If by now you have neither seen nor heard of A History of Ireland in 100 Objects, then you missed out on your chance to have some input.
I’m talking about the vote for ‘The Object of Our Times’ (if you also hadn’t noticed that the entire thing is the brain child of The Irish Times, here’s a hint), which closed in December 2012. This was the bit where the Irish public were invited to choose one of ten objects, which were all on temporary display at the National Museum of Art and Design at Collin’s Barracks. The object that received the most votes would then be permanently acquired by the museum, to represent ‘our’ times. The results are in, and it appears that the AK-47 rifle and the Anglo Irish Bank sign have formed a coalition.
If nothing on the list struck your fancy, tough! Irish Times readers did have the opportunity at some point to send in their own suggestion to the paper. Apparently the results were poor and lacked diversity (probably down to the ‘the particular composition of its readership comprising an exceptionally high ratio of business and professional reader.’) (http://www.irishtimes.com/about/the-irish-times/)
No time to wait for the stragglers, however, as the book had to be published in time, as ‘A gift from the people of Ireland to the people of the world for Saint Patrick’s Day to mark Ireland’s Presidency of Council of the European Union.’
Don’t fret, though, it seems a lot of people missed the boat. To fill in the gaps, Irish Times journalists (sports: Katie Taylor’s boxing gloves, technology: the smart phone, health: hospital bed, etc.) put their heads together and each nominated an object. You can peruse their selections here: http://www.100objects.ie/the-objects/.
Some objects that didn’t make the cut included a heroin needle and a ballot paper. These were mentioned at a panel discussion as part of the Dublin Book Festival on 18 November 2012, which featured some of Ireland’s most respected cultural professionals , along with the occasional contribution from an audience member (the ballot paper made it in the back door, however, as mock-ups were used in the voting process). Personally I would have preferred a greater platform for people’s suggestions, as this was for me the most interesting aspect of the project.
The book and trail exhibition, which started out as a series of weekly articles written by Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times, has been one of the most heavily promoted history/heritage events of the year. According to the creators, this is an inclusive history, which showcases not only the great people events that so often characterise traditional histories, but also the stories of the ordinary people. This is not a definitive history of Ireland (‘A History of Ireland’), and is open to critique and suggestions. So why, as we move into the present, has it suddenly become ‘The Object of Our Times’? And why has so little effort been put into facilitating the input of the people it claims to represent now? Probably because it is not for them, but for ‘the people of the world’.