Mapping Ireland: Irish Villages in the US in the 1890s

Mapping Ireland: Irish Villages in the US in the 1890s
04 Dec 2017, 17:15 to 04 Dec 2017, 19:15
IHR Past and Present Room, N202, Second Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Shahmima Akhtar , University of Birmingham

Ireland was displayed across Britain, Ireland and the US in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Exhibitions offered a platform through which to display a powerful narrative of Ireland in the supposed neutral space of the fairground. The triptych of empire, race, and gender contributed to the development of an Irish nationhood

 This paper will consider the transatlantic nature of Irish display by exploring key Irish exhibitions in the 1890s in US. Through looking at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fairs; 1897 Irish Fairs in New York and Chicago, it becomes clear that the interests, needs, and nostalgic responses of American audiences in general and Irish-American diasporic communities were quite different from those of attendees at exhibitions in Ireland and England. Such perspectives prompted the English organisers at these American exhibitions to highlight rural Irish values and preservation in ways that the Irish organisers in Dublin had not. Notably, the modern industrialisation of Ireland was omitted almost entirely from the fairground, and reveals the fictive yet very real power that such exhibitions held, through their manipulation of symbols and objects all creating ‘Ireland’.

Shahmima Akhtar is undertaking an AHRC-funded PhD on the exhibitions of the Irish in nineteenth and twentieth-century World’s Fairs in the Department of History at Birmingham.


IHR Reception
020 7862 8740