‘Barraduff Archive Project’ was a public artwork commissioned by Kerry County Council that took place in Barraduff village, County Kerry. From 1937 to 1938, Barraduff National School took part in a national folklore project, initiated by the Irish Folklore Commission. The project involved 5th and 6th class students from Barraduff National School, collecting and documenting local folklore, history and traditions, as well as the flora and fauna of Barraduff village. The information took the form of handwritten transcripts in the children’s copybooks. The children collected the material mainly from their parents and grandparents, but also from other older members of the Barraduff community. The original copybooks and transcripts are held in the National Folklore Collection in University College Dublin.

Over a nine-month period, artist Augustine O’Donoghue worked on a weekly basis with students from Barraduff National School, investigating the work collected by the children in 1937-38. Following a similar line of enquiry to the students in the 1930s, each week a different topic was selected, with the students being asked to research, collect and document history and folklore from their parents, grandparents and older members of the Barraduff community.

The students also recorded and documented their own lives for future generations. The work took the form of storytelling, discussions, digital sound recordings, digital photography, as well as drawings, written documentation and the collection of various materials. The project culminated in a temporary exhibition and event in the old national school building in Barraduff, of all the work produced and collected.

Throughout the project, interesting local folklore and stories, which had almost disappeared from the collective memory of Barraduff people, were rediscovered through research and engagement with some of the older members in the community. On the opening night of the exhibition, students read out some of these lost stories to members of the community who had gathered for the occasion. Two of the students recited some of the stories they had written and researched live on Kerry Radio.

A series of large colourful prints was produced, incorporating student’s historic and contemporary stories and drawings, which were framed and hung on the classroom walls in the new school. An Archive Unit was constructed, in collaboration with a bespoke furniture designer, as a way to create a permanent archive in the school, to hold the work produced and gathered during the project and to develop an ongoing archive that has the possibility to continue and grow over the years. The unit includes a series of empty frames and boxes, with the idea that students will add to it over the next 50 years.

This Archive unit included a time capsule in the base of the unit. Students in the school, as well as members of the community, were invited to contribute personal mementos. All kinds of objects were contributed including letters, photographs, coins, books, old school reports cards, items of jewellery, historical documents etc. This time capsule was sealed shut for 50 years on the night of the exhibition opening. Three students and the principal of the school have been entrusted as key holders of the time capsule and were presented with framed keys for safe keeping until it is reopened in 2062.

Similar to the students in 1937-38, each student produced a handwritten copybook of the information they collected, which was presented in the exhibition and is now stored in the archive unit. The artist created a portrait of each child who took part in the project, which was hung above their copybook in the exhibition.

A collection of artifacts, photographs, documents and maps relating to the history and folklore of the area were also presented in the exhibition. Many local people contributed to this collection. This was the first time these personal items from people’s homes were shown in a public space, creating a unique opportunity for the community to collectively view and recall memories, stories, pictures, faces and events from Barraduff area over the years.

While developing the exhibition, the original desks from the old school were found thrown out at the back of the building. These were cleaned and restored and one of the former school classrooms was recreated. During the course of the exhibition, many past pupils of all ages came and sat in the desks that they had once occupied during their school days. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, many people returned on a number of occasions, bringing along older and younger family members to share some of the community’s history and folklore.

The exhibition included the Barraduff School roll books and historical school documents, such as inspector’s reports and student payment records, dating back to the 1800s. Another aspect of the project included a series of oral history sound recordings, produced over the course of the project. These included interviews by the children with their fellow students, grandparents and with one of the original students who took part in the project in 1937/38, as well as songs from the area and an interview with local hero Kerry footballer, Seamus Moynihan, a past pupil of the school.

After the exhibition, all the material was stored in the archive unit, which will remain in the school, to be added to over the years. The five digital cameras bought and used by the students for the project will remain in the school as a tool to help facilitate the project into the future. Copies of selected work from the exhibition are in the process of being transferred to other archives, including the GAA archive and the National Folklore Collection in UCD.