Digitising the Michael Davitt photographic collection at the Library of Trinity College Dublin: MS 9649.

MS 9649/17 Davitt wearing a Russian fur coat and hat, Moscow, 1905

Trinity College Library is home to the papers of Michael Davitt, 1846-1906. Davitt was a convicted Fenian, Irish nationalist, Irish Parliamentary Party MP, investigative journalist and agrarian campaigner, who is well known for being one of the founders of the Irish National Land League. This extensive collection was presented to TCD library from 1978 to 1980 by Davitt’s son, Cahir Davitt and includes over 6000 letters, 550 photographs, 40 diaries as well as newspaper cuttings, published pamphlets and articles.

The Davitt photographic collection provides a visual record of the latter half of Davitt’s career, when he toured across the prairies and mountains of Northwest Canada, the gold fields of Australia and the battlefields of South Africa during the Second Boer War. The photographs document Davitt’s investigations, as a social campaigner and journalist, into the migration of Scottish crofters to Northwest Canada following the Highland Clearances, the Murray River communal settlements in South Australia, the rush to settle Western Australia fuelled by the gold fields at Coolgardie and the aftermath of the Kishinev pogrom in the Russian Empire.

MS 9649/296 Scottish crofter family, the McKenzie’s wearing their ‘best’ in Manitoba, Canada, 1891
MS 9649/280 First Nation Canoe in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 1891

Davitt was an important figure to a generation of the Irish diaspora who migrated from Ireland to the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand after the devastation of the Great Famine. As a migrant himself, his family left Mayo for Haslingden in Lancashire, his commitment to improving the lives of agricultural tenants and labourers in rural Ireland through his work in the Land League cemented his reputation amongst Irish people living abroad. This is demonstrated in MS 9649/32, which depicts a large crowd of people gathered to welcome Davitt to Maryborough in Victoria.

These photographs are currently being catalogued and digitised. While the Davitt collection is one of the most heavily used historic collections in Trinity Library, this important and extensive collection of photographs within the Davitt papers is less well known due to limited cataloguing. The project aims to update the existing catalogue, the digitisation of the photographs and the publishing of the photographs on Trinity’s digital collections repository to increase accessibility to this significant collection.

The online catalogue has now been updated and can be viewed here.

Dáire Rooney

MS 9649/32 Reception Committee for Davitt during his lecture tour of Australia in Maryborough, Victoria, 1895

Changed Utterly: recording and reflecting on the Rising 1916 –2016

The Proclamation TCD Papyrus Case 16 no.1
The Proclamation TCD Papyrus Case 16 no.1

The Library of Trinity College Dublin has launched a Long Room exhibition to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising. Changed Utterly: recording and reflecting on the Rising 1916 –2016 will run from 1 March to the end of April.

The exhibition features exhibits of unique material from Trinity’s Manuscripts & Archives Research Library and Early Printed Books collections relating to the 1916 Easter Rising, including photographs, diaries, memorabilia as well as digital content. The display will trace methods of recording and reflecting on the Rising from the initial scramble to record the events as they happened in 1916; the commemorative activity of 1966 and through to the Library’s current project to capture and preserve the 1916 related websites produced in 2016.

Silver cup presented to Cadet R N Tweedy of the Dublin University Officer Training corps for service during 1916. TCD MUN/OBJ/25
Silver cup presented to Cadet R N Tweedy of the Dublin University Officer Training Corps for service during 1916. TCD MUN/OBJ/25

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • The Library’s copy of the Proclamation, said to have been torn from the walls of the GPO, along with the World War I recruitment posters found pasted to the back
  • Photograph of British Troops in the Front Square of Trinity College Dublin
  • The scrapbook of Elsie Mahaffy, daughter of Trinity Provost John Pentland Mahaffy, and occupant of the Provost’s house during the Rising
  • Silver cup presented to a member of the Dublin University Officer Training corps for service during 1916
  • The casing of a bullet which pierced the roof of the Library during Easter week 1916.

    The casing of a bullet which pierced the roof of the Library of Trinity College Dublin during Easter week 1916
    The casing of a bullet which pierced the roof of the Library of Trinity College Dublin during Easter week 1916

The items displayed all appear on the Library’s popular 1916 blog project Changed Utterly – Ireland and the Easter Rising.

The exhibition also showcases the work of the Library’s 1916 Web Archiving project which sees the Library working in collaboration with the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford and the British Library to archive websites from both the Irish and UK web domains as they reflect on the 1916 Easter Rising.

Photograph of Troops in Front Square TCD/MUN/MC/207
Photograph of Troops in the Front Square of Trinity College Dublin TCD/MUN/MC/207

The exhibition and web-archiving project are part of the Library’s contribution to the Trinity College Dublin Decade of Commemoration.


Book of Kells Conference

Kells banner image June 2015 croppedThe Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections (AMARC) is delighted to open the booking for the forthcoming conference to be held at Trinity College Dublin on 10-11 September 2015.


This conference will focus on the Book of Kells, the world’s most famous medieval manuscript, with presentations on recent research trends and techniques, and on the challenges faced in displaying great manuscript treasures.

Rachel Moss, ‘Celtic Tiger Tales: Recent Developments in Insular Art Research’
Bernard Meehan, ‘Researching the Book of Kells’
Denis Casey, ‘Cows, cumala and Kells: the medieval Irish economy and the production of a masterpiece’
Heather Pulliam, ‘Material Matters: The Role of Colour in the Book of Kells’
Susie Bioletti, ‘Pinning down the pigments and techniques on the Book of Kells’
Christina Duffy, ‘How to improve medieval manuscripts using colour space analysis and other techniques’
Michael Brennan, ‘Taking apart a page in the Book of Kells: the eight-circle cross’
John Gillis, ‘The Faddan More Psalter: conservation, research and display’
Sally McInnes, ‘New access to Welsh national treasures’
Claire Breay, ‘Celebrating an 800-year-old document: the case of Magna Carta’
Edward J. Cowan, ‘The Declaration of Arbroath and its display’
Peter Yeoman, ‘Prowling lions and slippery serpents: re-presenting Columba’s Iona to the world’

In addition to these speakers, announced previously, Tomm Moore has agreed to talk on the subject of ‘Bringing the Book of Kells to Hollywood’. Tomm is co-founder and creative director of Cartoon Saloon, Kilkenny. His feature film The Secret of Kells (Best Animated Feature Nominee: Academy Awards ®, 2010) has been followed by The Song of the Sea, again an Oscar nominee in 2014.

Sessions will run from 10:30-17:00 on Thursday 10th September and from 09:30-16:00 on Friday 11th September. On Thursday evening there will be a special after-hours visit to the National Museum of Ireland and a reception at TCD Library including a private visit to the Book of Kells. On Friday afternoon there will be a private visit to the Worth Library. The detailed programme will be published shortly.

The cost of the conference is £50 (€60) for members and students and £60 (€75) for non-members which includes Thursday lunch, teas and coffees, and the reception.

This is sure to be a popular conference and places are limited. To book, please complete the online form on the AMARC website.

Limited bursaries are available from AMARC for students who are – or would like to become – members, covering travel by the most reasonable means of transport. Bursary application forms are available from the treasurer via email (m.m.n.stansfield@durham.ac.uk).

If you have any questions about the conference, please contact: Dr Suzanne Paul (sp510@cam.ac.uk).

Bernard Meehan