Thursday 21 November 2019

Dark Days of the War of Independence: photo exhibition

The National Photographic Archive's new exhibition, ‘From Turmoil to Truce: Photographs of the War of Independence’, has opened in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

Burning of Cork 13.12.1920 W.D. Hogan / courtesy NLI
It draws on the National Library of Ireland's extensive collection of photographs and newspapers, and explores the key aspects of a dramatic, brutal and extreme period of Irish history, in which Irish republicans fought to win Ireland’s freedom from centuries of British rule.

In telling the story of Ireland’s pursuit of independence, the exhibition highlights the increasing normalisation of violence at the time; the impact felt across the country and at all levels of society; and the personal experiences of both individuals and families.

Dublin’s Custom House engulfed in flames, Cork’s Patrick Street reduced to rubble, families ejected from their homes by British forces, and the immediate aftermath of outbreaks of violence and bloodshed are among the scenes displayed.

The ground floor exhibition space is rendered in a stark black and white colour scheme, reflecting the subject matter and title of the exhibition, as visitors are taken on the journey from conflict and turmoil to resolution and truce. Multimedia elements include a large display showing a selection of archival Pathé newsreels, putting visitors in the place of cinema-goers of the era; while an interactive screen offers an opportunity to get hands-on with history and browse other ephemera from the period, including theatre programmes.

Speaking at the launch, Director of the NLI, Dr Sandra Collins, said: “The War of Independence was a challenging time in our history. The Irish Free State was born in violence and involved difficult choices. It is important to the National Library to be part of the national conversation about these dark and complex times."

The exhibition is free to visit and is open seven days a week: Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and 12noon to 5pm on Sundays. It will run until May 2020 and a programme of events has been organised to complement the photographic exhibition, comprising panel discussions, events and tours. Free guided tours will take place on the third Thursday of every month: 28 November (1pm), 16 January, 20 February, 19 March, and 16 April.

See the short video below for more information.