NUI Galway launches historic On-line Photographic Archive

Monday, 23 May 2005

In 1996 the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway acquired the Ritchie-Pickow Photographic Archive, along with tapes of sound recordings. The photographs were taken and the recordings made by the US husband and wife team, George Pickow and Jean Ritchie on visits to Ireland in 1952 and 1953. On Monday 30th May 2005, the James Hardiman Library will launch a resource, housed on the library's web-pages, which will allow access to the 1,887 images which make up the Ritchie-Pickow photographic collection. It provides researchers world-wide with the facility to search for and view the images, as well as giving background information on each image.

The resource will be launched by Dr Hugh Maguire of the Heritage Council who supported the provision of an archivist to preserve and make accessible this collection in digital format. Professor Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, lecturer in the History Department, NUI Galway and a grandson of Elizabeth Cronin, one of the vocalists recorded by Jean Ritchie, will also speak at the launch. It was under his auspices that the collection found its way into the Library Archives.

Jean Ritchie, singer, folklorist and dulcimer player was born on 8 December 1922 in Viper, Kentucky. She was the youngest of a family of 14 children, known as 'The Singing Ritchies'. Jean graduated from the University of Kentucky and in 1952 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to enable her to research the origins of her family's songs in Great Britain and Ireland.

Ritchie's husband George Pickow, a photographer, accompanied her and they spent approximately eighteen months recording folk songs and traditional musicians and taking photographs. The photographs include images of many well known uileann pipe players, such as Seamus Ennis, the McPeake trio, Leo Rowsome; vocalists, including Elizabeth Croinin and Sarah Makem and story tellers, such as Paitsín Faherty from the Aran Islands.

As well as assisting his wife in her research George Pickow also did features on aspects of Irish life – Christmas celebrations with straw boys and wren boys, life on the Aran Islands, Dublin scenes, the American Ambassador and his family in Ireland, the development of Dublin Airport, operations of the Garda Síochána at Dublin Castle, and Irish sporting activities, such as road bowling, hurling, coursing, hunting and racing. Photographs were also taken of traditional Irish crafts, including spinning, weaving, thatching and crios and sliotar making.

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