Retired staff photo collection brings University history to life

(Left to right) Retired Professor Jane Conroy with Professor Stephen G. Jennings, Dr Jackie Uí Chionna and Séamus Mac Mathúna, former Academic Secretary at the University, looking through donated photos from the Visual History of the University of Galway, Retired Staff Collection. Credit - Aengus McMahon
Apr 16 2024 Posted: 14:39 IST

A collection of photographs documenting the history of University of Galway has been published after being collected and archived in a project sponsored by Agallamh na Seanórach/Retired Staff Association.

More than 350 images, ranging from the late 19th century to the mid-1990s, have been discovered and digitised, illustrating the University in diverse ways from formal occasions; to connections to the city and the region; to real-life stories of students and staff; and the changing character and environment of the campus.

The project began in November 2021 as part of the celebrations which followed on from the 175th anniversary of the foundation of the University in 1845. The research and digitisation of old photos was one of six projects sponsored by the Office of the University President through a special fund to record and share our institutional history.

The result is visual history photographic database entitled Visual History of the University of Galway, Retired Staff Collection, which involved a partnership between research team and archivists in the University Library.

The collection and searchable database is available online at

President of University of Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “University of Galway is nothing without its people, its community. This is the people’s history and we are indebted to the retired staff who have brought forward a vibrant idea and brought new life to our University while reflecting on our past. We are delighted to have been able to support this project and the community of retired staff and our Library colleagues in order to illustrate our history and heritage and the people who made it. It is a much richer tapestry for it.”

The Project was launched by Dr Lisa Griffith, Director at the Digital Repository of Ireland.

University of Galway is the first university in Ireland to launch such a project, with a visual, fully-documented record of its past, going back several generations.

The images are from private collections and the project was made possible because of the generous response of retired staff, friends and relations and alumni who loaned their photos and shared their recollections. It highlights the importance of students' and staff's individual, and sometimes unexpected, perspectives in capturing the lived experience of university life.

Together with the personal memories and research that accompany them, they contribute to the social and institutional history of a period of significant change in university education in Ireland.

The research team which led the project are Professor Jane Conroy (Emerita, French); Dr Séamus Mac Mathúna (former Runaí/Academic Secretary); Professor Stephen G. Jennings (Emeritus, Experimental Physics); and History lecturer Dr Jackie Uí Chionna. They collaborated with Library colleagues on the development of the digital exhibition, advising on digitisation, metadata and access requirements. Eimhin Joyce, Digital Projects Officer with the Heritage Collections and Digitisation team, worked closely with them on the creation of the exhibition using the University of Galway Digital Exhibition platform.


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