Category Archives: DIgital History

Different Lenses


Collaboration, openness and sharing are key operating principles of Digital Humanities.  “Collaboration is widely considered to be both synonymous with and essential to Digital Humanities (DH).” Julianne Nyhan and Oliver Duke Williams   Such a spirit of collaboration and openness guides my work in developing the Cork LGBT Archive.  I am lucky to have access to a rich source of materials in the Arthur Leahy Collection and other smaller collections of documents, posters, newsletters and other items relating to the rich history of the Cork LGBT community.  See my earlier post on the archive here.  The Cork LGBT Digital Archive aims to preserve these materials and to make them accessible and available through sharing them on


Alisha and Josef

This commitment to collaboration led me to engage recently with the Exhibitionist Society – a group of third year photography students from the Dublin Institute of Technology.  “The Exhibitionist’s Society in Dublin Institute of Technology was established in 2016 with the central aim of creating an environment where students who have an interest in the Arts can work collaboratively with others, both inside and outside the college environment. This will allow students to build networks and connections while working creatively, utilising space and establishing their working practices.”


Alisha and Josef

One of the members of the Exhibition Society, Alisha Doody, was aware of my work in developing the Cork LGBT Archive and contacted me to ask if I would collaborate with them on a group project.  Alisha and Joesf Kovac visited the archive on 29 February to explore the materials, and Josef returned a few weeks later to photograph some items for their exhibition.

It was really exciting for me to see how these talented photographers engaged with the materials in a

Josef Kovoc

Josef Kovoc

different way to me – how they explored them from a different perspective, through a new lens and to see how they focused on image and content and symbolism.

The Exhibitionist Society also engaged with the National Photographic Archive and with Belfast Exposed.   They developed a website Aunt Sally’s Tea Dance in which they displayed and Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 16.34.16engaged with the materials found in the various archives.  It is a fresh and dynamic perspective on LGBT history.  “Aunt Sally’s Tea Dance deals with the politics of the archive and the subsequent visibility or invisibility of LGBT identity and queer Ireland by looking at the collected material in three archives, well established and in development……This website developed to present the findings from our engagement with the archives, archivists, researchers and curators. We focused on ephemera and photographs relating to ‘parade’ and ‘community’ to inquire how photography has been used to activate public attention, change public opinion and re-present LGBT movements and much of this material has not been exhibited in the public domain before.”

jkovaccork_08Last night I attended the launch of the website at the new Brunswick Collective in Dublin.  It was wonderful to walk in and see images from the Cork LGBT Archive displayed on the walls, including a giant copy of the poster for the third National Lesbian and Gay Conference in 1983.

1981 Gay conf leaflet1

Scan of leaflet

One wall held a display of items from the Cork archive.  It was so interesting to see items with which I am so familiar, displayed in such a different way.  One example is the leaflet for the first National Gay Conference in Cork in 1981.  I have scanned this item, providing a clear image in which the text can easily be read.   This has then been uploaded to the Cork LGBT Archive with attached metadata.

Josef Kovac photo

Josef Kovac photo

While clear and legible, the scan of the leaflet produced a flat image.  Josef Kovac photographed the same leaflet and this was displayed last night.  His image is much more three dimensional than the scan – it makes you want to reach out and pick up the leaflet.  For me this showed so clearly the importance  and benefits of enabling different people with different skills and perspectives to engage with the materials in the archive.

Another tangible benefit of the collaboration is that the Exhibitionist Society are going to donate the mounted photographs to the Cork LGBT Archive – a great start to building an exhibition for the archive.  And there are promises of further collaboration in extending this exhibition material!

Congratulations to all in the Exhibitionist Society for your work in creating Aunt Sally’s Tea Dance.

Here is a link to a video of some of my speech at the launch of Aunt Sally’s Tea Dance on 28 April 2016 – apologies for the poor quality but at least it gives a flavour of the event.  (The video is in two parts.)

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Filed under Community Digital Archives, Digital Archive, DIgital History

Digitally Challenged Digital Humanist

Lost in Digital WorldI am a Digitally Challenged Digital Humanist.

My Digital Humanities project, creating a Cork LGBT Digital Archive, is a truly multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary project – it requires me to understand and engage with a number of different fields and disciplines, including History, Social History, LGBT History, Archives, Community Archives, Digital Archives, as well as understanding the how of doing it digitally.  Not a challenging task at all!!!!

A lot of the time it seems as if I am floundering in a land I don’t know, where Ciismaniyapeople speak a language I do not understand.  The Humanities side is fine, I speak that language, but I’m new to the Digital.

And yet I keep trying, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always learning through the process.  As Samuel Beckett said: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.’

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Filed under DIgital History, LGBT Digital Archive

Busy month in the life of a LGBT Digital Historian!

Rainbow Flag City Hall August 2014My website was this week voted Runner Up for Best Blog Post / Series of Posts in the DH Awards.   The awards are nominated and voted for entirely by the public. These awards are intended to help put interesting DH resources in the spotlight and engage DH users (and general public) in the work of the community.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 07.24.43

The DH Awards have provided a useful platform for visibility of the corklgbthistory site and an opportunity to have Queer work more visible within the Digital Humanities world.  I developed the corklgbthistory site to begin to display a chronology of the development of the Cork LGBT community, to showcase some of the materials which will form part of the LGBT Digital Archive I am developing, and to stimulate interest and engagement in the project.  Hopefully the DH Award will help to further these aims.

It has been a busy month for this LGBT Digital Historian (I guess that’s what I am now!).

lights-camera-web (1)In mid February I attended the LGBT History Festival in Manchester.  I was delighted to introduce and screen the Cork film, Out and About, produced by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Cork LGBT community.  The film is a historical LGBT walking tour of Cork, presented by myself and John Dunlea.  I was particularly delighted and excited to have this film screened alongside the BAFTA award winning film Pride.  This was particularly appropriate as the Cork LGBT community has always been conscious of the importance of forging links and working in solidarity with other social change movements, similar in many ways to the solidarity shown in the Pride film between the lesbian and gay community and the striking miners.

The LGBT History Festival in Manchester had a wealth of interesting presentations and events.  It was a wonderful opportunity to meet and network with other LGBT Historians and Archivists.  It was particularly interesting to meet the team from Bergen University in Norway who are developing a LGBT Archive, SKEIVT ARKIV, with the support and resources of the university.  It was exciting to meet people doing similar work, but I found myself more than a little jealous of the resources and support they obtained from their university!

Tonie Walsh and Orla Egan

Tonie Walsh and Orla Egan

The following week found me in OutHouse LGBT Community Centre in Dublin discussing the Cork LGBT Archive alongside Tonie Walsh of the Irish Queer Archive.  The event was organised as part of LGBT History Month.  Tonie is one of the few Irish based people who shares my passion and obsession with LGBT history and the importance of preserving and sharing our history.  We fed off each other’s enthusiasm and stories and this led to an interesting and engaged discussion with the participants.


Ma Graduation

MA DAH 2015

Then at the end of February I graduated with an MA in Digital Arts and Humanities.  While we can be MA DAH 2015 cynical about the pomp and ceremony of such events, I think that it is important sometimes to take time to stop and acknowledge achievements and milestones in one’s life.  I know that for me doing the MA in DAH was challenging on many levels.  I put myself completely out of my comfort zone, studying an area that was new to me.  It was also challenging on a personal level as I juggled the responsibilities of parenting (primarily solo) with a crazy study schedule and other personal commitments.  The graduation ceremony provided an opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of the year and to express my gratitude to those who supported me during the year and to those who dragged me, kicking and screaming and protesting, into the exciting new world of Digital Humanities!

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“Homosexuals in Cork” 1978 Radio Programme

2014-07-29 14.01.28The Cork Branch of the Irish Gay Rights Movement (IGRM) was established in 1976.

The aims of the IGRM were to be achieved through

(i) Reform of laws relating to homosexuality

(ii) Removal of social prejudice and misconceptions regarding homosexuality

(iii) Provision of counselling, befriending and social facilities for homosexuals  (Sappphire, Cork IGRM Newsletter, Vol. 1 No. 1 Jan-Feb 78)

On 20 January 1978 members of the Cork Branch of IGRM took place in a radio programme “Homosexuals in Cork”  which2014-07-29 14.01.52 was aired on Cork-About, the Cork RTE programme.  This was significant in drawing attention to the issues affecting gays living in Cork and to highlight the activities and services provided by the IGRM.  Oliver Cogan wrote an article about the programme in Sapphire, the Cork IGRM’s newsletter.  He notes that “Whatever the general consensus of opinion, the programme certainly stimulated discussion.”

Below is a full transcript of the article:

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Filed under DIgital History, Lesbian and Gay History

LGBT Archive and Creativity

This week I have been engaged in creative pursuits, while also trying to make progress towards my aim of creating a Cork LGBT Digital Archive.

ComputersBoxesBasementIn an earlier post on Cork LGBT Digital Archive I talked about the rich source of archival material stored in the basement of a house in Cork.  This material has been gathered over the past 30 years.  It relates to the history of the LGBT community in Cork, the Quay Co-op, Safer Sex and AIDS organisations as well as various other campaigns and organisations. 2014-06-12 19.51.03 While it contains many gems, the ‘archive’ is unsorted with information on various organisations mixed in together.

1981GayConferencePosterThis week I began the slow process of trying to sort through the archive, with the assistance of Arthur, Carol, Katherine, John and Fionuala.  We tried to resist the temptation to read through all the fantastic information we found, although we had to admire some of the wonderful posters in the collection.  Initially the information is being sorted into broad categories, such as LGBT Cork, Quay Co-op, AIDS, Environmental, Housing Co-op etc.   Once sorted each category can be catalogued and explored in further depth.2014-06-12 21.50.44

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Filed under DIgital History, General, LGBT Digital Archive

Video, Oral History, Memory Map

Oral History interests me.  I am intrigued by the richness of the stories that people tell about the past and by how these stories help us to develop a fuller and more complex understanding of our history.  Oral Histories are particularly important when we are exploring hidden histories and marginalised communities.  They help to reveal the history that might otherwise remain invisible.oralhistory

My interest in oral history, and in the history of the lesbian and gay communities in Cork, has recently been reawakened.  When I carried out oral history interviews in the past I used a tape recorder and then transcribed the interviews – a slow and laborious task.   Technology has advanced significantly since then and I realised I needed to up skill to do this work more effectively. Continue reading

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Filed under DIgital History, Lesbian and Gay History

Lesbian and Gay History

I have been interested in lesbian and gay history for some time. As an active participant in the Cork lesbian community since the 1980s I have really appreciated being part of such a vibrant, active and politically aware community. i_rainbow_heart_cork_pillow-rfe51344fdb634f599d01acd82bb39c71_2izwx_8byvr_512As well as campaigning for lesbian and gay rights and providing services and supports to LGBT people, the lesbian and gay community has played a vital role in movements for social justice and political change in Cork.

Yet this community, like many other LGBT communities worldwide, has been largely invisible in historical accounts and its contribution to social and political change and developments largely unacknowledged. Continue reading


Filed under DIgital History, Lesbian and Gay History

Digital History

I’ve been doing some reading lately on digital history.  Of particular interest has been:

Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rozenzweig Digital History A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web PENN, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2006

In this book Cohen and Rozenzwieg explore how “new media and new technologies have challenged historians to rethink the ways that they research, write, present, and teach about the past.” (2) Continue reading

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