Having had a very good experience with the MA Public History Internship initiative last year, the Library willingly took up the offer of an internship this year. We have had another very good experience with MA student Shannon Devlin whom we wish to thank publicly for the interest and enthusiasm shown during her time with us. Shannon was willing to carry out research, write material and share in presentations for school and adult groups. We all wish Shannon well in the completion of her MA studies and hope that she will return to visit Armagh Public Library. Shannon says the following of her time at the Library:
“This year, I am undertaking a Masters in Irish History at Queen’s University Belfast and as part of my studies I was fortunate enough to come to Armagh Public Library on a Public History Internship. The purpose of this internship was to gain knowledge about how history is used when interacting with the public and to experience practical ways in which history is put to use in institutions across Northern Ireland. Armagh Public Library offered the perfect opportunity to see how history can be woven into a public institution as the Library is still a functioning reference library as well as being an accredited museum.
At the Library, I was able to take part in a number of exciting projects. The team in the Library are always busy and I was able to experience first-hand the variety of visitors that come through the doors here. It was fascinating to see the scope of material on offer to visitors and the numerous different questions posed during visits. The Library holds a collection of over 46,000 books and it was a privilege to work with a section of them, some of which date to the thirteenth-century. The Library still operates under the original eighteenth-century cataloguing system where books are arranged by size rather than subject. This took a little while to get to grips with but now, after I’ve been up a few step-ladders and up onto the Gallery overlooking the Long Room, it makes perfect sense!
Along with the Library’s Archivist, Thirza, I was involved in our latest exhibition on Bookplates. This not only introduced me to the practice of eighteenth-century bookplating but immersed me into the background area of heraldry, armorial book-bindings and the prominence of books. It was fascinating to trace the travels of books and find out how they came to be in the Library’s collections at Armagh. I had no idea how much history there is in a book as an object! This also allowed me to learn a lot more about the Library and the people who have been instrumental in the running of it over the years. The Library has an incredibly interesting past and it’s been lovely to find out more about it and its place in the history of the City of Armagh.
On a practical note, the Library has offered me priceless experience. It was interesting to see the different aspects of creating and working on an exhibition, especially one of this size – it was a struggle to narrow the examples down to fit! It was extremely beneficial to see the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects of the Library and all the different areas in which they – indirectly and directly – use history. It was also very enjoyable to take a break from my studies in Belfast and have some practical hands on experience!
Armagh Public Library is a fascinating and exceptionally pretty place to work in and the past number of weeks have been extremely valuable and enjoyable. I would like to thank the Keeper of the Library, the Very Reverend Gregory Dunstan, Carol, Thirza and Lorraine for all their patience and help while I was with them. It was definitely an experience to remember! ”
Shannon concluded her internship with an essay and a poster based on her experiences in the Library. We are more than confident she will receive a high mark for her work!