A Special Collections Exhibit: “1916 Easter Rising: To Strike for Freedom (Images from the Joseph McGarrity Collection)”
Five cases, densely packed with materials drawn from the McGarrity Collection housed in Falvey’s Special Collections, and one case with loaned artifacts provide a comprehensive view of the 1916 Easter Rising, which occurred in Ireland one hundred years ago on Easter Monday, April 24.
The backstory for the Easter Rising, the subject of the exhibit, dates from the English occupation of Ireland in 1169. Over many years and centuries, the Irish resisted and rebelled, but were always defeated. In 1801 England imposed “The Act of Union” which annexed Ireland as part of the United Kingdom (Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales). The Home Rule party was created as were the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRA) and the Sinn Féin (We Ourselves). There were rebellions in 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916, all aimed at ending British rule. In New York, c.1867, the predecessor to Clan na Gael, an American Irish republican organization was founded. Joseph McGarrity of Philadelphia (the donor of the McGarrity Collection) was a prominent member of the Clan na Gael and a staunch supporter of the IRA.
Five cases are organized thematically: “Brothers, Rise! Your Country Calls,” “A Supreme Moment for Ireland,” “The Curse of the Irish Nation,” “Ireland for the Irish,” and “Who Fears to Speak of Easter Week?” These cases all contain materials from the McGarrity Collection, primarily books opened to show illustrations.
Of particular interest in the “Brothers, Rise!…” case are a large photograph, “Joseph McGarrity, standing with gloves,” and a typed poem, “To the Fianna” [members “of a secret 19th century Irish and Irish-American organization dedicated to the overthrow of the British rule in Ireland,” Meriam Webster Dictionary], written by McGarrity in 1915. There is a photograph of the Na Fianna Eirann Congress of 1913 and a number of books, many open to display illustrations.
A Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook: Easter 1916 (published in Dublin, 1917) and its map of Dublin occupy a prominent place in “A Supreme Moment for Ireland.” In “The Curse of the Irish Nation” there are again books opened to illustrations, a letter handwritten by Eamonn De Valera to Philadelphia (March 9, 1920) and a photograph of De Valera with the McGarrity family, c.1919.
“Ireland for the Irish” displays books, but a number of these feature women who were involved with the Irish nationalist cause. Two items of interest in “Who Fears to Speak of Easter Week?” are a copy of The Clan-na-Gael Journal (October 22, 1916) published in Philadelphia and an article, “Editorial: Proclamation of the Irish Republic – 1916” printed in The Irish People (April 10, 1982, p. 4), a newspaper published in the Bronx, New York.
The tall vertical case displays the proclamation, “Poblach Na H Eireann: The Provisional Government of the Irish Republic to the People of Ireland,” a small decorated Irish harp, an Irish Volunteers medal and a photograph of “Seán White, Co Derry, Staff Captain GHQ Dublin, Ireland.” On the bottom of the case are two framed copies “of excerpts of [handwritten] letter of provenance regarding the copy of the Irish Proclamation displayed above.” (From the accompanying placard.) These artifacts are on loan from an anonymous collector.
Anne Fitzpatrick, a history student, Laura Bang, and Michael Foight, with additional research provided by Craig Bailey, PhD, were the principal curators for this exhibit. Joanne Quinn, team leader for Communication and Service Promotion designed the graphics. The exhibit will remain on view until July 1. The digital exhibit is now live and can be viewed here.
On March 21 at 4:00 p.m. in the Speaker’s Corner, Irish Studies Program, Department of Theatre and Falvey will host “To Strike for Freedom, 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising.” This event celebrates Irish culture in commemoration of the Easter Rising anniversary. Members of the Villanova community will present readings. The event is free and open to the public.
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