July 31st, 2019

North West Group Produce Creative Responses to Women in the Archives Exhibition

A group of seven participants took part in a week-long digital fabrication programme at the Nerve Centre’s Fab Lab in Derry~Londonderry to mark the launch of the Women in the Archives touring exhibition.

Participants got exclusive access to archives and collections from PRONI and the Linen Hall Library and heard from exhibition curators Lynsey Gillespie and Jason Burke about some of the extraordinary women’s stories they found.

During the programme, participants learnt digital fabrication skills, including design, laser and vinyl cutting, and produced their own creative responses. Participants also gained an OCN qualification in digital fabrication.

The artwork produced by the participants will be displayed in our touring exhibition. Women in the Archives is on display at Derry Central Library until the end of August.

Rosemary Henderson

Daughters of Eve' is a piece inspired by unrecognised women of science, in particular Lurgan born Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Burnell discovered Pulsars as a PHD student in 1967 and her name was left off the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded for the discovery.

The international symbol for women, the Venus symbol, is deep blue representing the mother Earth, and the clear disc intersecting it holds an image of the Pulsar map which represents space and its infinite expanses.

This image was inscribed on the golden record sent to interstellar space on the probes Voyager 1 and 2. The map identifies Earth's location in its centre to those who may find the golden record, like a message in a bottle in the oceans of space. The two pieces intersect to form a globe, symbolising humanity's link between earth and space, particularly poignant being constructed during the 50th anniversary celebrations of man's first steps on the moon.

Helen Doherty

This is Sapphowoman. She is the Superheroine protagonist from a 1989 comic called 'Sapphowoman and the Greater Belfast Dykes'. She is a lesbian Super Hero who saves other lesbians in distress.

I chose Sapphowoman as this comic book appealed to me the most out of the collection of historical sources we viewed during the duration of our course. I liked the comic's sense of humour and appreciated the values Sapphowoman stood for.

Margaret McDaid

“18,000 voices” is inspired by a number of things:

Criss-cross writing was used in letter writing as a way of maximising the communication materials available.

 Shirtmaking in Derry reached its peak in the 1920s when the shirt factories, together with their associated outworkers, employed 18,000 people.

In industrial garment making, pattern templates are cut from wood and stored on hangers, to be taken down and used by the cutters when needed.

These seven pieces make up the pattern template for a shirt; back, front, sleeve, collar, yoke, cuff and collar stand. They are engraved with the pattern of criss-cross writing to represent the unremembered voices of the thousands of women who made shirts in Derry.

Veronica Buchanan

"I am now a woman...” - I responded on a personal level to the suppression of women in society - especially church and state. My initial focus was on the words: “Everyone has a voice...Everyone has a story...Everyone has a Future"

Reading the Diary (left at the In Her Words exhibition) the first entry 'I am now a woman of 61..." the story impacted on me that she had a baby at 19 in a time when she was consider a 'fallen woman'. She was fortunate to have kept her baby - not like others.

My piece is a combination of thoughts around this and I've used references made by the presenters which I used/included, i.e.

- 'Anonymous was a woman/ headless figures; 

- Name tag (reversed);

- Suffragettes (striking), hence the queue!; 

- Workhouse (represented in script from workhouse journal); 

- Incarceration - barbed wire;

-  Suppression - key

I hope to have given a voice to the woman who felt that 'she brought disgrace to her family'. The figures, I hope, stand proud which she should be - PROUD.

Heather Orr

This piece is about the women who have had an impact on all our lives, be it an ancestor, family member or best friend.  These people leave an impact big or small in your life and whilst other people may not always know who they are, they are important to you and they leave a legacy. That's why to people who don't know them they are anonymous. 

Arlene Wege

While I now comprehend better how I might have been able to create a piece based on the Women in the Archives material introduced to us at the beginning of the week, I am happy that I was able to celebrate the women of Ireland with images of the bin lids that were used in past decades as a means of communication and resistance during the Troubles. I was very grateful to be able to learn new skills and experiment with software, machinery, and materials. The tireless assistance of the instructors and the generous teamwork of all the participants made all our creations quite wonderful.

Elvin Simpson

For my project at Fablab I chose to do a piece about Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the astrophysicist who discovered pulsars in 1967. The work she did was so radical that two male colleagues associated with her work received the Nobel prize in 1974, but Jocelyn's part was not really acknowledged until 2018 when she received the "Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics". She then donated the 2.3 million pound prize to fund a bursary to help female, minority and refugee students wanting to become physics researchers.

I brought with me an AutoCAD drawing saved as a pdf which is part of a stream of artwork I have been engaged in producing for many years (off and on). It's based upon going towards and away from a central point, and the central conceit of the works is that the arrows are cut out and removed. Arrows are such a strong symbol that the observer readily recognises them, but may or may not realise that although they can "see" arrows, there are no arrows there, just the spaces between them.

I thought this a strong visual metaphor for all the women in history who have been unseen and unrecognised for their contributions, and thought the central focus of the pattern a strong analogy for the science of astrophysics. Light from distant galaxies coming in, ideas, interpretation and ultimately understanding flowing out.

Women In the Archives

Project Contacts

Laura Aguiar

Community Engagement Officer & Creative Producer at Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

028 9053 4829

Lynsey Gillespie

Curator at Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

028 9053 4830

Lesley Cherry

Community Engagement Officer at Linen Hall Library

028 9032 1707

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North West Group Produce Creative Responses to Women in the Archives Exhibition
North West Group Produce Creative Responses to Women in the Archives Exhibition
North West Group Produce Creative Responses to Women in the Archives Exhibition
North West Group Produce Creative Responses to Women in the Archives Exhibition
North West Group Produce Creative Responses to Women in the Archives Exhibition

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