Over 100 participants gathered lat October at the National Maritime Museum in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, to discuss the aims and challenges of preserving Ireland’s maritime heritage.
Topics discussed during the working groups and a plenary session chaired by Marcus Connaughton of RTE’s Seascapes ranged from the potential of Ireland’s maritime museums and the preservation of historic ships and traditional boats as well as shore-built maritime heritage, to maritime archives and genealogy sources, maritime tourism networks and joint marketing initiativesand partnerships.
L-R: Richard McCormick, Library NMMI; Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Peadar Ward, President NMI and An Cathaoirleach, Cllr Carrie Smyth
A key concern shared by the diverse groups and institutions was the fragmentation of the maritime heritage sector in Ireland, due in part to the geographic location of sites on the outer fringes of the Irish coastline, as well as the small scale of operations ― often driven by volunteers and operating on negligent budgets.
Participants were looking at ways of creating stronger links, such as the possibility of creating a common virtual platform for Irish Maritime Heritage. Another point of common concern was the need to make all things maritime more accessible to children and youths, such as ‘adoption schemes’ linking museums or heritage groups to primary schools; internet and gaming-related technology.
Addressing delegates at the formal dinner, Jim Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, noted that in the past Ireland had often turned its back on its maritime heritage and largely ignored its potential.
“This has started to change in the last few years and the current rising interest in heritage together with new available technologies have created a window of opportunity for positive developments in this field,” he said.
The Maritime Heritage Gathering was organised by the Maritime Institute of Ireland. This institution, which is based at the Mariners Church in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, was established in 1941 with the aim of promoting greater awareness of the Ireland’s maritime heritage of Ireland.
Its activities include operating the National Maritime Museum, conducting research, producing publications and organising regular events. After a lengthy renovation of the historic Mariners Church, the museum re-opened last year.
Work is now underway on the Institute’s library and archive database to provide rare information for professional and amateur researchers, also in the context of tracing the careers and fates of family members who had a connection to the sea.
The two-day Maritime Heritage Gathering, workshop and networking event was supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, The Gathering Ireland 2013 and Dun Laoghaire County Council.