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.

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

Friday 26 May 2023  
Speaker: Professor Olwyn Purdue

Please note this event has been cancelled.

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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