A Night of Culture in Special Collections and Archives

by Audrey Kinch, Special Collections & Archives, Maynooth University Library

Ireland’s annual Culture Night / Oíche Chultúir takes place this year on Friday, 18th of September.  This hugely popular national public event has been running for 15 years and celebrates all things related to the arts, creativity and culture.  While in previous years most events took place physically in locations around the country, due to the pandemic this year more events will take place online and the programme is jam packed as always with lots of interesting and fun activities to check out.  The theme for Culture Night 2020 is ‘Connect Through Culture’ and with over 40 events taking place in Co. Kildare there is something for everyone including an audio-visual history of St. Mary’s Church in Maynooth, an online painting event at Castletown House and music online from Maynooth Gospel Choir to name but a few! 

Here in Special Collections and Archives at Maynooth University Library, on Culture Night beginning at 17:00 we will invite you to join us online for a number of talks entitled ‘Treasures of the Library – Manuscript, book and brick: the Library and its collections’.  This will be a unique opportunity to meet and hear from some of our expert team members as they talk about the beautiful Pugin-designed Russell Library building, the historic collections of early printed books, manuscripts, pamphlets and archives of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and Maynooth University and to also hear about some of the work that is involved in the management, care and preservation of our magnificent collections. 

Maynooth University Library began our association with Culture Night in 2012 when we partnered with Kildare Co. Council to participate in this hugely popular annual initiative.  Each year on Culture Night, we open the doors to the Russell Library inviting visitors to partake in tours of the reading room accompanied by staff members from Special Collections and Archives and to view our unique exhibitions on display.  The library reading room was designed by renowned British architect A.W.N. Pugin and opened in 1861.  It is named after Charles Russell, past-president and professor at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. 

In 2016, Culture Night guests had the opportunity to view an exhibition related to Maynooth 1916 volunteer, Domhnall ua Buachalla who had an impact on local life and national politics.  The following year for Culture Night 2017, our team placed books and maps on display, related to Co. Kildare which included a 6-inch ordnance survey map of Kildare printed in the 1830s. 

In 2018 in the lead up to the 100th Anniversary of Armistice and as part of Maynooth University’s Commemoration 2018 Programme, on Culture Night visitors to the Russell Library had the opportunity to view ‘The Country House and the Great War exhibition’, which was a collaborative effort between the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates (CSHIHE), the OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre (OMARC) and Maynooth University.  This exhibition offered a unique perspective of the Great War, focusing on the experience of Big House families and was based on material from more than ten country house archives.  On display was previously un-exhibited material from the archives of Ballindoolin House, Co. Kildare and Airfield Estate in Dundrum, Dublin.  You can read more about this and other associated exhibitions here: 


On Culture Night last year our guests viewed an exhibition which staff from Special Collections and Archives curated.  The exhibition was related to pastimes and how free time was spent by people who enjoyed a hobby or liked to tell a story, play an instrument or travel to another location.  The exhibition featured books, pamphlets, archives and maps related to pastime activities such as travel, art, craftmanship and pottery.  Our ‘18th to Early 20th Century Pastimes’ exhibition displayed these 18th and 19th century items from Special Collections and Archives from both the Russell Library and the John Paul II Library collections. 

Culture Night is a national annual event and an established part of our outreach activities each year which also include participation in National Heritage Week in August.  We endeavour to create a unique and enjoyable event experience for Culture Night and this year will be no different!   We look forward to opening the doors to the Russell Library again albeit online. Just click on the link below and register to join us on Friday 18th of September at 17:00 for another enjoyable Culture Night spent in with Special Collections and Archives at Maynooth University Library: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/four-thousand-years-of-collections-a-virtual-tour-of-the-russell-library-tickets-118613765967

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