Report of the Maritime Heritage Gathering at the National Maritime Museum Dun Laoghaire 29 – 30th October 2013

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Full text below. You can also download a Report on Maritime Heritage Gathering 2013.

The first Maritime Heritage Gathering took place on 29 and 30 October 2013 in the 176- year-old Mariners Church in Dun Laoghaire, now the National Maritime Museum of Ireland, the primary purpose of which is to promote greater awareness of the maritime heritage of Ireland. The event was funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and supported by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and Gathering Ireland 2013. The programme timetable for the two day event is attached (Appendix I).

The Gathering brought together over 100 maritime museum managers, historians, authors, genealogists, deep-sea divers, archaeologists, shore built heritage and inland waterways enthusiasts, former dockers, historic boat restorers, sail training organisations, community development groups, members of professional maritime organisations and Government agencies from all around the island of Ireland and England.

Their common objective was to discuss solutions for preserving Ireland’s rich maritime heritage, raise its profile and highlight its immense historical and tourism potential. As the numbers involved precluded individual presentations, a continuous 40 minute PowerPoint ioop’ consisted of contributions from 60 organisations was on view on two large screens in the Museum’s cafe and library (Appendix II). A lot of information was displayed which stimulated discussion amongst the participants. Six Working Groups chaired by experts highlighted issues of significance within their specific fields, the outcomes of which were presented by the chairpersons to the entire audience before close of business on the first day to allow time for reflection overnight. The Working Group recommendations (Appendix III) were discussed in Plenary Session the following morning, chaired by Marcus Connaughton, the Presenter and Producer of SEASCAPES, the national maritime programme on RTE Radio 1.

The programme also included a number of interesting presentations on heritage issues. Beatrice Kelly, Head of Policy and Research in the Heritage Council of Ireland gave a presentation entitled A Vibrant Maritime Heritage Sector in Ireland? The Heritage Council’s Perspective, which was most informative as not everyone in the audience was familiar with the extent of the Heritage Council’s remit and involvement in Maritime Heritage. This was followed by a technical presentation by Pat Tanner, a PhD student at Southampton University on Digitally Recording Ireland’s Maritime Heritage in which he outlined his innovative work digitally recording the lines plans of historic and traditional vessels before they disappear forever. His work in Ireland was part funded by the Heritage Council using specialist laser equipment provided by Hal Sisk, the well-known Irish yachting historian.

Siobhan Rudden presentation The Ireland-Wales Programme: Funding Opportunities in the Maritime Sector displayed maritime heritage projects funded during the current Programme and outlined their aspirations for a new EU Programme commencing 2014. She also detailed the selection criteria and administrative requirements for a successful project.
The formal presentations concluded with an explanation of the RNLI’s Hope in the Great War Exhibition by Stephen Wynne, the RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager in Dun Laoghaire, during which venues in Ireland were sought to host an exhibition funded by Arts Council England that will tour the UK and Ireland for four years.

This exhibition pays tribute to the RNLFs work during World War One, including the heroic rescue of the crew of SS Alondra in 29th December 1916 off Baltimore, Co. Cork. Ministerial and Local Government Involvement The Gathering was fortunate to involve prominent politicians at local and national level. Their presence leant formal recognition to the official and voluntary work being undertaken to preserve Ireland’s maritime heritage and was appreciated by those who had travelled considerable distances in Ireland and from the UK to participate in the Gathering.

Councillor Carrie Smyth, the Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council hosted a Civic Reception for the Gathering participants in the Maritime Museum during which she informed them of the history of Dun Laoghaire Harbour from its modest beginnings to the present day. Subsequently she officially welcomed Mr Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to Dun Laoghaire at a dinner held in the National Yacht Club at which the Minister was guest of honour. Before the dinner, the Minister viewed a virtual tour of the National Maritime Museum on Google Maps at http://goo.gl/maps/8JJlr and praised its pro-active approach in preserving its historic artefacts and unique 4,000 volume maritime library and archive for generations to come.

The fact that the Gathering had brought together over 100 individuals to identify solutions to preserve and promote Ireland’s maritime heritage was a strong statement of intent from the sector which his Department recognised. Though historically Ireland had ignored its maritime heritage, the Minister advised this is rapidly changing and the rising interest in genealogy actively promoted by his Department through www.irishgenealogy.ie has created a new window of opportunity for developments in the maritime heritage field. In recognition of the importance of the occasion, David Snook a member of the Maritime Institute and founder of www, irishmariners. ie presented the Minister with a montage of three Lixnaw, Co. Kerry seamen he had researched from his collection of World War One merchant seamen’s CR-10 Cards.

Twenty three thousand Irish seamen served during the Great War, of which 300 came from County Kerry. Publicity and Feedback From the outset it was decided that the Gathering required consistent branding. A poster was developed from an extremely atmospheric sepia photograph taken c.1893 in Dun Laoghaire Harbour of the Royal Navy guard ship HMS Melampus with the tower of the Mariners Church, now the National Maritime Museum clearly visible in the background. The photo was sourced from the National Library of Ireland Collection (Appendix IV). Marcus Connaughton, the Presenter and Producer of SEASCAPES, the national maritime programme on RTE Radiol, attended the Gathering, chaired the Plenary Session and recorded interviews for future editions of the programme, with the first of a sequence of interviews featuring the event being broadcast on Friday 1st November 2013.

A press release was distributed immediately following the event to a wide variety of media outlets and coverage has already been noted in a number of publications and websites. Subsequent feedback from the Gathering participants was uniformly positive. Conclusions The Gathering was essentially a working event which succeeded in its original objective of providing a friendly neutral environment in which maritime museums, heritage societies, Government officials and acknowledged researchers from all parts of Ireland and the UK could meet to discuss their work, learn from one another and further their objectives.

The significant presence of Maritime Museum volunteers and staff assisting with the running of the event and ensuring that refreshments, consisting of teas, coffees, soup and sandwiches were continuously available was conducive to a very positive atmosphere. The determination of locally funded museums, historical societies and individuals to preserve Ireland’s maritime heritage, despite current economic circumstances, with the assistance of State agencies was strongly emphasized.

The importance of making all things maritime more accessible to school children and families, linking museums with local heritage and community groups and sailing clubs, as well as utilising 3-D technology to scan historic boats and using the internet to develop virtual museums featured amongst a host of ideas emerging from the six expert Working Groups. Though the presentations were extremely thought provoking and the Working Group recommendations provided an opportunity to influence policy in a positive manner, interpersonal networking was a highly productive outcome of the event. Many of those present had never met before and were only vaguely aware of the valuable heritage work others were doing around the country, but shared similar financial and other challenges.

As a consequence, the connections forged will undoubtedly lead to beneficial long term heritage and tourism strategic alliances between participants. A very consistent theme emerged in the Working Groups and at plenary session of the imperative to develop a common Maritime Heritage Platform in which organisations could flag ideas and co-operate to develop joint projects, seek funding and share resources at both national and trans-national level. This proposal will be explored and developed in 2014. In conclusion, whilst the Gathering was an integral part of a long voyage building on the work of many dedicated people who had the great foresight to preserve what presently exists of our maritime heritage, it has nonetheless leveraged significant tangible outcomes in its own right which will serve to chart a course to significantly raise the profile of Irish maritime heritage in the coming years and maximise its immense historical and tourism potential.

Richard Mc Cormick
Director Library & Archives
National Maritime Museum of Ireland
23 November 2013

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APPENDIX I  – timetable see pdf
APPENDIX III: SUMMARY OF WORKING GROUP RECOMMENDATIONS

Group 1: Realising the full potential of Ireland’s Maritime Museums – Seamus O’Connor

• As a nation surrounded by the sea, more must be done to create interest in Irish maritime affairs and the importance of its rich and varied heritage. Though the former essentially requires political will, much can be achieved in the heritage sphere through the education system by involving school children at all levels in waterborne sports and introducing maritime heritage projects to the curriculum, especially at transition year.
• Maritime museums are well placed to assist with material for project work and offering questionnaires to young visitors always engages their attention.
• Funding is always an issue in museums to preserve and maintain collections of books and artefacts and there is a need for more maritime focused grant aid at local authority, central government and EU level in support of voluntary organisations and assisting specialist skills retention and job creation.
• Sponsorship is also another funding option whether it be of ship models, libraries or purchases of rare maritime artefacts of particular local or national interest, with due recognition always given to the sponsors.
•If port operators considered contributing 0.25% of their profits in support of maritime heritage, it would make a very significant impact
• Increased use of social networking sites are essential information networks to spread the maritime heritage message wider, targeting young people and overseas tourists.
• Establishing a virtual maritime museum was consistently mentioned involving collection databases on a central Irish Maritime Museum/Heritage website as an promotion tool.
• Increase the linkages between maritime museums through travelling exhibitions and developing joint brochures to promote niche markets in local and county maritime heritage trails involving historic maritime locations and buildings brings visual context to museum artefacts, which is also assisted by specialist maritime libraries.
• Concern was expressed about the fate of collections of historic artefacts and books if museums close for financial reasons. This highlighted the need for regulations governing the collection and recording of items of particular Irish historical significance.
• It was recommended that the National Maritime Museum of Ireland should take a central role in facilitating networking between interested maritime heritage museums, organisations and societies in order to generate more widespread interest in Ireland’s maritime heritage and increase footfall in maritime museums.
• It was recommended that there should be a similar workshop held in the National Maritime Museum in 2014 to facilitate networking and review progress.
Group 2: Preservation of Historic Ships and Traditional Boats – Hal Sisk.
• The brief of this Working Group was extended to include replicas of traditional craft, as there was full agreement on the importance of recording, rescuing, storing, conserving, restoring, building replicas and discovering new uses for what are in effect national treasures and finding new roles for their continued use, whilst also recognising that, as originally designed and built, they are obsolete in their original role.
• The key question was how best to achieve these worthy objectives as there is no statutory support for the restoration or preservation of traditional boats, unlike buildings and wrecks. A vessel is only entitled to statutory protection when sunk.
• To signify national commitment to a preservation framework for historic ships and traditional boats, Ireland should sign up to the European Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Traditional Ships in Operation 2002, otherwise known as the Barcelona Charter (EMH), http://www.european-maritime-heritage. org/be. aspx
• There are excellent examples of financial incentives in other countries e.g. free moorings for classic and traditional craft in Danish harbours, visually enhancing any open space.
• Tax break incentives would help and in the UK there is £ 15m of National Lottery graded funding for three categories: Core Collection, Designated (Protected), and At Risk.
• There is a need for a Centre of Excellence for wooden boat building in Ireland, plus a National Boat Museum or store to rescue/salvage vessels at risk.
• Udaras na Gaeltachta funding the construction of Galway Hookers is a positive example of retaining traditional craft and boat building and repair skills. The restoring or building of traditional boats is an excellent project for the widespread Men’s Shed phenomenon.
• The Traditional Boats of Ireland book was a major landmark, stimulating interest and resulting in two follow-on projects from the book: Rescue and Digitally Recording heritage boats part funded by the Heritage Council.
o A boat at risk to be rescued (from being used as flower beds at roundabouts!) is only partly successful, because many locals prefer to see boats kept in their original location. It is however most important to secure the boat’s fishing gear and equipment when rescuing.
o Digitally recording Ireland’s marine artefacts is much more effective with innovative use of laser scanning of half models and full size craft producing a virtual traditional maritime boats museum at www.tradboats.ie (part funded by the Heritage Council)
• It is vital to consider the future use of restored or replica craft, that are obviously obsolete in their original function, typically fishing. Possible leisure uses with a tourism dimension include “Raids” (open boat camp cruising in company) and more typically in local competitions for example in the very active coastal rowing scene and the unusual
phenomenon in Falmouth of oyster dredgers being allowed fish without quotas, but only if the fishing vessels operate under sail.
• While often sustained by local pride, pressure of sailing competitions can on occasions lead to unsafe over-canvassing of traditional boats. There are also risks that Health and Safety considerations could become a deterrent to the leisure use of traditional craft, even resulting the abandoning of some projects, so an exemption regime may be required. • It is absolutely vital that any large boat restoration or replica building project should start with a coherent and detailed plan that answers the questions: where, when and by whom will the vessel be used and how will it be maintained? Any wooden craft will require a minimum of 2 to 3 weeks annual maintenance and there are many examples of ill- conceived and poorly executed replica projects that failed to answer these key questions.
Group 3: Preservation of the Shore Built Maritime Heritage – Donal Hoey.

• The need for an all island coast line survey of Irelands Maritime Heritage was stressed. This should be web based, fully interactive and structured into appropriate categories.
• A preservation value system rating the importance of a building/artefact and including its cultural importance to the local community should be devised.
• It is possible that the current maritime use of a building/artefact lends itself to easy preservation. There are far too many examples of buildings and artefacts that have been sacrificed to commercial expediency, thus damaging their integrity and character.
• Heritage Officers in enlightened Local Authorities, plus the support of local community based advocates should be enrolled at a very early stage in preservation projects.
• The types of intervention need to be carefully considered if the integrity of a maritime building/artefact is to be maintained and its essential character and contribution to its surroundings preserved.
• The availability of necessary skills to carry out preservation/restoration is a critical factor, as is the economic viability of any proposal.
• Maritime Heritage Trails focussing on maritime museums, lighthouses and other prominent maritime features should be considered as a potential source of tourist revenue. The Commissioners of Irish Lights All Island Heritage Trail is an excellent example.
• Community based tourism focussing on maritime heritage should be considered. The models of Hook Head and Mizen Head Lighthouses were mentioned.
• Local community groups working together can be very successful in preserving maritime heritage. Certain coastal communities have been very effective in using maritime heritage as a focus for community regeneration and preserving local maritime folk memories.
• A technology web based approach that supports local history and in particular its maritime aspects, is recommended. • Social media could play an important role in involving young people in preserving Ireland’s maritime and inland waterways built heritage. This also involves encouraging young people to get involved at an early stage in recreational water-based activities.
• Involving school children in researching the history of the local maritime built heritage should be considered. National School children could be deployed to glean local history in a manner similar to the Delargy model (Irish Folklore Commission 1935-1971), with the support of the Department of Education & Science.
• Lobbyists are required for Irish maritime heritage in general and getting the people of Ireland to value its diverse maritime heritage could be advanced by simply getting them out onto the water.

Group 4: Accessing Irish Maritime History and Maritime Genealogy Sources – Joe Varley and David Snook.
• Irish Maritime history and genealogy sources are available in Britain and Ireland and abroad. They can very often be difficult to find, many are uncatalogued and hidden away amongst other collections with specialist knowledge required to access them. The Irish Naval Service records held at Cathal Brugha barracks were cited as an example of an important maritime archive.
• Twenty-one years ago, Brian Donnelly and Oonagh Warke co-edited Irish Archives: Maritime History Sources Issue, in the ‘Journal of the Irish Society of Archives, Vol.2 Number 1, Summer 1992’, This excellent publication deserves to be up-dated as Irish maritime records would benefit from a systematic review.
• Serious concerns were raised that some commercial records associated with maritime history had been mislaid, accidentally dumped or destroyed; examples being some port harbour records. Systematic steps should be taken to prevent such losses in the future at State and local level by officially recording their existence.
• The Group highlighted the fact that academic research in Ireland into maritime history is extremely limited at present. However, a lot of good quality maritime history research projects are currently being undertaken at local level, these being a mixture of place or incident history, or the compilation of family histories involving local seafarers.
• The merits of internet research were discussed and details of various sites distributed. The evolution of the Coastguards of Yesterday site was discussed and the risk of such one-off specialised sites disappearing when the original author dies. There were concerns that where an individual had created an online record there was no guarantee that the information would remain in the public domain. A partial solution may lie with a U.K. based organisation which rescues such sites.
• The Mellon Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster-American Folk Park, Omagh, is a member of the Association of European Migration Institutions (AEMI) http://aemi.eu/, and though unable to attend, was a contributor to the 6o PowerPoint presentations on view at the Gathering, suggested that significant opportunities existed for greater co- operation between maritime museums and migration museums in Ireland, north and south and also worldwide through national, EU and trans-national funding.
• The Gathering provided the opportunity to identify younger individuals within the Working Groups, many of who were diving on very deep heritage wrecks who might be willing to involve themselves in particular maritime museum projects, thus complementing the work of historical maritime and genealogical research.
• The Group recommended that a specialist umbrella organisation was required to look after Irish Maritime Heritage in general. It was felt that a small working group headed by the National Maritime Museum would be useful in tackling Irish maritime record issues.

Group 5: Maritime Tourism Networks, Marketing and Communications initiatives – Birgit Faye Roth.
• This Working Group discussed affordable activities that would link up maritime interest institutions within Ireland and abroad providing greater visibility to maritime heritage.
• A large part of the discussion revolved around the possibility of establishing a Maritime Heritage Website/Portal, a common platform providing information about all maritime institutions and interest groups, an event calendar, a maritime heritage map listing all things maritime to see and experience in each area (including information on the seabed heritage) and a blog area.
• In the absence of such a Portal, cross-referral between institutions and linking to each other’s websites was encouraged.
• To leverage the generally low levels of available funds for marketing purposes, maritime institutions should involve themselves actively in broader existing/planned schemes and activities e.g. beginning 2014 projects to do with World War One will raise a lot of interest, as well as participation in trails, festivals, etc.
• The group also discussed the importance of involving young people and families, be it through community projects, fun events, etc.
• The formation of “maritime clusters” was discussed, such as a collaboration between a museum, maritime interest groups (boat building, lectures, genealogy) and offshore activities (diving, sailing), where the local maritime museum would provide a constant centrally visible focal point for the other partners.
• The group further discussed the engagement of a VIP maritime heritage ambassador to raise the profile of maritime heritage. This should be a popular (Irish) person with a connection to Irish maritime heritage who is willing to use his/her popularity with the media (and possibly younger audiences) to promote the wealth, diversity and importance of Irish maritime heritage.
• Finally, it was suggested that the National Maritime Museum /Maritime Institute of Ireland should become active in providing a co-ordinating role, such as with the above mentioned Maritime Heritage Website/Portal and/or the regular convening of meetings of the Irish maritime heritage sector.
Group 6: Maritime Heritage Partnerships in Joint Projects and Special Exhibitions – Padraic O’Brolchain.
• The Group began proceedings by defining different types of partnership members: o Boat-builders and boat restorers o Maritime museums and other maritime heritage Sites o Maritime related NGO’s o Commercial interests o Leisure interests
• All groups involved in maritime heritage would benefit from a sharing of relevant Data. This would include data on collections, information on sources of funding, visitor and member databases, (taking care to stay within proper procedures with regard to data protection). The best description of this was the establishment of some form of information warehouse.
• The most suitable body to host this warehouse needs to be identified and several suggestions were made, including the Heritage Council, a maritime institution or a tourism body. All agreed that creating a new body for this purpose was not the answer.
• At present there is no statutory body with a full remit for Maritime Heritage either static or floating. The only maritime sector catered for is shipwrecks.
• One interesting data field would be that of people with special skills, willing to volunteer to assist with projects, possibly for a limited period.
• Joint Projects were discussed and suggestions made as to some possible ideas. These included boat-building, education bursaries jointly funded, outreach projects with schools, twinning with overseas museums on common interest items typically:- Subject Partnerships Suggested Captain Robert Halpin Valentia and Newfoundland RMS Leinster Dun Laoghaire and Holyhead RMS Lusitania New York / Liverpool / Cobh and/or Kinsale A heartening example was a boat-building project which brought together a divided community in the north of Ireland.
• The developing of special travelling exhibitions, using material from a number of sources, and even the exchange of artefacts between museums was also mooted.
• Other types of partnerships were discussed where the driving force was access to funding whereby a heritage group combined with a community or an educational establishment, to create a joint project which attracted funding that would not be available to any individual group. These typically would be cross border or trans-national projects relying on funds created for the purpose, mainly but not exclusively from EU sources.
• It was suggested that better use could be made of the advice available through Heritage Officers who are employed by most local authorities and who could be useful maritime heritage champions.
Plenary Session Wednesday 30 October 2913 There was no dissent with any of the Working Group recommendations during the Plenary Session on Wednesday morning chaired by Marcus Connaughton RTE and they were endorsed with a number of contributions focusing on two very significant points:
• The importance of engaging children, youth and families with maritime heritage. • The establishment of an Irish Maritime Heritage Web Portal and the potential benefits of incorporating a virtual museum to display artefacts on display or in storage. A number of practical examples were given for the involvement of children and youth e.g. maritime museums “adopting” local schools to run regular projects, community projects to build boats, involving the sea scouts, volunteer schemes and the benefits of a national sail training vessel replacing Asgard II. In relation to the establishment of an Irish Maritime Heritage Website/Portal, it was suggested, that there should be a back-end/internal section of the website where organisations could advertise travelling exhibitions, look for project partners and exchange information about award schemes and funding opportunities. The Portal could also work as a starting point for a virtual maritime museum, with contributors adding information and images (3D scans of artefacts) to a database which could be accessed online. Comparisons were drawn in relation to the difference between how the Receivers of Wrecks in the UK and Ireland dealt with recovered maritime heritage items in each jurisdiction. The importance of organisations choosing titles to attract youth involvement was also mentioned.

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