2005-15; this contrasts sharply with 2005 data (when only 7.4% reported a decrease).
  • Museums have experienced drastic reductions to the labour force and increasing reliance on volunteers, interns and community employment schemes: 41% indicated they are ‘very dependent’ on voluntary/unpaid labour, and 17% of museums have no paid employees at all. The majority of museums (77%) are staffed by fewer than 10 paid employees.
  • Comments from participants extensively detailed problems with infrastructure and basic facilities, affecting museums across the country. Cutbacks on every aspect of museum provision (education, programming, conservation, security, etc.) indicate the broad and deep impact of budget reductions and hiring freezes.

The report is chock-full of information and analysis, covering all aspects of museum activity. We hope this report will help inform future programming and planning for museums at national and regional levels. This is especially critical for institutions (large and small) which reported serious problems with infrastructure and facilities in a severe state of disrepair.

Our primary recommendations? In a nutshell:

  1. Establish a research unit to enhance quality and regularity of data collection, based at the Irish Museums Association, the Heritage Council, or the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
  2. Improve museums’ data collection practices by developing training opportunities for Irish museums, to better support advocacy efforts.
  3. Prioritise, in future policies and programmes, the primary resource needs as identified by museums: (1) capacity (staff, volunteers, time); (2) funding and fundraising support; (3) buildings and storage.
  4. Enhance support of community and independent museums, including a review of supports and the development of a national strategy concerning the needs of small museums.
  5. Offer additional training and resourcing in the areas of digitisation and the development of digital and online strategies.
  6. More detailed research is needed on museum outreach and education, to be further correlated with policy developments such as the Arts in Education Charter.
  7. Low rates of improvement in disabled access since 2005 should be addressed by museums as a priority.

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(version for web viewing)

(version for printing)

Back in the swing of things! New Irish arts jobs etc.

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It’s the first day of orientation here at UCD — the autumn semester is upon us! I’ve just updated all of the arts jobs listings, and will post a fall preview (looking ahead to events in the coming weeks) on the blog very soon 🙂

A special welcome to all of our undergraduates in art history, and postgraduates in art history and cultural policy this year!

On now: The Museum of August Destiny

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Dragana Jurisic, Jessie, 2016

I’m very pleased to share details of an exhibition I’ve curated and just opened at Lismore Castle Arts, at St Carthage Hall, in Lismore Co. Waterford

The Museum of August Destiny (17 July – 4 September) features six artists born or working in Ireland and explores the resonance of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, a century after it was written. The participating artists are Aideen Barry, Mark Clare, Amanda Coogan, Anthony Haughey, Dragana Jurisic and Sarah Pierce.

The exhibition proposes an alternative means of making 1916 again manifest, by creating a ‘capsule’ museum responding to the final line of the 1916 Proclamation:

In this supreme hour the Irish nation must by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worth of the august destiny to which it is called.

The Museum of August Destiny has commissioned each artist to respond to one of six ‘visions’ of Irish destiny set out in the Proclamation: (1) sovereignty and ‘unfettered control of Irish destinies’; (2) religious and civil liberty; (3) equal rights and opportunities for citizens; (4) the pursuit of happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts; (5) cherishing the children of the nation; and (6) oblivion of the differences ‘which have divided a minority from the majority in the past’.

Housed within museum cases on loan from the Pearse Museum at St. Enda’s, Rathfarnham, the six artworks present individual meditations (utilizing sounds/objects/images) on the realization or retreat from our ‘august destiny’. A seventh case will host rotating contributions from the residents of Lismore and its surrounds: making visible a range of political, personal, conceptual, utopian, critical, and condemnatory responses.

The essay accompanying the exhibition can be downloaded here.

Lismore Castle Arts
General opening: Monday – Sunday, 10.30 – 5.30
St Carthage Hall opening hours: Friday – Sunday, 1-6 pm
Running: 17 July-4 September
Admission to St Carthage Hall is free

Next Week: Visual & Material Culture of Famine Conference

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Just a wee note about a conference I’m co-organising next week (14-16 March), hosted by Maynooth University and organised/funded as part of the NWO-funded International Network of Irish Famine Studies (of which I’m a core member).

Registration is free! If you’ve an interest in Famine studies, visual/material culture, or historical memory, please feel free to register and come along.

We’ve a fantastic programme that includes seven panels of top-notch papers, five keynote speakers (including me, speaking on Evidencing Eviction: the Visibility of Irish Poverty, 1870-90 on Weds.), and a range of special events, including:

  • A reading by acclaimed Irish author and Aósdana member Evelyn Conlon, whose most recent novel, Not the Same Sky (2013) draws on the social and material history of the Earl Grey-assisted emigration scheme, reimagining the story of three young women from amongst 4,000 Irish girls sent to Australia between 1848-50.
  • A presentation by Moonfish Theatre Company, whose stage adaptation of Joseph O’Connor’s Famine novel Star of the Sea has been on a sell-out national tour.
  • A talk by screenwriter and playwright Hugh Travers, Maynooth University’s Screenwriter-in-Residence who has been commissioned to write a sitcom on the Famine for Channel 4.
  • A special tour by curator Donal Maguire of the National Gallery of Ireland’s forthcoming exhibition The Pathos of Distance, a collaboration with artist Sarah Pierce exploring the visual history of Irish emigration.

All details (including travel, accommodation, and full schedule) are on the conference website.

New Research Centre: UCD & NCAD Centre for Creative Arts & Critical Cultures

UCD Artist in Residence Dominic Thorpe, working with students from the Visual Arts Society (Drawsoc), Spring 2015

UCD Artist in Residence Dominic Thorpe, working with students from UCD’s Visual Arts Society (Drawsoc), Spring 2015

As many of you know I’ve been working for the past year as part of the NCAD + UCD Strategic Alliance project. I’m delighted to share today that we’ve received the green light from UCD to officially establish the UCD & NCAD Centre for Creative Arts & Critical Cultures, of which I will be Co-Director (along with Prof. Jessica Hemmings, Visual Culture, NCAD).

This is the first research centre at UCD to be formally co-hosted with another higher education institution. Its aim is to promote, initiate and coordinate cross-institutional academic activity in the domain of creative arts and critical cultures, across NCAD and UCD’s schools, colleges and disciplines. Here are a few more details of our ambitions:

The Centre for Creative Arts & Critical Cultures supports a cross-institutional, creative academic community whose work bears an affinity of interest in the arts, culture and critical studies — amplifying the impact and reach of this work across both institutions, and beyond to wider society. It will achieve these aims by developing new teaching and research initiatives, promoting and supporting the activities of its affiliated members, and facilitating collaborations between the two institutions.

Our population includes undergraduate and postgraduate students, postdoctoral scholars, academic faculty and staff, and associated artists, critics/writers, designers, architects, and cultural producers. From music to theatre, visual arts to literature, to architecture and design — researchers at NCAD and UCD are nationally and internationally recognized as experts and innovators in the creative arts. However, the Centre’s mission is not constrained to any single discipline, or limited to the arts and humanities. What connects our community is a spirit of intellectual openness and the belief that imaginative thinking and approaches can transform scientific, social scientific, and humanistic enquiry.

By creating this community of scholars we seek to explore alternatives to traditional disciplinary canons; collectively propose new theoretical frameworks; and inspire in each other new forms of artistic and intellectual practice. The Centre will promote cross-disciplinarity and the scholarly ambitions of the community at its core, by:

  • Hosting symposia, conferences, exhibitions and joint events
  • Supporting joint publications and creative dissemination of research
  • Encouraging and sharing information about funding and training opportunities (national, international, European), with the aim of developing joint applications
  • Developing opportunities for staff exchange, mentorship and career development (postgraduate and staff)
  • Developing ‘research clusters’ that will bring together groups of researchers working across both institutions on related themes
  • Promoting the co-supervision of PhDs and funding applications to support them
  • Informing the development of UCD and NCAD’s strategic research objectives
  • Promoting the vision of an interlinked creative campus which welcomes and supports cultural activity, and innovative, cross-disciplinary thinking

The Centre will be discussed further at the NCAD Academic Council meeting on 17 June. We’re looking forward developing a full programme and formal launch event for the autumn semester (lots more details to come) — and announcing the outcome of our recent €30,000 seed funding call — but for now, I’m really excited about this new challenge ahead, and the possibilities it will create for students and staff!

More details are also available here: http://ncad-ucd.ie/project-strands/creative-arts-critical-cultures/