the linenhall library

highres-side-door.jpgI spent most of the afternoon today (Thursday) perusing the stacks at in the Northern Ireland Political Collection at Belfast’s Linen Hall Library.  I hope to go as often as possible during the rest of my stay—both to take advantage of the wealth of information for background to my thesis and just to take in as much as possible.  I got a letter from Tom to get direct access to the archives, and apparently the letter is good for years.

As you might have guessed, the Northern Ireland Political Collection is similar to the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan.  This library, however, seeks to collect all printed material related to the recent northern Irish political conflict (rather than a whole movement, or leftist movements as at Labadie).  The collection is unique, as no other institution in a localized conflict zone has systematically collected material
from all sides of that conflict.

The library boasts of a complete press cuttings service that spans the entire period of the so-called “Troubles;” governmental, political party and paramilitary documents; ephemera (ephemer-wha?!) such as stickers, posters, leaflets, and Christmas cards; periodicals and on and on.  It’s pretty amazing, especially if you are like me and love to learn about Irish politics.

In the corner of the room there is a shadowbox that contains an odd collection of artifacts (does something have to be old to be called this?), like a baby’s bib that says “Proud to be a Baby Prod” with the Red Hand of Ulster flag on it, and a jar of William of Orange Marmalade.  Apparently back in the early days (late 60s?) Sinn Féin organized their own Christmas postal service, for which they issued new stamps each year.

Yoni would be quite pleased with the photo essay currently on display in the halls of the Library… Homeland Lost is created by London-based “reportage photographer” (hmmm) Alan Gignoux and depicts a number of individual Palestinian exiles and their families alongside contemporary images of the homes or cities that they left in 1948:  “The project speaks of the heartbreaking difficulty of facing up to the impossibility of restoring a past that has ceased to exist and raises the question of imagining an alternative future.”  The images are beautiful to look at, anyway, and it feels really great to be in a place where most people are aware and supportive of the Palestinian struggle…

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