Student Exhibition, MA in Medieval History
Introduction: MA in Medieval History, HI6091 Module and Special Collections at University College Cork
Special Collections is delighted to welcome the School of History students engaging with our collections through a series of online exhibitions. UCC Library’s Special Collections holds Munster Printing, a collection of books, journals, pamphlets and ephemera printed in or about Munster from 1641 to the present. The subject matter of the collection varies and includes:
- historical works: Good and bad newes from Ireland (1641),
- literary works: Grasville Abbey: A romance in two volumes by George Moore (1798),
- limited printing runs: Critical and miscellaneous essays by [James Roche] (1850-1851), see also Matters French exhibition,
- items about travel: The traveller’s guide to America (1818),
- items about sports: Signals of The Royal Cork Yacht Club (1859),
- religious items: Franciscan Cork: A Souvenir of St. Francis Church Cork (1953),
- ephemeral items: [Handbill offering reward for apprehension of burglars who had stolen money from a house in Cork] ,
- works in Irish: A new edition of Timothy O’Sullivan’s, commonly called Taidhag Gaodhlach’s Pious miscellany (1821),
- items that overlap with other collections: Pietas Corcagiensis: or, A view of the Green-coat Hospital and other charitable foundations in the parish of St. Mary Shandon, Corke (1721),
- Special Collections also holds the Library of the Green Coat School,
- items with particular provenance interest including Canon Patrick Power (1862-1951), Professor of Archaeology at UCC (1915-1934) and Robert Day (1836-1914), antiquarian, photographer and president of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society (1894-1914).
- However few works by, about or previously owned by women are present. Exceptions include: The life and adventures of Lady Lucy by Penelope Aubin (1808), Poetical recollections by Elizabeth Owen (1826) and Account of the celebrated Madame Girardelli, Proserpine Queen of the Flames (1821).
This online exhibition, which uses Franciscan Cork: A Souvenir of St. Francis Church Cork as a starting point, is presented as a series of blog posts and celebrates the ongoing collaboration between UCC’s Special Collections and the School of History’s MA in Medieval History. History students, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, who visit Special Collections receive specialised support and access to stimulating rare publications and materials of historical value. These students develop key skills including communication, teamwork and archival intelligence: the practical skills to locate and use special collections material, and artefactual skills: the ability to identify and analyse primary sources. Acquisition of this skill set leads them to a deeper understanding of the artefact far beyond that acquired from modern text reprints.
Using Special Collections
Special Collections represent research facilities that provide specialised support and access to stimulating resources. In 2019/2020 second and third year UCC History undergraduate students were introduced to Special Collections through an online unit ‘Introduction to Special Collections & Archives,’ accessible via UCC Library Learning Resources page on Canvas, the University’s Virtual Learning Environment. This online unit is prompted by the 2018 ACRL RBMS SAA Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy:
“Primary source literacy intersects with other ‘literacies,’ including information literacy, visual literacy, and digital literacy, and concepts like collective memory, cultural heritage, and individual/cultural perspectives. To create order in this complex landscape, these Primary Source Literacy Guidelines identify core ideas for successful work with primary sources. These core ideas include analytical, ethical, theoretical and practical concepts.”
In the absence of classes using the Special Collections & Archives’ reading rooms students continued to have the opportunity to work with publications and materials of historical value via Canvas. The Special Collections & Archives team selected a range of primary sources: legal documents, letters, manuscripts, maps, newspapers and prints, and suggested the students use a semi-structured worksheet to explore these sources. We used a flipped classroom approach to answer any questions following students’ exploration of these primary sources.
The initial encounter, be it in person or online, of undergraduates with Special Collections continues through their postgraduate studies. In the last four years the MA in Medieval History students as part of the HI6091 Skills for Medieval Historians module have created online exhibitions inspired by maps, rare books and facsimiles housed by Special Collections. These exhibitions include: Mapping Cork, The Luttrell Psalter, The Book of Kells and Viking Cork.
This online exhibition explores themes of cultural continuity with a particular focus on a single church of St Francis in Cork. Curated by the current MA in Medieval History students this exhibition looks at the medieval and modern friary of Cork’s Franciscan friars as the students explore the role of ecclesiastical architecture and its impact on medieval and modern audiences as well as the significance of stained glass and mosaics in expressing institutional identities and ideals. The church of St Francis is a significant architectural and artistic landmark in Cork’s city centre with its mosaic designs echoing early Christian apse mosaics and its stained-glass windows created by the Harry Clarke Studios.
Using Franciscan Cork: A Souvenir of St. Francis Church Cork Munster Printing item, this project is yet another outcome of collaboration between the librarians, academics and students. It represents a collaboration that continues to stimulate all involved and through the online output reaches beyond the walls of UCC. More importantly, the project has been completed during the COVID-19 crisis and its completion is a great testimony to the value of teamwork and collegiality, and the commitment of the MA students to produce high quality research during challenging times.
Morgan Hole completed his undergraduate studies in English and History at University College Dublin, in 2020. He focused his undergraduate work on the medieval period in both subjects, especially in the final year of his degree. His MA in Medieval History dissertation focuses on the external influences on the Battle of Clontarf, and the changing Irish polity through the eleventh century.
Martha Ewence completed her undergraduate studies in History and English in 2016 at University College Cork. She was awarded the Jennifer O’ Reilly Prize in Medieval History for her dissertation exploring the expression of the vow of poverty by the Friars Minor in Ireland. Her research interests include Irish and European medieval monasticism, medieval art and iconography and the study of religious women and female saints. She will undertake her MA thesis in September and will focus on religious and lay women in late medieval Ireland.
The project has been overseen by Elaine Harrington and Dr Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton.
Elaine Harrington is UCC Library’s Special Collections Assistant Librarian. Elaine raises the profile of UCC Library’s Special Collections with local, national and international engagement through classes, social media, exhibitions, events, outreach and broadcasting. She collaborates with 30 academics in UCC and CIT to develop innovative research-led undergraduate and postgraduate modules based on primary sources held in UCC Library’s Special Collections. In 2020 Elaine created with Emer Twomey and Emma Horgan, UCC Library Archivists, an ‘Introduction to Special Collections & Archives,’ accessible via UCC Library Learning Resources page on Canvas.
Dr Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton is Senior Lecturer at UCC’s School of History. She has published on Irish illuminated manuscripts, manuscripts in Polish libraries, and most recently, on the Irish mendicant orders. She is interested in the intersections between History and other disciplines, History and the arts, and History and students’ skills and employability. Her professional experience includes work on the Franciscan Faith: Sacred Art in Ireland 1600-1750 exhibition as well as the Medieval Ireland exhibition, both on permanent display at the National Museum of Ireland. She collaborates on the Monastic Ireland Project that provides a platform for academic studies on monasticism, combined with heritage and education outputs. She has contributed to programmes on RTÉ’s Lyric FM titled ‘Friars Walk’ (December 2016), ‘Jerusalem Passion’ (April 2017, finalist at the New York Festivals: World’s Best Radio Programs, June 2018) and ‘Christmas Postcards’ (December 2017). She is a co-editor of Monastic Europe: Community, Landscape and Settlement (Brepols, 2019).
We wish to acknowledge the generosity of Trinity College Dublin’s Digital Collections, the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, the National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute, UCD and UCD-OFM Partnership for allowing us to use their images of St Francis Church from Harry Clarke Stained Glass collections, two images from Michael Holland’s 1917 article on ‘The Monastery of St Francis at Cork’, Sassetta’s The Wolf of Gubbio, Hieronymous Wierix’s St Elizabeth of Hungary and the photographs of the William Ferris Chalice respectively.
- Dr Kevin Murray, from the Department of Early & Medieval Irish, UCC,
- Prof. Lee Jenkins, from the School of English, UCC,
- Dr Anne-Julie Lafaye, from the Irish Research Council,
- Dr Joseph MacMahon, Brother Stephen O’Kane and Father Pat Younge, members of the Franciscan Province of Ireland,
for addressing our queries in relation to different parts of the blog. The students of the MA in Medieval History programme wish to convey their gratitude to Dr Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton, coordinator of the HI6091 Skills for Medieval Historians module, and Elaine Harrington, Special Collections Librarian, for their support throughout the editing process of this blog.
Elaine Harrington & Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton
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