This year’s IPMAG annual conference was held in Dublin City Council’s Wood Quay Venue, over the course of three days, beginning on Friday 3rd February. The purpose-built venue, which caters for conferences, meetings and performances, features a stretch of the original wall that was built around the Hiberno-Norse Dublin in c.1100. The wall, possibly the earliest example of a town or city wall built outside the former Roman Empire, formed a quite impressive backdrop to the podium, and was in keeping with a conference focused on archaeological matters.
The conference theme this year was The Archaeology of Improvement in Ireland. Improvement refers to prevailing social and political attitudes that encouraged an emerging modernity in how society saw itself. This was an ideology informed by the Enlightenment, and which shaped social practices, buildings, towns, gardens, fields and landscapes, profoundly changing the nature of Irish society and the physical world around it from the seventeenth century onwards. This conference explored how notions of improvement contributed to the emergence of a modern Ireland utilising case studies from rural, urban, technological and ideological perspectives.
The conference combined a variety of speakers with a guided tour on the archaeology of the 1916 Rising in the Moore Street area on Sunday – a fitting finish to a great weekend. The tour was provided by Dublin-based archaeologist Franc Myles, who has worked with Dublin City Council and the School of Archaeology in UCD on the publication of a book on the archaeology and topography of the Easter Rising. Friday’s proceedings were concluded by a wine reception and key note lecture given by Dr Pat Wallace (Director Emeritus of the National Museum of Ireland). The topic of the lecture was on the public transport revolution that took place on Irish roads between 1718 and 1848. Saturday’s lectures were concluded with dinner in the PHX Bistro on Dublin’s Ellis Quay where good food and company were enjoyed.
Sixteen speakers presented papers looking at landscape, architecture, material culture and technological development. On Friday morning Dr Wes Forsythe (Ulster University) gave a paper on his research into the transformations wrought upon island communities as part of an ‘improvement’ agenda. Wills McNeilly (Queen’s University Belfast) looked at trends in the development of vernacular cottages in a number of estates in the Mourne Mountains. Dr Richard Clutterbuck (AMS Ltd) showed how improvement practices shaped the Irish countryside, looking at the parish of Kilcooley, Co. Tipperary in particular. Later in the morning a paper by Dr Tadhg O’Keeffe and Dr David Whelan (University College Dublin) looked at the social violence involved in the creation of demesnes and the reclamation of upland in the lower Blackwater valley in west Co. Waterford. Dr Ian Kuijt (University of Notre Dame) used the case study of Inishark, Co. Galway to illustrate how notions of improvement were connected to land reform, infrastructural development and growing home ownership encouraged by parliamentary land acts.
After lunch on Friday, a paper by Robin Turk (University College Cork) highlighted how the ideology of improvement manifested itself in nineteenth-century Cistercian monasteries. Brian Sloan and Dr Colm Donnelly (Queen’s University Belfast) presented a community-led archaeological project which looked at a new house and yard built by Captain George Ewing in Retreat, Co. Antrim as part of an improvement’ enterprise in the 1770s. Later in the afternoon, David McIlreavy (IAC Ltd) presented a paper on late seventeenth-century development surrounding Newmarket on the southern margins of Dublin City which included the construction of housing for artisans and other entrepreneurs. Laura O’Connor (Cotswold Archaeology Ltd) showed the audience the latest developments in digital technology, in particular photogrammetry, and how the latter was used in the study of Killarney as a case study in how notions of improvement informed the development of Irish resort towns.
On Saturday, Paul Rondelez (University College Cork) provided an overview of the technology and history of the Irish blast furnace, including the volume and nature of such production, and its impact on the landscape and communities. Caen Harris (University College Cork) looked at process and technology in Ireland’s brewing industry, providing a timeline of technological improvement in the industry, as well as discussing the impacts of changing technologies and the consumers’ role as an agent of such change. Dr Colin Rynne (University College Cork) looked at how Richard Boyle, 1st earl of Cork would have travelled around his extensive estates and industrial concerns in Munster and further afield, and what this says about the level of road development in early seventeenth-century Ireland.
After lunch on Saturday, Dr Elena Turk (Bluebrick Heritage) looked at the industrial model village movement in Ireland which embraced notions of improvement, planning, legislation and an understanding of the environment, utilising case studies such Sion Mills in Co. Derry and Portlaw in Co. Waterford. Dr Harold Mytum (University of Liverpool) talked on the archaeologies of tea drinking and its links to the ideology of improvement in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Later in the afternoon, Nicholas Ames (University of Notre Dame) explored the role of Irish immigrants in America in supporting concepts of improvement in their homeland. The final speaker was Mick Ó Droma (Wolfhound Archaeology), who looked at the design and use of barracks by the Royal Irish Constabulary as a means to control local rural communities, using a case study from Annacarty, Co. Tipperary.
This conference was generously supported by Dublin City Council and the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland, and special thanks for this support must specifically go to Ruth Johnson, Dublin City Archaeologist and Michael MacDonagh, Chairperson of the IAI. IPMAG would also like thank the conference organisers – Richard Clutterbuck, Wes Forsythe and Elena Turk – who generously gave of their time and expertise in organising this event.
We look forward to seeing everyone again at next year’s conference in Galway (2018).
Our 2016 conference took place from 5-7 February at the County Museum in Dundalk. The theme of the conference was 'The Archaeology of Consumption in Ireland c.1550-1950'. A wide range of papers dealing with trade, foodstuffs, artefacts and industry were presented.
This year’s IPMAG annual conference was held in Acton’s Hotel, Kinsale, County Cork on a frosty but beautiful week at the beginning of February. It was an ideal setting for the conference which embraced multiple themes, many of which had a maritime or nautical focus and which fitted in well with the coastal setting provided by the lovely town of Kinsale and its environs. The conference theme this year – ‘Bridging the Gap’: considering the post-medieval archaeology of transport, travel and war – sought to tie in with the era of commemorations that is upon us, while bridging the divide between the study of post-medieval archaeology of coastal and underwater sites and those terrestrially located.
IPMAG XIII was held in the Verbal Arts Centre, Derry, 22-25 February in partnership with the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology. The theme: ‘Living legacy: archaeology and the early modern town'. Coinciding with the city's year as UK City of Culture, papers dealt with a wide range of Irish, British and further afield experiences of proto-urban or urban life. In addition delegates enjoyed workshops and tours.
IPMAG XII was held in Wexford, 3-5 February on the theme of ‘Between land and sea: Maritime communities in the post-medieval era' Papers dealing with maritime sites, economies, lifeways and material culture were presented.
The theme of IPMAG XI was held in Clare Museum, Ennis, Co. Clare, 4-6 February. The theme was ‘Hearth, Home and Household from the 16th-20th century - 400 years of material culture’. Papers dealing with vernacular architecture, furniture and material goods as well as urban structures and cottage industries were presented.
In 2001, the first IPMAG conference was held in Belfast to encourage and formalise interest in the archaeology of the last 500 years. Ten years on, we returned to our roots to assess our achievements and to consider present challenges and future directions. The Irish Post-Medieval Archaeology Group held it’s 10th conference (‘Ten Years On’), in the Group Space, Ulster Hall, Belfast 5-7th February.
The Irish Post- Medieval Archaeology Group (IPMAG) held their 9th annual conference in the Factory Performance Space, Sligo from 20th-22nd February 2009. The conference theme was Early Modern Irish Archaeologies...The familiar past?’. Fifteen papers were delivered dealing with the historic landscape, architecture and infrastructure.
The Irish Post- Medieval Archaeology Group (IPMAG) held their 8th annual conference in the Carnegie Arts Centre, Kenmare, Co. Kerry from Friday 22nd-24th February 2008. The conference theme was 'Toil and Trouble: Archaeological Perspectives on Economy'. Thirteen papers were delivered dealing with the post-medieval economy in urban, rural, maritime, and other settings.
IPMAG held its 7th annual conference from 27-29th April 2007. The Co. Donegal town of Rathmullan was the venue, marking the 400th anniversary of the Flight of the Earls from the town. Thirteen papers were presented on the conference theme, 'Ireland in transition: An archaeology of Ireland in the era of the Flight of the Earls'. The papers were reflective of both the structure of the Gaelic order and the nature of the early years of the Plantation precipitated by the departure of the Gaelic leadership.
IPMAG held its 6th annual conference in conjunction with the Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement. The joint conference took place from 24-26th February in University College Cork. Fifteen papers tackled the theme of 'Plantation Ireland: settlement and material culture 1550-1700'. The papers covered the architectural, material and ideological impact of the Plantation, with the focus predominantly on Munster.
The Irish Post- Medieval Archaeology Group (IPMAG) held its 5th Annual Conference from 4-6th March, 2005, at The Pery Hotel, Glentworth Street,Limerick. Sixteen papers were presented dealing with a range of post-medieval research currently underway in Ireland and particularly Munster. These included urban excavations in Galway, Baltimore and Limerick. Also studies on castles, gardens, vernacular dwellings, kilns and pottery. Delegates enjoyed a reception hosted by Aegis Archaeology, at the Georgian House on Pery Square and celebrated another successful conference.
The Irish Post- Medieval Archaeology Group (IPMAG) held its 4th Annual Conference on 5th- 8th February, 2004, in the Tower Hotel, Derry. The conference was held in conjunction with the Society of Post-Medieval Archaeology (UK) and with the support of the University of Ulster.
The conference theme was Ireland and Britain in the Atlantic World. A range of papers covered the historic linkages between Ireland and Britain, and the place of both islands in the wider Atlantic world of the colonial and post-colonial periods. The conference celebrated the growing awareness of Ireland's Post- Medieval archaeological heritage and attracted international participation.
The third annual IPMAG conference was held in the Ulster Museum, Belfast, January 31st-February 1st.
Nine papers were presented spanning a range of topics including industrial archaeology in Northern Ireland, late medieval tower houses, urban archaeology in Dublin, rural settlement in County Donegal, twentieth-century defence heritage, the importance of theory in contemporary historical archaeology, and ongoing field projects on Achill Island and on the Isle of Man. Delegates enjoyed a reception hosted by the Ulster Museum, and celebrated IPMAG’s third successful conference.