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Niamh gives voice to the history of Donegal 27.09.18

THE Archive Service of Donegal County Council is trying to locate relations of the late Daniel Doherty, who left Malin Head for Boston in the early 1900s and made a name for himself in the Irish political scene there.
Niamh Brennan, Donegal County Archivist, hopes to develop a travelling exhibition next year based on the archive’s collection of Mr Doherty’s papers, which include letters from John F. and Robert F. Kennedy and Charles DeGaulle. Daniel Doherty died in the 1970s.
“He had quite an amazing life,” Niamh said.
Niamh Brennan, with some of the rich collection of records held by the Archive Service.
The archives give voice to the rich history of Donegal and its people, through the records and writings of organisations and individuals. As archivist, Niamh not only catalogues, researches and maintains the collections, but finds creative ways to bring them to the public.
“Over the last twenty odd years we’ve acquired more and more, which means we’ve a really good collection for Donegal,” Niamh said.
Archives are documents, such as minutes of county meetings, letters, maps, drawings, blueprints, manuscripts, literature and other records. They tell us what generations of Donegal people said and did – even, at times, what they thought.
The more personal pieces often draw the most attention. Niamh was interviewed by RTÉ News last year when the archive discovered a 19th-century Valentine’s Day letter in the collection of the Steele Nicholson family of Falmore House, Gleneely, Inishowen. This summer they were in the news after receiving documents related to the opening of the Coláiste Uladh building in Gorthork fifty years ago, including a letter from President Eamon de Valera to Breandán Mac Cnáimhsí, coláiste president.
A page from the minutes of the Inishowen Workhouse, held in the collection of the Archive Service.
The archive also produces booklets and other publications, and Niamh curated the exhibition, A Trek Through Time, which is travelling the county and uses photographs, letters, official documents, newspaper articles, and other archive items to illustrate themes and events from the past 250 years. She is working with the museum on an exhibition on emigration for the autumn.
The growing collection means that space is a challenge – even with two additional rented storage spaces, it’s getting tight. Still, Niamh encourages people to contact the archive before they throw away something that could be of significance to the history or culture of the county.
“We try to get out the message that before you destroy anything to come to the archives first to see if it’s worth preserving,” she said. If a document is worth preserving, Niamh will find room.
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