During the excitement of the Volvo Ocean Race in Galway it would have been easy to overlook the opening of a new exhibition in the Galway City Museum. The exhibition called Uisce agus beatha – Water and life – was opened by the new mayor Cllr. Terry O’Flaherty on Thursday the 5th July. It was curated by Jim Higgins Galway city’s heritage officer and was a joint initiative between the heritage office and the Galway City Museum.
The exhibition is a celebration of people, places, boats and water and was ideally suited to coincide with the Volvo Ocean Race. It consists of fifty photographs contributed by the people of Galway in response to an appeal by the museum and the heritage office. The photographs are a reflection on the central place of water in the history and culture of Galway city. The photographs chosen for the exhibition are largely unknown and are personal and local memories of all things and people water related. It is a simple exhibition consisting of a series of large format unframed photographs grouped together and hung against the white walls of the Galway City Museum. It is perhaps this simplicity and the personal nature of the photographs which makes it so compelling.
The photographs range in date from the 1890’s to the 1990’s and includes some early images of the docks and the claddagh. With the river, lake and sea, water has played a huge part in the economic life of Galway city and as Jim Higgin’s reflects in his introduction to the exhibition catalogue ‘it is difficult now to believe the extent of the trade and transport which once existed on Lough Corrib’.
Some of my favourite photographs from the exhibition reflect the sporting side of the association with water. The colourful depiction of the Galway head of the river and the energy seeping out of the black and white photograph of the currach racing held during the an Tóstal Ireland at Home festival in 1957 stood out for me. However, it is hard also not to be taken by the beautiful photographs of Galway hookers being gracefully propelled by the wind.
The photographs exhibited are only some of the hundreds received from the public. There are plans to post all these photographs on the Glawy City Museum website during heritage week in August and the Uisce agus Beatha exhibition will be on display throughout the summer in the museum. The exhibition is upported by Galway City Council, The Heritage Council and Foras na Galeilge. It is well worth a look.