Taoiseach Micheál Martin paid tribute to the award-winning team responsible for Nano Nagle Place, when he visited the Cork centre yesterday (30.04.22) for a homecoming event to mark its winning of the prestigious Council of Europe Museum Prize 2022. This is the first time an Irish museum has won this award since 1980, when Monaghan County Museum was selected.
The Council of Europe Museum Prize is awarded to a museum that has contributed significantly to upholding human rights and democratic citizenship, to broadening knowledge and understanding of contemporary societal issues and to bridging cultures by encouraging inter-cultural dialogue or overcoming social and political borders. It has been awarded annually since 1977 by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. The prize aims to highlight Europe’s diverse cultural heritage and the interplay between local and European identities. Previous winners include the GULAG History Museum in Russia; the National Museum of Secret Surveillance “House of Leaves” in Albania, and the War Childhood Museum in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Located on the grounds of the South Presentation Convent on Douglas Street in Cork’s south inner city, Nano Nagle Place is dedicated to the life and ethos of Nano Nagle, the founder of the Presentation Sisters. A visionary who saw education as the route out of poverty, especially for girls, Nano established schools throughout Cork city in the 1700s. These schools operated illegally under the Penal Laws. Apart from her work as an educator, she served the poor of Cork by distributing food and medicine to those most in need. She became known as the ‘Lady of the Lantern’ because she undertook this work by night, using a lantern to guide her through Cork’s unlit streets.
Situated on the site of her first school in the city, Nano Nagle Place is a place of history, of community, and of serenity in the heart of Cork city. Using objects, text, video and digital, the museum tells Nano’s story through the history of the development of Cork city in the 1700s. Elsewhere on site, Nano Nagle’s ethos can be seen through the work of the Cork Migrant Centre, which provides services to asylum seekers and refugees to help them to settle into life in Cork, and the Lantern Community Project, which runs community education services for the local inner-city community. The complex is also home to an 18th Century graveyard, where Nano Nagle is buried, the Presentation Congregation archive and a tranquil walled garden, where Corkonians and visitors alike gather to while away some time. The Cork Centre for Architectural Education, which is a collaboration between UCC and the Munster Technology University, and the UCC Postgraduate School of Physiotherapy are also located at Nano Nagle Place. It also welcomes school groups from across the country throughout the year. Nano Nagle Place also acts as a cultural hub, regularly hosting Cork’s artists, writers, poets, and musicians. This includes the East Cork Early Music Festival, the Cork Decorative & Fine Arts Society, and the Cork Environment Forum.
In awarding the 2022 Museum Prize to Nano Nagle Place, the Council of Europe Committee said: “The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media not only valued how Nano Nagle Place, in its museum, commemorates the Presentation Sisters’ educational and spiritual work, but also the way the Order continues its founding mission.”
Recognising, the work of the Cork Migrant Centre and the Lantern Community Project, it said: “These initiatives bring Nano Nagle’s quest for equality and social justice to 21st Century Cork.”
Commenting, An Taoiseach, Michéal Martin said: “Nano Nagle Place is a wonderful example of community spirit in action. It takes one woman’s determination in the 1700s to provide opportunities for disadvantaged families in Cork – particularly through education for girls – and brings it right through to 21st Century Ireland. I would like to pay tribute to the entire team behind this fabulous facility – to the Presentation Sisters who continue to fulfil Nano Nagle’s mission through the various activities it facilitates at Nano Nagle Place, to the staff and volunteers who help to run the centre, to the members of the local community who use the facilities and to the museum team who have so successfully positioned Nano Nagle’s story in the history of Cork and brought it right up to date through the Sisters’ continuing work.
“Winning the Council of Europe Museum Prize is a very significant achievement. Nano Nagle Place is a credit to Cork – and to Ireland – and I wish it continued success.”
During the visit, the Taoiseach was given a tour of the facility, met with staff, the board and members of the local community who enjoy the services and facilities at Nano Nagle Place. He also unveiled the Council of Europe Museum Prize certificate.
The event was also attended by Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Tony Fitzgerald. He said: “Nano Nagle Place is a wonderful resource for Cork and has revitalised this part of the south inner city. I am delighted that it has received international recognition. This is a fantastic achievement, and I would like to congratulate all involved.”
Chief executive of Nano Nagle Place, Shane Clarke said: “We were delighted to welcome Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Tony Fitzgerald and An Taoiseach Michéal Martin to Nano Nagle Place, particularly as we know the Taoiseach has an interest in both education and history, and to show them around this wonderful resource for Cork City. Cork is a city of learning and sanctuary and our mission at Nano Nagle Place is to showcase how Nano Nagle’s work impacted on Cork society in the 1700s, and how we continue to fulfil her vision into the 21st century through our transformative community education and migrant projects. It is a leading showcase for urban renewal and for adaptive reuse of religious heritage and we are immensely proud of what we have achieved in the six years since Nano Nagle Place opened. Nano Nagle Place is an education and social justice project, begun nearly 300 years ago, our museum – which is a living museum based around people and stories of humanity – opened in 2016 to tell its origin story. We are a museum in reverse, and perhaps that is what makes us worthy of this very prestigious Council of Europe Museum Prize.”
He added: “Museums have never been more important to society. In selecting Nano Nagle Place for this year’s award, the Council of Europe has recognised a museum and its educational projects that are dedicated to welcoming people in need, especially those most vulnerable who have been displaced by war, and to changing the lives of our community. History and historical consciousness have never been more important, from last year’s winner – the GULAG History Museum, which aims to strengthen the resilience of civil society through exposing history and activating memory, to Nano Nagle Place, which draws upon a woman from the 1700s as a source of cultural universals that apply across temporal change, inspiring those in the present to help others and combat injustice. The best museums challenge us to confront the past and learn from it and we are so proud to be counted amongst great museums, as winners of the Council of Europe Museum Prize 2022.”
An oasis of calm in the heart of Cork’s south inner city, the site on which Nano Nagle Place is located was for many years hidden from the community behind the convent walls. Nano Nagle Place is now contacting the residents in the local area to offer them free membership of Nano Nagle Place, to encourage them to make Nano Nagle Place a part of their lives.
Mr Clarke added: “Nano Nagle Place has a strong community focus, and it is important to us that it is seen as a place for the entire community. We are contacting those who live in the community around Nano Nagle Place to offer them free membership and to encourage them to visit Nano Nagle Place as part of their everyday lives, be that to relax in our beautiful gardens with a coffee, to visit the museum, or to take part in community or education initiatives.”
Details of the wider Nano Nagle Place membership programme – which helps to support heritage, learning and community development at the facility – can be found here https://nanonagleplace.ie/about/membership/