Letter from Brian King.jpg

Dear Mr. Heenan

My name is Michaela K. Smith, and I recently graduated from Villanova with a Master’s degree in History. I am one of the students that was able to intern at the Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina, Co. Mayo thanks to your generosity. 

As a result, I wanted to take a moment to let you know how thankful I am to you for helping to make this opportunity possible, and that the resulting experience will be invaluable as I move forward with my career as a public historian. It was such a wonderful personal and professional experience; I will surely remember it fondly for years to come. 

In regards to what I was directly involved in and tasked with doing while at the Collection, both myself and the other student, split our time between the “front of house,” also known as reception, and the archives. Each of us spent one day a week working in reception where we greeted visitors and got them started on their visits throughout the house. This part of the internship was key in ensuring that we were exposed to the front end of the museum day to day, because welcoming visitors, answering phones, and dealing with other inquiries is an integral part of what it takes to run a museum. 

When we were not working the front of house, we were either helping with various small projects around the museum, working in the archives, or working on creating our own exhibit. Personally, I ended up working with Edel Golden, the Collection’s manager to go through the Collection’s collection of books, to see how many duplicate copies there were. This involved working off of outdated listings of duplicates, and then going through the onsite library, and the archives to see what was where, and if it matched the old list. It was a great exercise in working independently in the archives, while also gaining a better understanding of how museums and archivists go about organizing their collections. 

Our exhibit was our primary project while we were at the Collection, and is titled “The Birth of Illustrated Journalism” it is a visual exhibition focusing on Jackie Clarke’s collection of issues of the Illustrated London News, the world’s first illustrated newspaper. Included in the exhibit are a variety of images covering topics such as science, war, politics, women, advertisements, and general social news. Highlights of the exhibit include images relating to Ireland, women and literature, along with a closer look at the variety of ads included in the issues. It is currently on display in the Collections exhibition space, affectionately known as the Seomra (room in Irish,) and will be used to fill the room in between other seasonal and temporary exhibitions. The exhibit is something I am very proud to have been able to help produce, and will be able to use in a professional manner, and thank you again for helping to make the opportunity possible. 

Respectfully yours,

Michaela K. Smith

Dear Mr. Heenan,

I hope this correspondence finds you well.

I am writing to extend my sincere gratitude for the incredible generosity of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. As a student in the Irish Studies program at Villanova University, I had the opportunity to spend eight weeks in County Mayo, Ireland this summer, working at the Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina. The trip exceeded my expectations in every way, and was truly a perfect culmination of my study of Irish history, culture, and literature over my four years as an undergraduate. I am so very grateful to the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick for making it possible.

While in Mayo I worked five days each week at the Jackie Clarke Collection, a fabulous museum in the center of Ballina. Each day presented many opportunities to learn more bout the inner workings of a museum, and the management staff welcomed us into the fold immediately. I spent time in the archive thumbing through centuries-old newspapers, studied the evolution of cartography in the Map room, and stood before an original copy of the 1916 Proclamation. 

Over the course of eight weeks I also worked alongside my fellow intern, Michaela Smith, to create an exhibit on the Illustrated London News, one of several publications that Jackie Clarke collected. The Western People visited the museum during the final week to tour the exhibit and wrote up a short piece on the internship, which I have included below for your perusal.

We also had ample opportunity to travel the country, spending time in Dublin and Galway as well as neighboring towns Sligo and Westport. We toured the Museum of Country Life, the Michael Davitt museum, and a local whiskey distillery. Most gratifying, however, was the opportunity to truly immerse in the town of Ballina by taking part in the Salmon Festival, volunteering as stewards for various events. Again, it was the fantastic staff at the Jackie Clarke who facilitated this immersion, ensuring that we had every opportunity to become members of the community. There were many, many people and places to say goodbye to in the final days, and that says much about the time I had and the memories I will cherish.

I cannot thank you enough for the support of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, without which I would not have had the most incredible summer. Furthermore, I cannot say enough about the opportunities for students at the Jackie Clarke Collection, and hope that this program will allow many more to experience Ireland the way I did over the past two months.

I wish you and the Friendly Sons all the best, and do hope our paths cross again in the future.


Maria McGeary

Villanova University Class of 2017
English | Creative Writing, Irish Studies, Rhetoric