Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Media Communications

First Advisor

Paul Green

Second Advisor

Ann Wilson


This thesis documents an investigation that explored the use of narrative and material culture to present aspects of women’s lives from eighteenth-century Cork city to a twenty-first century museum audience. There were two objectives of this research. The first was to create a catalogue of elements from material culture through which these women’s lives would be revealed. The second was to use narrative to make this information accessible and engaging.

This research is linked with Nano Nagle Place, a heritage centre in Cork city that opened in 2017. The centre documents the life of Nano Nagle, an eighteenth-century philanthropist who, in direct contravention of the Irish Penal Laws, provided education to the Catholic children in Cork City (Murphy, 1845, p.17). When not teaching, she spent her time – and money – on the poor and sick of the city.

Eighteenth-century Cork was a thriving port city and home to a number of wealthy women. Yet, despite the trade and commerce the city also housed many poor and marginalised people. The content of this research is concerned with aspects of the social and economic environment in eighteenth century Cork city that impacted on the lives of women from both rich and poor sections of society. The methodology explored different approaches to narrative as a part of a design strategy. This strategy moved through three design phases as it explored methods for engaging audiences. The first phase involved an author-led didactic approach and proposed a series of historical fictional narratives. The second phase introduced a game that used blocks for visitors to build their own stories. The final design provided the museum visitor with curious, material objects together with related clues. The visitor was encouraged to interpret the objects to access historical information themselves. Parallel to this, the use of material culture progressed from textual and illustrative examples of material artefacts to presenting tangible, actual objects.

While the first two phases of design were aimed at the general visitor, the final phase was targeted at primary school children as part of the museum's educational programme. In order to increase the opportunities for engagement with this audience the project concentrated on subject matter that was unusual, unsavoury or gruesome and explored methods for further engagement by focusing on self-directed learning, playfulness and communication through multiple modes. The final phase was tested with a group of primary school students in March 2017.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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