Irish Museums Associations Annual Conference, Waterford, February 2014.


The blog has been a bit lacking in ‘proper’ blog posts lately. This is due to work and personal  commitments! However, I have been to the Irish Museums Associations (IMA) annual conference in Waterford on the 21st – 23rd February. So of course this visit to the conference warrants a blog post!

The IMA conference was held in the Medieval museum in Waterford and the conference’s theme was ‘Museums and Memories: Challenging Histories.’ Essentially, exploring the difficulty of displaying or discussing challenging histories in relation to anniversaries, tragedies, political events or even the ‘difficult’ history of museums themselves.  There were delegates and speakers from museums in both Northern and Southern Ireland as well as delegates from further afield. For a full list of speakers see the below link:

I was lucky enough to be chosen to speak at the conference. This was my first ‘proper’ museum conference to speak at- I was a little bit nervous! However, I had several friends with me who really calmed down my nerves. My paper was entitled, ‘How to tell the story of the Ulster Volunteer Nurses and the Cumann na mBan when such little original artefacts survive in the period 1910 to 1924.’  I was basically arguing that with such little original source material telling the story of these organisations could be ‘difficult.’ For the full version of my presentation see below:

(c) Rachel Sayers 2014.

‘Tyrone Ulster Volunteer Nurses. France, 1914 – 1918.’

‘Mollie Fitzpatrick, In her Cumann na mBan uniform, 1923.’

My paper and presentation was well received by the audience members. I was able to network with several delegates after my presentation and there is a possibility of being involved in some projects centred around telling the story of the U.V.F Nurses and the Cumann na mBan.  I  feel with further research my paper could eventually become an on-line database of information on Irish women between 1910 to 1925.

Now I’m going to talk about some of the papers and presentations that really appealed to me.

Caitlín Doherty, Exhibitions and Speaker Curator at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar.

Caitlín  spoke about the Qatari state led development of museums. The state has set up the ‘Qatar Museums Association’ and it’s aims to preserve the Qatarai past with the rapidly changing Qatari future. Caitlín’s talk also gave an insight into the large amounts of funding and new museums being built in Qatar. I was not the only one who could see themselves working in Qatar in the near future!

Oral History workshop, Dr Alice Feldman Lecturer, School of Sociology, University College Dublin

Dr. Alice Feldman, talked about collating oral histories through different projects either museum or community based. She talked about how to ‘pro long’ exhibitions by collecting oral histories about objects or people. Dr. Feldman also stressed the point to record people’s thoughts on exhibitions, essentially creating oral history for the future.  She also discussed the fact that you need to document everything, be sensitive of people’s memories and feelings and most of all don’t pressure people in sharing stories for oral histories!

Dr Lidija Nikočević , Director of the Ethnographic Museum of Istria, Croatia.

Dr. Lidija Nikocevic, paper centred on the dispersed ‘Istrian Italian’s of Istria.  Istria, being a much disputed territory in western Croatia. It has changed hands several times between Italy, Soviet Russia and most recently Croatia. Many Italians in Istria became dispersed after throughout the area’s turbulent history.

Dr. Nikocevic talked about how the Ethnographical Museum of Istria, for the 1st time, has told the story of the Istrian Italians story. The museum received no funding from the either the Istrian or Croatian authorities for this exhibition. She stressed the point that the lack of funding is as if the authorities refuse to accepted the plight of the displaced Italians. However, Dr. Nikocevic hopes that the exhibition will open inter cultural dialogue between Istrians and others for the first time in the states long history.

There were many other speakers presenting at the IMA conference but the above three really stood out for me. I particularly liked Dr. Feldman’s workshop and can use some of the suggestions she spoke about in my own practice. I was very envious of the budget and scope of projects that the Qatari museums seem to achieve. It has inspired me to possibly look into working for some part of my career in Qatar!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the IMA conference. The wide variety and experience of the speakers were truly inspiring. Presenting a paper at the conference has somewhat quelled my nerves of speaking in public and has inspired me to submit papers for future conferences. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the IMA for choosing me to speak and putting together a most excellent annual conference. I can’t wait to attend next year!


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