DfC Historic Environment presents an annual HERoNI Lecture Series, providing an insight into our local heritage, archaeology and more. All of the HERoNI events are free to attend and will be hosted on Zoom at the date and times listed. To book your spot on any of the lectures just click on the Eventbrite link associated with your chosen event from the list below.

Although Coronavirus restrictions have eased, some regulations remain in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19. To ensure the safety of the public and speakers, our 2022/23 HERoNI lecture series will be conducted online.

The Excavation Record of Northern Ireland

Friday 27 January 2023, 1pm
Speakers: Jordan Breslin and Jackie McDowell

Excavations have been licensed in Northern Ireland since the 1930’s and the information derived from them provide an invaluable resource for the understanding of our archaeological record. Historic Environment Division have created a GIS layer dedicated to the recording of the location of all licensed excavations. This shows the location and the digitised footprint of the excavations with a link to the associated report. This is a work in progress with currently all excavations between 1999 and 2020 where the report on the work has been finalised being accessible through the map viewer. Sites are being added on a regular basis as reports are finalised.

This talk will give an overview of the contents of the GIS layer, a demonstration of how it can be accessed and used and a brief history of licensed excavation in Northern Ireland.

Sounding a new Heritage Future

Friday 24 February 2023, 1pm
Speaker: Dr Sarah Lappin

Valuing buildings to preserve them in their built state is a serious challenge to anyone interested in the expanding notion of heritage. Contemporary heritage theorists list multiple aspects we need to consider – from “identifying, naming, recovering, documenting” to “caring, preserving, storing, archiving, and managing” – all of which apply to our buildings and spaces.

What seems to have grown up in Northern Ireland, particularly over the last five years, is an uncoordinated, but vibrant sonic practice activating multiple loved but at-risk buildings in the region, particularly in Belfast, including teaching projects with young architects-to-be. This paper will examine these developments and share this unique sonic practice.

Architect Dr Sarah Lappin was the first woman to be appointed as Head of Architecture in the Queen's University's 55 year history. Dr Lappin, who trained at Columbia and Princeton Universities, teaches history/theory, design and professional skills at Queen's as well as being an active researcher. Dr Lappin is co-founder of the All-Ireland Architectural Research Group and is the past Chair of the Steering Group of the Architectural Humanities Research Association. From 2016-2019, Dr Lappin acted as the School of Natural and Built Environment's Director of Post-graduate Education. She has won two Queen's University Teaching Awards and is currently External Examiner at the Bartlett and Manchester Schools of Architecture.

Along with Prof Gascia Ouzounian, (Oxford), Lappin co-founded the research group Recomposing the City: Sonic Art & Urban Architectures, which investigates how collaborations between sound artists and architects can generate new ways of understanding, analyzing and transforming urban environments. Dr Lappin is currently working on a book about the change in soundscape necessitated by the spatial, programmatic and material revolutions of Modernism.

Landscape Legacies of the Early Ordnance Survey in Lough Foyle

Friday 24 March 2023, 1pm
Speaker: Professor Keith Lilley

Nearly two hundred years ago, the Ordnance Survey (OS) was busy surveying and mapping Ireland. Today, the legacies of the OS surveyors are still visible in the local landscape. This lecture explores the ‘landscape legacies’ of the early OS in and around Lough Foyle following two years of local fieldwork and research by community volunteers. Forming part of the Binevenagh and Coastal Lowlands Landscape Partnership Scheme, this area contains archaeologically significant sites and monuments associated with the trigonometrical survey of Ireland carried out under Thomas Colby in the 1820s and 1830s. Thanks to the collective efforts of a National Lottery Heritage Fund community-based project called “Mapping Monuments”, a richer understanding and appreciation of these early field-operations of the OS has now emerged. Professor Keith Lilley (Queen’s University Belfast) will report on the project’s findings, which concludes in 2023, and their historical significance. With the bicentenary of the OS in Ireland fast approaching—in 2024—the time is right to highlight the enduring cultural value of this ‘survey heritage’, to widen knowledge and recognition of its global importance, and to put these landscape legacies of the early OS more firmly ‘on the map’.

Keith Lilley is Professor Historical Geography at Queen’s University Belfast (UK), a Trustee of the Council for British Archaeology, and past chair of the Historic Towns Trust. His expertise lies in exploring connections between landscape and mapping, using cross-disciplinary approaches drawn from geography, history, architecture and archaeology. For over twenty years he has led funded research projects employing field-surveys and geospatial technologies to analyse and interpret historic landscapes, including medieval and modern urban landscapes. He has a long interest in exploring 'materialities' and archaeologies of surveying and mapping in Britain and Ireland, and is currently leading a collaborative UK-Ireland digital humanities research project on the bicentenary of the Ordnance Survey in Ireland, as well as a community archaeology project on the landscape legacies of the OS around Lough Foyle in the north of Ireland.

Telling Our Stories, Unlocking the Benefits of Heritage in Divided Societies

Friday 26 May 2023, 1pm
Speaker: Professor Olwyn Purdue

History is closely tied into senses of identity. Therefore, in divided societies where historical narratives are deeply contested, the past can be used in negative ways and seen as divisive, something that perpetuates and deeps existing divisions rather than healing them. This can bring challenges when seeking to engage public audiences in exploring the past in divided societies.

But while these challenges around the uses of the past are all-too familiar, what is less well-documented is the potential of our rich history, and our built, environmental and cultural heritage, to promote health, well-being and social cohesion among individuals and communities.

Taking an oral community project carried out with groups of young people in two quite different contexts - working-class Belfast and the Jordanian desert – this paper explores the public role of history, the challenges of engaging with the past, and some of the ways in which collaboration and community engagement can put the past to work in positive ways. By looking at how young people might be encouraged to research and tell their stories, it explores the potential of public history work to promote wellbeing among economically or socially marginalised communities, providing spaces which encourage inclusion and integration that can significantly improve the wellbeing of the communities and individuals involved.

Olwen Purdue is Professor of Modern Social History at Queen’s University Belfast where she works on poverty, welfare and public health in the nineteenth and early twentieth century Irish industrial city. She has published extensively on the history of Belfast and on poverty and social class in Ulster. Her latest monograph, Workhouse child: families, poverty and the poor law in industrial Belfast 1880-1914, is due for release in 2023.

Professor Purdue also works on public history and heritage, particularly in difficult or contested contexts. She founded and directs the Centre for Public History and the MA in Public History at Queen’s University and sits on the steering committee of QUB’s Heritage Hub. She also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Irish Museums Association and of the project board for National Museums NI’s redevelopment of the Ulster Museum.

Digging New Ground, Country House Gardens 1650-1900

Friday 30 June 2023, 1pm
Speaker: Professor Finola O'Kane

What gives the Irish country house garden its distinctive character? A verdant light, lush grass, bold trees and green-fingered generations of care. The Irish country house garden sits at a precise point where nature, culture and history meet, and continues to be a place where the Irish, British and European horticultural traditions potently collide.

Breaking new ground through the presentation of fresh material and research, this talk investigates the history, design and planting of the Irish country house garden from c.1650-1900, drawing from O'Kane's co-edited book with Robert O'Byrne Digging New Ground - The Irish Country House Garden 1650–1900. It considers garden making as an art form in all its dimensions, not least the relationship to contiguous buildings and natural features, as well as the colour, massing and individual habits of planting over three and a half centuries. Changes in fashion, habits of collecting, patronage, gender and networks are also investigated. Although the larger scale of landscape is considered, a primary aim is to address the smaller nature of gardens, and their many specific, often complex, design concerns.

Finola O’Kane MRIA is a landscape historian, architect, conservation specialist and a professor at UCD. Her books include Ireland and the Picturesque: Design, Landscape Painting, and Tourism, 1700–1840 (Yale, 2013), William Ashford's Mount Merrion; The Absent Point of View (Churchill, 2012), Landscape Design in Eighteenth-Century Ireland: Mixing Foreign Trees with the Natives (Cork, 2004) and the forthcoming Landscape Design and Revolution in Eighteenth-Century Ireland and the United States (Yale, 2023). She is a former editor of Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies.

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