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Inspection of penstock at Ardnacrusha, 8 May 1929 - Courtesy ESB Archives.

appeal for Ardnacrusha Power Station memorabilia


THE Hunt Museum in Limerick is co-ordinating a public appeal for people in South-East Clare to share their stories, artefacts and memorabilia concerning the construction of the world-renowned Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme.

The Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme was one the first major developments by the Irish Free State in the 1920s.

It played a pivotal role in the development of Ireland in the 20th century and paved the way for the social, economic, and industrial development of Ireland.

The building of the Ardnacrusha Power Station is vividly represented in the Seán Keating painting, Night’s Candles are Burnt Out, which is on display in The Hunt Museum.

During the construction of the plant, approximately 4,000 Irish and 1,000 German men lived and worked on-site at Ardnacrusha.

Today, almost 100 years on a new group want to collect and share their stories. Working with the ESB Archives, Europeana, EuropeanExpo2020, the Hunt Museum Docents and Friends, the group hope to collect and share stories, artefacts and memorabilia relating to the Shannon Scheme.

Jill Cousins, Director of the Hunt Museum said the museum are asking anyone with connections to the Shannon Scheme at Ardnacrusha and their descendants to dig out the memorabilia they have of the experience and tell us the accompanying stories.

“They, or their relatives, may have been involved in the building of the dam, or involved in the set-up, or worked in the power station. We are also interested in anyone involved in the rural-electrification scheme telling us how the advent of electricity changed the modes of work,” she explained.

Objects include photos, diaries, letters, drawings, tools used, the hat worn, reminiscences of the first time a person had electricity in their house or school, commemorations of workers involved in the whole Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme.

The objects collected become part of ‘Europe At Work’ – a collection of stories and digital objects about working in Europe made available to all on the Europeana website.

Normally these collection days take place in cultural institutions where stories are recorded and associated materials are photographed but with the current need for social distancing and staying at home, people will now be able to share their material online or work with a volunteer using Facetime, WhatsApp, Hangouts, Skype or by telephone to record their stories.

There is huge community benefit in relieving the current social isolation through virtual contact and in occupying a little bit of spare time in finding the memorabilia.

The group will start calling people who have contacted one of its members from Thursday, May 8 and are hoping to host a physical collection day and lunchtime lecture on the Shannon Scheme with Deirdre McParland, Senior Archivist, ESB Archives, on Saturday, September 26.

Europeana is Europe’s platform for digital cultural heritage, empowering cultural heritage institutions to share their collections with the world. Through the Europeana collections website, millions of cultural heritage items from around 4,000 institutions across Europe are available online.

Europeana DSI is co-financed by the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility.

ESB Archives located on St Margaret’s Road in Finglas, Dublin preserves and makes accessible over 90 years of historical records documenting ESB’s unique contribution to the social, cultural and economic development of the Irish state.

Their new purpose built archive is the first building of its kind in Ireland to adhere to the newest international standards for conservation of cultural heritage, BS EN 16893.

The low passive sustainable design ensures that the archive repository is maintained at the correct temperatures and relative humidity throughout the year to ensure the permanent preservation of all record formats.

Dan Danaher

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