NUI Galway is to become custodian of the extensive archives of Conradh na Gaeilge, Ireland’s oldest Irish language organisation which celebrates its 125th anniversary next year. Conradh na Gaeilge has agreed to permanently deposit archival material spanning over a century of its existence, providing an unparalleled insight into linguistic, cultural, social and political aspects of Ireland’s past.
At an event to formally announce the acquisition of the archive, Dr John Walsh, Senior Lecturer in Irish at NUI Galway, said: “This deposit marks a major expansion of the already extensive Irish language archival collections at NUI Galway and is highly significant for Irish language scholarship. The Conradh na Gaeilge archive allows researchers unprecedented access to primary sources about the development of Irish language policy over the past century. By studying Conradh na Gaeilge we can better understand contemporary European minority language movements which continue to have such resonance today.”
The Conradh na Gaeilge archive includes previously unseen material and correspondence related to Conradh na Gaeilge figures throughout the organisation’s history such as Douglas Hyde, Patrick Pearse and Thomas Ashe; including a letter from Brendan Behan about the upcoming production of The Quare Fellow in London. It also includes documents from Conradh na Gaeilge branches throughout Ireland, press cuttings and material related to various Irish language campaigns. \
President of NUI Galway, Dr Jim Browne, said: “This is a very significant milestone for both organisations. NUI Galway is honoured to work with Conradh na Gaeilge to become the custodian of this critically important archive, the significance of which extends well beyond the Irish language and encompasses social, cultural and historical dimensions of Ireland and our development as a nation. It is especially fitting that NUI Galway will host this archive, given our University’s strong commitment to the Irish language and our growing reputation as a centre for archival scholarship.”
President of Conradh na Gaeilge, Dr Niall Comer said: “Although historians, academics and scholars have been interested in the Conradh na Gaeilge archive for many years, it was only with the passing of time that the value of the archive was understood fully. The person who spends time looking through the archive material will recognise immediately that it contains a remarkable insight into a decisive period in the country’s history. Now, with NUI Galway’s plan to catalogue and digitise the material, this jewel will be available widely.”
The archive is to be housed in NUI Galway’s Special Collection Reading Room which boasts state of the art facilities for researchers. University Librarian, John Cox said: “We look forward to opening this archive for research and teaching once it has been catalogued. Our archives team will provide expert advice in its use and will connect users with the University’s extensive Irish language collections. These include manuscripts related to Douglas Hyde, the Bairéad collection of folklore sources, and papers related to leading Irish language figures of the twentieth century such as Pádraig Ó Mathúna, Proinsias Mac Aonghusa and Éamon de Buitléar.”
Under the agreement with Conradh na Gaeilge, NUI Galway will employ an archivist to catalogue the collection and to digitise part of it. In order to ensure maximum use, the University will promote the collection among students and researchers at home and abroad. An Interest Group of experts, internal and external to NUI Galway, will also be established to ensure the active development of the archive. As part of Conradh na Gaeilge’s 125th anniversary, an academic event will be held in the University in 2018 when part of the material has been catalogued.