The Knight of Glin Archive at OMARC, Castletown House
by Marie G. Cullen, Assistant Librarian, MU Library
In December 2014 the Office of Public Works (OPW)-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre at Castletown House received a donation of the archive of Desmond FitzGerald the 29th and last Knight of Glin. The archive contains personal papers, correspondence and photographs that reflect FitzGerald’s life’s work—fighting for the preservation of Ireland’s Great Houses.
It is appropriate that the archive is housed in the surroundings of Castletown House, a historic house which was saved by Desmond and Mariga Guinness as the focus of the archive relates to furniture of Irish and other origins in Irish historic houses. Guinness was the founder, patron and president of the Irish Georgian Society (IGS), and Fitzgerald served as President of the IGS from 1991 to 2011.
In his article Early Irish Trade-Cards and Other Eighteenth-Century Ephemera Fitzgerald describes the importance of what in most cases are ephemeral items.
The archive contains much that would be considered ephemera. Fitzgerald carefully and systematically collated and annotated details and examples of furniture of Irish and other origins. Photographs, auction catalogue and sales listings, articles from magazines, journals and other publications often accompanied by notes handwritten or typed.
Fitzgerald documented and noted trade labels, carvings such as coat of arms, lions’ feet and acanthus leaves. Through the information provided in catalogues, other often ephemeral sources, his own knowledge and connections, he provided more details regarding origin, provenance, and ownership of items.
The archive demonstrates the Knight’s knowledge, enthusiasm and the variety of connections and associations he could draw on for insights and knowledge, including members of the Irish Georgian Society.
While the information gathered in the archive on furniture and decorative arts is invaluable, the ephemeral nature of some of the sources, receipts etc. gives an insight into people’s spending habits in relations to food, fashion and furnishing their homes. The combination of one person’s lifelong interest and work, beautiful furniture, decorative arts and social history makes this an invaluable, fascinating and intriguing archive.
With sincere thanks to Nicola Kelly, Archivist, OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre for providing research sources and photographs.