Written by Louise Kennedy, National Archives of Ireland Archivist.
I’m not from Dublin, but Dublin has been home for nine years, on and off. Working with Dublin’s Culture Connects on Out of the Box has shown me that I’ve come to love Dublin and consider it a home. I’m not a Riversider, like Victoria but the vitality of the city, its stories and faces, keep me grounded and make me feel part of the dynamic community that is beautiful bubbling Dublin.
Like Victoria, for me, culture is part of who I am. Sometimes it’s so close to you, so woven into the fabric of your life, that you can’t see it. Sometimes, you only recognise its value when it has been lost.
Stories and how they are told have been important to me since I was a child. Ultimately that’s what led me to work in cultural heritage: whether for history or fiction, a family tree or a book, archives are the raw material and evidence for who we are, whether we like what we find in them or not.
As an archivist, I don’t always get to hear about the wider context to the research people do here in the National Archives of Ireland. I try to help people find records that might answer their questions but I don’t get to see what it means to them, where that research fits into their life and their understanding of themselves, their heritage, their place. One of the reasons I wanted to work in archives is because of the power of archival research to illuminate our understanding of ourselves, as individuals and as a society. Working with Mary, Victoria, Kathy, Muirne and Samantha, hearing their stories, and seeing their connection with their people and places change and grow has been fulfilling and motivating.
The archives we hold are open to everyone, and I believe that archivists can and should help people to overcome obstacles to accessing them. There is an invisible loss when people believe that using resources like the National Archives is not for them, that’s it something that ‘others’ do. Of course, archival research can be daunting and difficult, and you may not find what you are looking for, but you will have a story to tell. It may be a story of lost records, or of undocumented actions, or of previously unknown family connections, or a scheme that affected an entire community. The important thing is to seek, to reflect and to express. We are richer as individuals and as a community for that.