Nancy McCarthy Article

See page 3 of The Archive Magazine for my article about Nancy McCarthy.


The Outcome

I completed the project and received a first class honors for my efforts. After all the blood sweat and tears I was very happy with the result. Aesthetically it’s nice but as a means of navigating archival material, user test sessions have shown that it’s an acquired taste. Some users weren’t comfortable with the non-linear nature of the presentation style that Korsakow affords. Some felt lost and unsure about how to proceed but others took to it like a duck to water and enjoyed forging their own path through the material.

I wanted this interactive experience to resemble the instance of the user entering an archive and navigating the material themselves which is why I chose the non-linear nature of the i-doc. My aims, process and conclusions are fully outlined in my thesis which I will post online as soon as I can. Nancy

Due to copyright restrictions the project won’t be posted online. However, we’re working towards maybe having it on display in the local studies section of the Boole Library. Watch this space.

I’ll leave it there for now and will check back in when I can. I’ll also update the resources page as I go along but in the mean time, check out some of the i-docs projects on there. It really is an exciting time for the industry.

All the best.

Where I’m at

I’m still in the ‘gathering materials’ stage. The literature review is done. The methodology is done, although I think both will need revision as the digital project comes into its own. I don’t know how it’s going to go really. Right now I have some great audio from interviews that an RTÉ researcher conducted with Nancy back in the early 80’s. She’s a great story teller. Eloquently and in good humor she talks about a visit Micheál Macliammóir and his partner Hilton made to the Tailor and Ansty in Gougane Barra. She also tells of the oppressive atmosphere in Cork for people working in the Arts up until the 1950’s especially for her close friends and writers Frank O’Connor and Sean Ó Faoláin. This reminds me of a quote about Cork from Ó Faoláin in 1928: ‘To succeed there you had to have the skin of a rhinoceros, the dissimulation of a crocodile, the agility of a hare, the speed of a hawk. Otherwise the word for every young Corkman is – ‘Get out – and get out quick!’ And according to Nancy, that’s what they did. She tells of them both applying for jobs in Cork, O’Connor for the post of librarian at the City Library and Ó Faoláin for Chair of English at UCC. Both were turned down and subsequently left Cork to find work and she said she ‘often wonders about what a remarkably exciting place Cork would have been with the pair of them here’.

I’m going back to the UCC archives to digitise the photographs in Nancy’s collection so I’m hoping that those images, along with two audio interviews I’ve already carried out plus a video interview I will carry out with Harriet O’Donovan Sheehy, Frank O’Connor’s widow, will give me enough material to create/curate an interesting project.

There is so much material to work with in the archive that it seems a shame to have to leave a lot of it out. But maybe I’ll be able to work with it in the future, who knows. For example, there are numerous post cards and letters addressed to Nancy at boarding school from her uncle, George D. Roche, who was on active service with the British army in France, Belgium and England from 1915 until 1919. The letters are mostly lighthearted and humorous where he jokes about other characters on his regiment and describes his surroundings e.g. living in a field ‘under the hedge like a gypsy. Very nice except for the flies and the rain’. In a letter from July 11th, 1915, he says ‘The war won’t be over by October much as I’d like to see it come to an end’. In the same letter he adds, ‘The Germans believe what their chiefs and newspapers are telling them, that they are winning (I don’t think)’.

I could go on but like my project, I have to draw the line somewhere. Where that will be, remains to be seen but I’ll go flesh out some ideas with someone else and see what they think. I need other eyes at this point. I’m buried in it at the moment and need a new perspective and from that, hopefully I’ll find an interesting direction.

All the best!


Getting Started

I sat down and began to write today just to start the process and get into the swing of things. After the final submissions for the taught part of the MA and then two and a half weeks ‘getting away from it all’, I started the ball rolling on the thesis on May 26th. Up until going away again on June 5th, I mostly did a lot of planning around the digital project that I plan to submit along with a 15,000 word dissertation.

For the digital project I will digitise part of the Nancy McCarthy collection and make it available online to the public by using an interactive online documentary format. The Nancy McCarthy collection was donated to UCC Library in 1998 by the executrix of her estate, Harriet O’Donovan-Sheehy. There are 12 boxes in the collection and it is divided into three parts: personal materials, professional career and photographs and writings.

Nancy McCarthy(1902-1988) grew up in Cork city in a family of ten children. Described in her obituary in the Cork Examiner as a ‘witty raconteur’, she opened a pharmacy in Douglas in the 1950’s, unusual for a single woman in Ireland at the time. She continued to run the pharmacy well into her eighties. Nancy was a lover of the arts and was heavily involved in the cultural scene in Cork throughout her life. She was well traveled and had many friends including writers Frank O’Connor, Sean Dunne and Eric Cross; actors Mícheál Mac Liammoir and Cyril Cusack; sculptor Seamus Murphy; fiction editor of the New Yorker magazine, William Maxwell and his wife Emily; and the celebrated couple Timothy (‘The Tailor’) and Anastasia (‘Ansty’) Buckley from Gougane Barra. She was extremely well liked and respected. For example, in a letter to Nancy from William Maxwell he said, “If I had to [compose] a list of ten fatally attractive women you would be at the top”.

This week I will create a prototype by digitising the ‘Tailor and Ansty’ section of the collection and I will then make the items navigable online by using the Korsakow authoring tool. The main reason I chose Korsakow is because of its ability to create an open narrative structure which will allow me or indeed others, to add material to the project after the submission date at the end of September. I think the entire archive is too big to digitise and organise within the scope of this project and by leaving the narrative structure open, it will ensure that the project can evolve in the long run and eventually include interviews with people who knew Nancy along with archival material housed in other archives. Watch this space.

Thanks for dropping by

Hi there,

Welcome. The purpose of this blog is to document my research into interactive documentary. In doing so, I hope that it will act as a reference for myself and other people interested in the field. I invite discussion so don’t hesitate to share any thoughts you might have.

Otherwise, enjoy. I hope you find something of interest here.