New Exhibition Remembers Irish War Dead From the First World War

Naming the dead has a powerful resonance for those left behind; we put names on gravestones and monuments, in death notices and on memorial cards. Now Dubliners can visit a moving work remembering and listing the names of all of the Irish war dead who fell on Belgium soil in the First World War.

A large memorial book, Assembly, records 174,000 soldiers’ names and forms the central part of a new exhibit from the In Flanders Fields Museum in Belgium, now on display in Ireland for the first time. Along with an oversize book of the names of the war dead, the installation consists of five chairs (representing each year of the war).

The exhibit will be in on view in Dublin over the next three months at three different locations - Dublin City Library and Archive, Pearse Street, City Hall, Dame Street and Richmond Barracks, Inchicore.

Assembly Memorial Chairs has been curated by artist Val Carmen for the In Flanders Fields Museum. Val has a particular interest in loss and memorials to the war dead and has been shepherding this work around various locations since 2014, the centenary of the start of the First World War.

The chairs are from St Audomarus Church in Passchendaele which was the scene of one of the worst battles of the war in 1917. The church and surrounding village were completely destroyed during the conflict and these chairs, now old, were part of the rebuilding after the war.  The Passchaendaele area was the site of bloody battles in 1917, when hundreds of thousands died including the poet Francis Ledwidge killed on 31st July 1917.

Val Carmen said “These chairs are humble and domestic objects which are instantly recognisable.  I wanted to bring a familiar, tactile reference from Flanders to accompany the Assembly memorial book. The chairs represent the emptiness that would have been physically present within many homes and communal sites; the empty chair, which once was occupied, becomes a simple memorial to the loss of a person. We are delighted that the work has arrived in Dublin as so many Irishmen fought in the First World War and many thousands of them died.”

The dead soldiers’ names are listed alphabetically in the book, with space beside the names for their relatives to leave a note, photograph or memento to him. Items from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association Archive will also be view to support the exhibit.

Dublin City Librarian, Margaret Hayes said “Dublin City Library and Archive has marked the centenary anniversaries of the First World War, particularly focussing on Dublin soldiers like those in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who volunteered to fight. Our collections include many artefacts and documents from the war, some of them on view with Assembly Memorial Chairs. We welcome this reflective and emotive exhibit to Dublin and thank Val Carmen and the In Flanders Fields Museum for bringing it to Dublin for three months.”   

To complement the exhibit, the City Archives lunchtime lecture series in City Hall in April will host speakers on the theme 'The Great War: Remembrance and Commemoration'.
The full programme for this will be available in March on www.dublincitypubliclibraries.ie
 
ENDS
 
Notes to Editors:
Close to 10 million soldiers died in the First World War and anywhere between 27,000 and 35,000 of those dead were Irish. Approximately 200,000 Irishmen fought in the war.
Assembly Memorial Chairs is on display as follows:

  • Dublin City Library and Archive, 138-144 Pearse Street from 4th to 30th March 2017
  • City Hall, Dame Street from 1st to 29th April 2017
  • Richmond Barracks, Inchicore from 13th to 26th May 2017

The memorial book can be previewed on Friday 3rd March from 3.30 – 5.00pm in Dublin City Library and Archive, 138-144 Pearse Street and the artist and creator Val Carmen will be in attendance and available for interview and photographs.   
 

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