Review of past Conferences

2018 Conference


This year’s IPMAG annual conference was held in the Harbour Hotel in Galway, over the course of three days, beginning on Friday 2nd February. The conference theme this year was Valuing the local: the significance of cultural heritage in the post-medieval period. 2018 was designated as European Year of Cultural Heritage, and provided a suitable backdrop to explore the value and significance of local cultural heritage. National cultural heritage is usually popularly celebrated, while the local can be seen as somehow less significant and less valued. However, it is precisely the local or regional aspect of cultural heritage that lends spaces and places their distinctive value. Consequently, the heritage and culture of localities should be protected and celebrated.


The conference kicked off on Friday afternoon with a guided tour of Galway City given by Dr Jim Higgins, Heritage Officer with Galway City Council, which covered a range of archaeological and built heritage sites in this medieval city. Proceedings continued later in the evening with a wine reception and key note speech given by Councillor John Walsh, deputising for the Mayor of Galway City, Pearce Flannery. 


Eighteen speakers presented papers looking at various aspects of local cultural heritage: vernacular architecture, community archaeology, material culture, local historical memories and the significance of landscapes in creating local identities. On Saturday morning Dr Colin Rynne (University College Cork) gave a paper on his research into country mills and their place in local communities, using the examples of two mills in Cos Tipperary and Cork in how they were adapted to meet the changing needs of their local communities. Eve Campbell (Achill Archaeological Field School) looked at local vernacular architecture uncovered during the excavation of pre-Famine settlement on Achill Island. Frank Hall (National University of Ireland) spoke on his research on the decline of the castle-building tradition in Connaught, and whether fortified houses and strong houses should be defined as castles, and how historical narrative and local perspective shapes our understanding of these buildings. A paper by Dr Patrick Wallace (Emeritus Director of the National Museum of Ireland) looked at the archaeology of the nineteenth-century Irish hotel, the nature of the evidence used in their identification, and how they should be more appreciated as integral to the story of the Irish town. 


Later in the morning, Lorna Elms (National Museum of Ireland) spoke on the Irish Community Archive Network (iCAN) which is a NMI project that encourages and supports volunteers in the collection and digitisation of historical material relating to people and their places, and making it globally accessible. Dr Paul Rondelez (formerly University College Cork) highlighted the work of the Sliabh Aughty furnace project which he co-founded in 2014 to work with local communities in recording, preserving and publishing the history and archaeological remains of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century blast furnace industry in east Co. Clare and southeast Co. Galway.


After lunch on Saturday, Naomi Carver (Queen’s University Belfast) gave a paper on a small post-medieval kiln site excavated in the townland of Killyneese, near Magherafelt, Co. Derry. Her paper explored the production and consumption of such an assemblage, placing it in both local and wider contexts. Chris Barton (Francis Marion University) looked at an intriguing item, the ‘Paddy and the Pig’, an 1882 mechanical bank that was popular throughout the United States. The mechanical bank, through its form and appearance, was used to create the Irish as the ‘other’, promote racism, and through the process create an identity of ‘whitenesss’ in late nineteenth-century America. Jim Higgins (Heritage Officer, Galway City Council) in a paper explored Galway’s later stone sculpture and the development of sculptural forms from late Gothic to Renaissance in the city.


Later in the afternoon, Edward O’Riordain spoke on the position of archaeological monuments within the popular folklore traditions of the nineteenth century. This study illustrated how various monuments commonly found in the Irish countryside, such as ringforts, were perceived within local communities, and played a role in the creation of a specific sense of identity. Ros Ó Maolduin (NUI Galway / Trinity College Dublin) looked at the contested meanings of prehistoric tombs in the post-medieval world, using Roghan Hill in Co. Clare as a case study. Drawing on folklore, contemporary accounts and the results of recent excavations, his paper illustrated the avoidance, use, preservation, destruction and perceptions of megalithic tombs on Roughan Hill, and in the wider Burren, during the post-medieval era.


On Sunday morning Christy Cuniffe (Community Archaeologist, Galway City Council) highlighted the migration of Ultach (Ulster) settlers into the Slieve Aughty Mountains following major sectarian clashes in Co. Armagh. His paper examined various archaeological remains associated with these Ulster settlers, such as the circular footings of the shelters that were erected when they first arrived. Matthew Peace (NUI Galway) examined through archaeological, historical and landscape studies how memory and landscape are entwined with each other using the events surrounding evictions near the village of Woodford, Co. Galway during the land wars of the late nineteenth century. Connie Kelleher and Karl Brady’s (Underwater Archaeology Unit, NMS) paper highlighted the fascinating presence of ship graffiti and inscriptions scrawled onto the walls of Daniel O’Connell’s summer house on his estate at Derrynane, Co. Kerry. Indeed, some of the script may potentially have been written being by the man himself. 


Later on Sunday morning, Ian Kuijt and William Donaruma (Notre Dame University) presentation involved showing a 14 minute film entitled Nets of Memory (Líonta na Cuimhne) which outlined how Festus Halloran, originally from Inishark, Co. Galway, made fishing nets for 42 years, while living in the landlocked town of Clinton, Massachusetts. The film combined oral history, folklore and documentary sources to illustrate the profound nature of one’s sense of belonging or local identity, even when separated by wide geographical distances. Gary Dempsey (Real Sim Ltd) discussed the findings of the Rathcroghan Field System Survey which used 3D photogrammetry to record the archaeological landscape located in that part of north Co. Roscommon. This survey has revealed traces of post-medieval settlement and field systems, as well as the enigmatic ‘Rathcroghan Pitfields’, a series of linear pits scattered across the countryside which may have either archaeological or geological origins. Mick Gibbons presented a paper on the archaeological landscape of two maritime lordships of the later medieval and early modern eras, the O’Flahertys with their main castle in Bunowen in southwest Connemara and the MacAsgaills in the shadow of Iron Age fort called Rubha an Dúnain on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. His paper examined the remarkable similarity in the archaeological remains between the two localities, highlighting their place in a wider Gaelic maritime world. Last, but not least, Frank Coyne’s paper on the pastscapes of the Black Valley in Co. Kerry brought the proceedings of the conference to a conclusion. His paper looked at the post-medieval archaeological landscape of a valley best known as one of the last places to be electrified in rural Ireland in the late 1970s.


This conference was generously supported by the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland, as well as the support of Galway City Council, and special thanks for this support must specifically go to Stuart Elder, Acting Chairperson of the IAI, and Jim Higgins, Heritage Officer with Galway City Council. Acknowledgement must also be made of the continued support of Aegis, and Archaeology and Built Heritage as well. IPMAG would also like thank the conference organisers – Tracy Collins, Frank Coyne, Edel Barry, Eve Campbell and Connie Kelleher – 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 Enniskillen (2019).


2017 Conference


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).


2016 Conference


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.


2015 Conference


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.


2013 Conference

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.


Not Available


2012 Conference

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.


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2011 Conference

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.


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2010 Conference

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.


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2009 Conference

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.


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2008 Conference 

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.


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2007 Conference

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.


Not Available


2006 Conference  

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.


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2005 Conference

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.


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2004 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.


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2003 Conference

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.


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Next Event


IPMAG XXII Conference

26 February 2022, Online


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