“In the face of fear, she chose to be daring, In the face of anxiety she chose to trust, In the face of impossibility, she chose to begin. What will you choose to do?”
Extract from the Profile of Nano Nagle, by Sr Raphael Consedine
The Nano Nagle Place Museum sits at the heart of a 3.5-acre site which houses regenerated heritage buildings, walled gardens, a design shop and book shop, community education projects, university departments and a sustainable foods café. Our project has a clear mission, to preserve the heritage of Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters, using their story to inspire others to do what is right; and to continue the work Nano started in the 18th Century, through community development projects; The Lantern Project and Cork Migrant Centre.
Many museums founded in the 19th century were based around collections from which people could learn. More recently they have opened education and outreach departments to tackle educational inequality and fight for social justice. Conversely, Nano Nagle Place began as an education and social justice project nearly 300 years ago with the work continuing into the 21st Century. Our museum opened in 2017 to tell it’s origin story. We are a museum in reverse, and perhaps that’s what makes us worthy of the prestigious Council of Europe Museum Prize, which we were awarded in 2022.
The values of the Council of Europe Museum Prize sit directly within the ethos of Nano Nagle Place, with commitment to and presentation of key values of democracy, human rights, inter-cultural dialogue, of bridging cultures and overcoming social and political borders.
Museum Prize representative, Roberto Rampi, said “despite being rooted in the specific religious tradition of Roman Catholicism, with nuns still living on the site, there is a strong sense of caring based on need, not on doctrine. Nano Nagle Place has a very strong and coherent mission which is in line with the Council of Europe’s human rights values and principles”.
Our museum begins with the quote by Sr Raphael Consedine, asking visitors to consider the question “What will you chose to do?” Our hope is that visitors leave Nano Nagle Place with the feeling that anyone can make a change.
ld"We have found a Valiant Womanrd" – The Story of Nano Nagle.
Nano Nagle was born in 1718, into a life of privilege. She could have chosen to live a life of ease, but instead she chose a life of activism. Nano lived under the repressive Penal Laws, meaning that education for Catholics was not available in Ireland. A series of life-changing events inspired Nano to offer poor Catholic children the chance to better their lives through education.
Under the Penal Laws, operating a Catholic School was illegal, meaning Nano had to work in secret. She opened a school for young girls next to our site at Nano Nagle Place in the early c.1750s. Within ten years demand increased and Nano had to expand her enterprise, operating seven schools across the city of Cork, teaching both boys and girls.
In the 1760s Nano invited the Ursuline Sisters (from France) to Cork and built them a convent. In 1775 Nano founded her own order, the Presentation Sisters, who did not take the vow of enclosure. They continued to teach and care for the poverty stricken in their community, even after Nanors"s death in 1784.
"I'm building a houserd" – Preserving the Architectural Heritage of Nano Nagle Place.
The complex of buildings at Nano Nagle Place form a rich architectural assemblage that spans 300 years. The 1771 convent still stands on the site. South Presentation School and Convent thrived until 2006, the school closed and suddenly the Sisters found themselves unable to maintain a 3.5-acre site. With so many listed buildings, the site was of little development value. The Presentation Sisters put in place plans to redevelop "South Pres" as a special place for the people of Cork City.
Over a 4-year period, the heritage buildings were regenerated into what is now Nano Nagle Place. The 1771 convent now houses educational projects, with rooms available to let by charities and businesses. The Victorian chapel designed by architect George Goldie in 1865, has been turned into an interactive museum that engagingly tells the story of Nano Nagle. The 18th-century graveyard has been conserved, with Nano's tomb sitting at the centre of this meditative space.
Nano Nagle Place is not only a space where the architecture of the past has been carefully conserved, but also a place where the architecture of the future is being imagined. Cork Centre for Architectural Education call Nano Nagle Place home, and this brings another strand of learning to a site imbued with education.
“Not words, but deeds” – Community at Nano Nagle Place
Our community hub is home to the Lantern Community Project, Cork Migrant Centre and The Men’s Group. The Lantern Community Project cares for participants who are experiencing difficulty in their lives, and at risk of marginalisation. Participants engage in courses that foster empowerment and encourage people to care for their own wellbeing.
The Men’s Group is a calm and welcoming space, where men can come to meet friends, relax and find support from their psychotherapist and community worker.
Cork Migrant Centre has evolved and adapted since it’s foundation, welcoming and supporting migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who have arrived in Ireland over the past 15 years.
The community hub is truly the lifeblood of Nano Nagle Place and was acknowledged as a pivotal factor in being awarded the Council of Europe Museum Prize. A key question asked by the judges of the prize was whether the social justice work happening onsite would be apparent to a visitor. Due to the nature of these projects, they are not public facing, as they look after the most vulnerable in the community. However Nano Nagle Place is committed to highlighting the amazing work with infographic panels placed on site, communicating the range and depth of these projects. Cork Migrant Centre run several empowering creative courses, the products of which have been sold as retail items in our design shop. Our Print Gallery has showcased exhibitions of the Lantern Project participants and their Music for Wellbeing group have performed concerts in our chapel.
“My schools are beginning to be of service to a great many parts of the world” – Museum addressing local global issues in their communities.
Nano Nagle Place is a relatively new museum only opening its doors in 2017. We have a modest number of visitors and many people in the city still haven’t heard of us. Therefore, to achieve the Council of Europe Museum Prize, an award which recognises the work of both our front of house team, along with the community, is an overwhelming honour.
Museums have never been so important within local and global communities, particularly in today’s political climate. We hope that those who hear about Nano Nagle Place see us as a benchmark for what can be achieved with a small museum, hardworking staff and the consistent question of “What will you choose to do?” always at the forefront of the work.
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