Home, National Library of Ireland

Stories of activism, love and loss highlighted by new campaign from NLI

Sunday, 16 January 2022
Revealing History in turquoise and white text on a bottle green field

Revealing Histories marks 100 years since the formation of the Irish Government.

The National Library of Ireland (NLI) holds over ten million items that tell the stories of public and private life in Ireland – politics and passion, love and loss, family and fate – and for a number of years has been digitising primary source material for the revolutionary period, with funding from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport & Media. In a new digital campaign launched today (16.01.22), the NLI is highlighting the riches revealed through this digitisation by focusing on four individuals who played important roles in 1922. Letters, photographs, diaries, political posters and much more show us the life and times of Kathleen Clarke, Arthur Griffith, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and Austin Stack, and allow us to experience the Ireland of their day through their eyes.

As well as exploring the political and social upheaval of 1922, ‘Revealing Histories’ highlights key personal stories of these four people through the decades, including: 

  • Arthur Griffith’s letters to and from his children and wife, as he was negotiating the Treaty.
  • Photographs of Kathleen Clarke’s sons, and her struggle to raise them as a widow after her husband was executed in 1916.
  • Austin Stack’s love story with republican activist Winifred Úna Gordon, the widow of an RIC officer.
  • Hanna Sheehy Skeffington’s determination to survive personal tragedy and to change the world for women.

The ‘Revealing Histories’ campaign shows different ways that this content can be used to bring the period to life for a range of audiences. With all this material freely available online, a bite-sized animation demonstrates how to explore the NLI’s online catalogue; four short captioned videos introduce key records that tell the story of Clarke, Griffith, Sheehy Skeffington and Stack; and easily downloadable resources on the NLI’s website explore their lives in much greater detail. 

Commenting, National Library Deputy Director and Head of Exhibitions, Learning and Programming Katherine McSharry said: “The events of 1922 shaped Ireland forever, and the letters, diaries and photographs of those who lived through those days show us a changing world unfolding. ‘Revealing Histories’ emphasises the value of digitising the national memory, both to show us major moments in our history, and as a reminder that all the individuals involved had personal dramas, losses and joys alongside their politics and activism. We invite everyone to explore this freely available material, in order to deepen and extent their insights into those associated with the early days of the Irish State.”