Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes: Diaries of Michael Collins presented to the State – What happens next
It was with a great sense of honour and profound appreciation that the National Archives received the very generous bequest of 5 pocket diaries belonging to Michael Collins from his descendants this week.
Members of Michael Collins’ family presented the donation to Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney TD, the Minister of State at the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan TD, and our Director Orlaith McBride in Woodfield, Clonakilty, Cork on November 8th.
The pocket/work diaries cover the critical years 1918-1922 and are of major historical importance particularly in the context of the commemorations of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the centenary of Collins’ death in August 2022. They provide important additional information relating to a key period in Michael Collins’ life and that of the nation, spanning the War of Independence, the Treaty Negotiations and the Civil War, up to his death in 1922. They contain historical information, details of meetings, events, appointments and other arrangements, often secret in nature, which have never been seen before. They also show the mundane life of the man such as dentist appointments and other everyday events.
As with all archive collections however it is not a simple case of receiving the material and making it available to the public with immediate effect – there is a large amount of work to do behind the scenes before that is possible.
The first thing we need to do is assess the condition of the diaries, they are at least 100 years old and so the natural wear and tear of them and all that entails, such as loose leaves and bindings, will need to be documented and the necessary treatments identified. Our Senior Conservator Zoe Reid will then undertake the careful conservation treatment required for each volume according to its own individual needs, making them stable enough to allow for further work to be carried out. After this it is the archivist’s job to catalogue the material, describing the volumes accurately to essentially identify and explain the context and content of the diaries. Finally it is over to our digitisation division who will carefully scan each page of each volume so that the diaries can be presented and made publically accessible in electronic form.
The diaries will be on long-term loan to the National Archives while the strong links to County Cork and Michael Collins House, Clonakilty will be maintained and strengthened with future collaboration, culminating in marking the centenary of his death in August 2022.
Making the diaries available is a work in progress so watch this space!
Natalie Milne, Archivist