Opening of Offaly Archives by Minister Malcolm Noonan, 18 Nov. 2021.

Offaly History is pleased to announce the opening of Offaly Archives at unit 1F, Cluster Two, Axis Business Park, on Thursday 18 November 2021, by minister of state at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Malcolm Noonan.

Offaly History completed the building of its second premises in 2019 to coincide with its 50th anniversary. The new repository is a state-of-the-art archives building managed by a professional archivist, Lisa Shortall, and houses the collections of Offaly History and Offaly County Library. The mix of the voluntary and the public sectors, under professional management, provides a unique blend of enthusiasm, specialist knowledge and continuity that can only enhance Offaly Archives over time.

This community-driven project secured funding from Offaly Local Development Company, Creative Ireland, the Heritage Council and Offaly County Council. Most important to Offaly History was the support of the managing committee for the project and the financial support from the public received in the form of donations and interest-free loans from individuals and groups across the county. Offaly History is a charitable trust with a broad membership, an education programme and publications series. It is there to work with all who want to develop an appreciation of our local heritage. In this regard the support of the county council, the county heritage officer Amanda Pedlow, and the county library service has proved invaluable. Offaly Archives is now an asset for public benefit. You can ensure that it grows and prospers.

Minister Noonan cuts the ribbon

The establishment of a county archives service brings together the years of work in the collecting and conserving of historical records by Offaly County Library and Offaly History. Professional management will ensure secure access to the county’s patrimony and further the on-going work of the Offaly County Library and all historical societies in the county in building on what has been achieved to date. A country without archives is one without a history said Offaly History representative, Michael Byrne, in his words of welcome.

The minister and guests were taken on a tour of the new facility by archivist Lisa Shortall.

Lisa Shortall, archivist, introduces the guests to some of the treasures of Offaly Archives

Welcoming the minister, the Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council, Declan Harvey, stated that: 

I would like to welcome you all to Offaly and the County Archives Service.  I am aware how much it means to all here to have the Minister present for this tour and launch and to be accompanied by the Chief Executive and Chair Designate of the Heritage Council.  I grew up in Tullamore and have seen the strength of the Offaly Historical Society growing over the years from the early days in the Charleville Farm office building, to their premises at Bury Quay and now to this state-of-the-art county archive building.  Few  historical societies would be in a position to buy and develop a building into an archive  of this calibre and I would like to acknowledge the strength of the committee to take on this project and the  support of the Offaly LEADER programme who provided grant aid and also those living in and associated with the county who donated money to the project.  This historical society continues its active role with research, lectures and the book shop in Bury Quay too.

Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council Declan Harvey with Chair of the Heritage Council Dr Martina Moloney (extreme left) and guests including Brendan O’Loughlin (CEO, OLDC), Niall Sweeney, Tony McCormack (chair of Tullamore Municipal Council), Eimear McGinn (Offaly County Librarian).

From the tour this morning the depth of knowledge of the resources in the county is evident and we are most fortunate to have this service in the county and the Council is very pleased to be able to work alongside and support this service.

Michael Byrne, secretary Offaly History, welcomes the guests, in this picture – Cathaoirleach Declan Harvey, CE Anna Marie Delaney, Minister Malcolm Noonan and CE Virginia Teehan

On behalf of Offaly History secretary Michael Byrne said it was a great day for Offaly Archives and that it could not have happened without the doors that had been opened by heritage officer Amanda Pedlow, CE Anna Marie Delaney, the full support of Offaly County Library and Offaly Council, the Heritage Council, Offaly Local Development who had provided its maximum grant of €200,000 towards the €750, 000 project, the credit union, and most important the donors to the archive and those who gave interest free loans. While it was an Offaly History initiated and funded project it was there now for the people of Offaly and as Offaly Archives is part of the county’s patrimony. The archives is a Trust with the generations past and those yet to come.

The capital debt is now paid, and the challenge now is to grow the archive by way of securing more original historical material and ongoing financial support. A special thanks was paid to archivist Lisa Shortall, Niall Sweeney and all in Offaly History under the leadership of chair – Helen Bracken. The new archives was singularly favoured in its opening by having Minister Malcolm Noonan to do the honours as he is at one with the objectives of Offaly Archives. The Archives has had tremendous support from the Heritage Council with Chair Martina Moloney and CEO Virginia Teehan also present. Offaly Archives has been favoured with such support from the beginning and what had seemed an impossible task for a historical society was achieved.

Virginia Teehan, CEO of the Heritage Council

There followed short addresses by Virginia Teehan, the CEO of the Heritage Council, who emphasised the community participation in heritage and the benefit of the practical steps taken to support it in Offaly. The evidential value of archives cannot be underestimated. The Heritage Council was privileged to support the project which gives life to our heritage, preserving it permanently for society.

In response the CE of Offaly County Council, Anna Marie Delaney, noted that

All good projects start with being fact-based and undertaking good research. The knowledge of the ever evolving collection at Offaly History combined with the analysis provided by Lisa Shortall in her work looking at how best to manage archives in Offaly, provided clear direction to develop the service.

Some of the guests at the opening seen here with Minister Malcolm Noonan and Helen Bracken, chair Offaly History.

I would like to acknowledge Beatrice Kelly in the Heritage Council who met with Amanda, Lisa and the then county librarian Mary Stuart and gave such encouragement in those early years when a range of options emerged. Since then the Heritage Council have provided not just funding, but interest and support and advice. The Offaly County Heritage Plan 2017-21 has eight actions and one of these is to support the development of the county archive service. This targeted Heritage Plan has led to a clear programme of works for the past five years. I would like to thank Lisa for her participation on the Offaly Heritage Forum along with James Scully from Offaly History and for welcoming the forum to the archives along with her updates at a number of the Annual Heritage Seminars held each November and Heritage Week events.

Cathaoirleach Declan Harvey with Minister Malcolm Noonan and Offaly History director Niall Sweeney

The development of professional catalogues for both collections  showed how much more logical  it was to have two archive collections in the county, one in Bury Quay and one in the library in Tullamore hosted in the same archive.  Neither building that they had been stored in was built for the purpose either! So as the opportunity emerged to develop this archive, the Council was pleased to support the project through a SLA resulting in hosting the Council’s collection here under the stewardship of a professional archivist.  For the researcher and for the collections and for those responsible for record management this has been the most beneficial outcome.  There is a very positive relationship on the SLA working group between the county librarian Eimear McGinn, county heritage officer Amanda Pedlow, Michael Byrne from Offaly History and archivist Lisa Shortall.

As the Cathaoirleach has mentioned Offaly History has deep community roots which means their contacts and their communications are very effective resulting in donations being forthcoming. We are aware that this is a unique model which works to the strengths of the county and are very pleased to have you all here at the launch today.’

In his address on cutting the ribbon Minister Noonan said –

Minister Noonan with Amanda Pedlow, (Offaly Heritage Officer) Lisa Shortall (archivist at Offaly Archives), Helen Bracken (Offaly History) and Eimear McGinn (Offaly County Librarian).

The attendance at the event (several times deferred) and necessarily curtailed in the scope of attendance due to public health needs, included the following:

Minister Malcolm Noonan; Martina Moloney, Chair designate of the Heritage Council; Virginia Teehan, CEO Heritage Council; Declan Harvey, Cathaoirleach, Offaly County Council, Anna Marie Delaney, CE, Offaly County Council; Eimear McGinn, Offaly Library Service; Amanda Pedlow, Offaly Heritage Officer, the CEO of Offaly Local Development Company Brendan O’Loughlin and Team Leader Roisín Lennon; the Offaly History managing committee for the archives project – Lisa Shortall (archivist), Niall Sweeney (director Offaly History) and Michael Byrne (secretary of Offaly History) and the Chair of the Society Helen Bracken.

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For more on Offaly Archives

http://www.offalyarchives – see the catalogue which is constantly being updated

Offaly Archives – Twitter

See also helpful videos about the work of the archives on Offaly History YouTube

More information archivist@offalyhistory