Siobhán Doyle

Siobhán is a second-year PhD Researcher in the School of Creative Arts at Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and received the Dean of the College of Arts & Tourism scholarship award in March 2016. Siobhán’s doctoral research concerns the material and visual culture of modern Ireland with particular focus upon the role of exhibition display in commemoration and collective memory. Siobhán has presented research papers at international conferences on historical memory and visual culture at Columbia University (New York), Amsterdam University (Holland) and Stockholm University (Sweden). Siobhán’s undergraduate research on cemeteries as multi-disciplinary spaces using Glasnevin Cemetery and Museum as a case study was published in 2016 by Four Courts Press as a book chapter in Grave Matters: Death and Dying in Dublin 1500-Present edited by Lisa Marie Griffith and Ciarán Wallace. In 2016, Siobhán co-ordinated the inter-disciplinary symposium Death, Etc; at Dublin Institute of Technology which brought design historians and museum professionals together to explore historical and contemporary material cultures of death.



Title: How politically historic events are reconstructed through the use of images and artefacts associated with death in commemorative exhibitions in national cultural institutions in Ireland.

Supervisors: Dr Tim Stott and Dr Niamh Ann Kelly

Overview: The Easter Rising of 1916- a failed rebellion against British rule- is the pivotal event in the creation of the modern Irish state. Commemorating the Rising presents many pressures for museums including how to commemorate a moment of political violence to different audiences, the threat of reducing war memorabilia to technical objects and making death visible by combining the effects of language, objects and imagery.

My research examines the challenges of displaying death and violence through images and artefacts in 1916 commemorative exhibition displays at three national cultural institutions in Ireland. The exhibitions I have selected as case studies are ‘Proclaiming a Republic’ at the National Museum of Ireland (Dublin), ‘Creating Histories’ at the National Gallery of Ireland (Dublin) and ‘Remembering 1916: Your Stories’ at the Ulster Museum (Belfast). These exhibitions have had a significant function in facilitating collective reflection and engagement with Ireland’s centenary programme in 2016. My analysis to date has indicated that the images and artefacts in these commemorative exhibitions are displayed in a way which confronts the tensions and violence of the 1916 Rising which were overlooked in previous exhibitions. This is largely achieved through the display of ordinary objects with visible traces of use such as James Connolly’s bloodstained vest which he wore during the rebellion. Such an artefact requires an examination of the actions carried out by the cultural institution in collecting and conserving the object; an analysis of how the visible traces of use authenticates the artefact as a tangible link to a nation’s past; and an analysis of the narrative strategies of its display.

My research project uses commemorative exhibitions to link together the three disciplines of visual culture, material culture and museology using Whitney Davis’ A General Theory of Visual Culture (2011) as methodology. It is envisaged that outcomes of this project will be transferrable to exhibitions outside of national cultural institutions, outside of Ireland and to other exhibitions which relate to difficult subject matter such as ‘Kraków During Nazi Occupation 1939-1945’ exhibition at Schindler’s Factory (Kraków).

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