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The Church of Ireland

The Church of Ireland
News Briefing

For Saturday 11th August 2001

From: The RCB Library
Email: RCB Library

Outreach and Archives

The use of archival and manuscript material in Irish history is, happily, no longer a novelty. The 'new history', pioneered by Professor T.W. Moody and Professor R.D. Edwards, emphasised the importance of returning to original source material rather than relying on myths, assumptions and blind prejudices. The results, while not perhaps sudden or dramatic, have, nonetheless, significantly changed the face of Irish ecclesiastical history. A subject which was once more propaganda than truth, more confessional than catholic, more the preserve of the zealot in holy orders than the young enquiring mind has become a vibrant, open-minded field of enquiry which is attracting the attention of more and more researchers.

A consequence of this new interest has been to encourage the churches to pay more attention to their archives and, in particular, to make them more accessible. All the main Irish churches now have an archival dimension and increasingly they are supplementing this with lecture programmes, publications, exhibitions and media exposure.

However, one of the best form of outreach remains broadcasting, in any of its forms, but especially television. Church archivists have exhibited an increasing willingness to cooperate with programme makers, and directors and producers, in turn, have come to appreciate the curatorial concerns of archivists. It is no longer the struggle that it once was to prevent presenters from mauling archives, to convince technicians of the potential damage from exposure to high light levels, and even to secure from resentful programme makers the promise of a credit.

A recent example of successful cooperation took place earlier this week when Dr Susan Hood from the Representative Church Body Library brought a parish register to Tullynally Castle where United Productions of Bristol are making a historical documentary series for BBC television about the Duke of Wellington. Sir Arthur Wellesley, as he then was, was baptised in St Peter's Church, Aungier Street, and married in St George's Church, Temple Street. His bride was a member of the Pakenham family, who now live in Tullynally, and the register was used to tell the story of the marriage of the Iron Duke.

The use of ecclesiastical archives in such a context emphasises that church records are of value for much more than the history of religious institutions for the church, even today, lives in the real world.

Tomorrow (Sunday) the services in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, will be sung by the St Mary's Singers from Southwell, in Nottinghamshire, while in St Patrick's Cathedral the visiting choir will be the Southwark Singers from London. The Bishop of Tuam, Dr Richard Henderson, will visit Aasleigh while in Clonmacnoise the summer round of services continues at 4.00 pm. At St Doulagh's Church, Balgriffin, one of the few medieval parish churches still in use, there will be an Open Air Songs of Praise at 3.30 pm.

On Thursday the lunchtime recital in St Ann's Church, Dublin, will be given by David Leigh, Assistant Organist in St Patrick's Cathedral. In Co. Cork the final concert in the Annual Festival of Classical Music will be given in St Barrahane's Church, Castletownshend, by the Christ Church Baroque Chamber Ensemble.

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, has appointed a Public Relations Officer. Sheila Kulkarni, who has trained in arts administration, has been working in public relations and development in the Chester Beatty Library. Her functions will be to make the work of the cathedral known to a wider audience and to foster and develop links with the parishes and business corporations. She will begin work in Christ Church on 1 September.

Church of Ireland Notes appear in the Irish Times whose web site may be found at

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