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Inspiration for your National Heritage Week project

This year’s theme for National Heritage Week is ‘Heritage and Education: Learning from our Heritage’, and, in keeping with this theme, we encourage all project organisers to consider how exploring and engaging with aspects of our natural, built or cultural heritage can be a source of learning, and how it can give us fascinating insights into our past, tell us about the present, and provide us with fresh ideas for the future.

To help you think about what aspects of our heritage you might want to explore under the overarching theme, we have developed three broad sub-themes which can be considered for your projects. Any existing research or projects that you may already have undertaken that explore these sub-themes – even in their broadest sense – are also very welcome!

Heritage on your doorstep

You don’t have to look far to find a topic to explore as part of your Heritage Week project: from the wildlife and habitats in your garden or a local park, to a historic site, building or monument, to the stories, memories and knowledge of the people in your local community – there’s a wealth of fascinating information waiting to be uncovered.

  • Is there a monument or landmark in your locality that you and your community could research, and collect local knowledge about? Or have you or your community already compiled information about a local monument or landmark, and this information could be showcased as part of your Heritage Week project?

  • Are there any customs or traditions in your community that have existed for a long time? What are their origins, and have they changed over time?

  • Are there any aspects of your local landscape that have influenced how your community has lived over the generations? For example, has a canal, river, lake or the sea influenced the life of your community?

  • Are there any aspects of your local biodiversity (land or water) that could be explored and documented?

  • Are there people in your community who have survived adversity, for example the TB epidemic in the 1940s, and whose stories could be captured and shared?

Re-learning skills from our heritage

Heritage Week 2020 presents a great opportunity to share or learn skills from past times. There are many skills and practices that were once common in communities across Ireland, but with which younger generations are less and less familiar. Re-learning and engaging with those skills can not only be a great pastime, but can also help us use our resources more responsibly.

  • Are there skills in your family or community that could be re-learned from older people, and which could be of benefit to younger generations, such as making or mending clothes; making tools or useful household utensils; or preserving food?
  • Are there crafts and skills that your community was once well-known for that could be revived or documented: such as milling, brewing and distilling, boat making, butter production, wheel making, lace making, thatching, coopering, basket making, spinning, knitting, weaving, or cooking?
  • Are there aspects of our intangible heritage that you could research and showcase as part of your project, such as GAA skills; traditional music; traditional dance; or the Irish language?
  • Are there any traditional remedies that were used in your community to treat common aches and pains that could be explored and documented through recording the memories of people who remember these remedies?
  • Could your project promote cooking skills, for example through showcasing recipes and dishes synonymous with your locality or region, or that have been celebrated in your family or community for generations?

The heritage of education

This year’s theme for Heritage Week offers a great opportunity to celebrate our centuries of educational heritage. From our early monasteries connecting Irish scholars to the rest of Europe; to the times of Ireland’s hedge schools during the 18th and 19th centuries; to school life in the 20th century and our present-day education system – our educational heritage presents a rich source for project ideas.

  • Is there an old school in your community which has served many generations, but whose history has not been explored? Can your community collect stories and memories to document in a project about that school?

  • Have you or your community researched the 1937 Schools’ Collection? Is your local school included? What did you learn? Are there people from your community who still remember this? Can you capture their story?

  • Was there a hedge school in your community about which stories have been passed down through the generations? Can you research the history of the hedge school and capture the stories in your community about it?

  • Was there a monastic settlement in your community? Was it a place of learning? Can your community come together to research its educational heritage and promote its influence?

  • How has the experience of going to school changed across the generations? How did classrooms look 50 years ago, compared to now? What games were played in the school yard then and now? How has the school curriculum changed over time? Can you record the memories of people of different ages as part of your project?

  • Has your community produced scholars who went onto achieve success nationally or internationally? Can your community come together to learn more about them and promote their achievements through your Heritage Week project?

If you would like to take part in National Heritage Week 2020, create your project organiser account and log in to the project organisers’ portal, where you can access a wealth of resources to help you develop your project, and submit your project idea.