During their visit they spent two days researching archival sources held at the Clare Local Studies Centre where they were assisted by Peter Beirne, while Clare Museum staff had the pleasure of giving them a talk about emigration during the famine years.
In subsequent correspondence Plymouth University Geography Lecturer, Dr Nichola Harmer, who supervised the students’ projects, said:
“We were very grateful to John Rattigan for giving us a really informative talk about the causes, impacts and historical legacies of the Great Famine and the relationship between the famine and emigration from County Clare. This really helped the students to gain a deeper insight into the events of the time and they found the talk both thought-provoking and moving.”
The museum was delighted to assist the Plymouth students and it is a good example of the direction the museum is headed as an educational resource. An Education Policy is being drafted at present as the museum pursues Full Accreditation under the Heritage Council’s Museums Standards Programme for Ireland.
The policy is not only intended to make the museum more relevant to the primary and secondary school curricula, but will also provide support to national and international universities and will develop the museum as a resource for life-long learning.
The visit also highlighted the paucity of artefacts related to the Great Famine in the museum, a phenomenon shared by many museum collections. This is not surprising when one considers that those most deeply affected by the famine were the poorest in society, with few material possessions. It is also undoubtedly influenced by the meaning we give to and the memories provoked by objects – we are not inclined to treasure objects associated with trauma and they are consequently less likely to survive over time.
Of course, if you do happen to have an object or document that dates to the period of the Great Famine in County Clare, and would like to donate it to the museum, you can find out what would be involved here.
Such items would be a wonderful addition to the museum’s collection and would assist the museum in its educational programmes for schools and institutions such as Plymouth University in the future.
Image above shows museum curator John Rattigan (centre) and the eight students from Plymouth University at Clare Museum.