X-PO Community Mapping Project, Killinaboy, Co. Clare

Environmental Protection

X-PO Community Mapping Project, Killinaboy, Co. Clare

Project Synopsis

This collaborative project involved working with the X-PO Killinaboy Mapping Group in Co. Clare to explore the importance of place and place-making in Ireland today. Using creative cartographic techniques, community co-design, and co-authorship, the project sought to capture and map place-based knowledge (historical and cultural legacies) associated with the area. The societal challenge was to give expression to aspects of intangible cultural heritage which were inadequately captured by official archives. The collection of oral histories, local narratives, and aspects of material culture from the area were key to making present those legacies and making them audible and visible on the community map.

X-PO started in 2007 as a public art project in the former post office in Killinaboy, Co. Clare. It was initiated by artist Deirdre O’Mahony as a social, cultural and community exchange, where different forms of knowledge, such as farming, artistic, local, place-based, could make unexpected creative connections. The mapping group was one of the first groups to emerge from O’Mahony’s X-PO project. The Killinaboy Mapping Group has been meeting since X-PO opened in 2007. They are currently engaged in creating a digital database of their research. This digitization project has two core aims. The first is, to make their work more widely available nationally and internationally; and secondly, to create a digital archive of their work available for future generations.

X-PO Killinaboy Mapping Group – Brendan Beakey, John Kelleher, Francis Whelan, and Seán Whelan.

Community mapping is an act of expressing and making tangible that which is tacit and often remains intangible, inaudible, and invisible to people “outside” of the immediate community or locale.

While such work may appear to be “just” an expression of a local community mapping exercise, it may also incorporate strands of the global, whether through the expression of shared concerns about the environmental degradation of local water systems or mapping projects that acknowledge migrant spaces (whether “old” or “new”) within existing communities. As Ursula K. Heise has emphasized, a sense of place is always already very much shaped by a “sense of planet,” and often in surprisingly different and unexpected ways.

This transdisciplinary mapping project utilised creative cartographic methods that seemed to be the best fit in terms of academic best practice and community need, with methodologies employed from a wide range of disciplines.

From ethnographic fieldwork, oral history data collection and archival research methodologies, to more recent work informed by socially-engaged arts practice, cultural geography, and deep mapping technologies, this project was led by the X-PO Mapping Group in workshop and exhibition form, led by the Group themselves, co-facilitated by Nessa Cronin and co-curated by Deirdre O’Mahony.

The outputs are as follows:

  • The work has been displayed at exhibitions, discussed at community mapping workshops, and also has been included in academic scholarship across the fields of Visual Culture, Irish Studies, and Cultural Geography:
    • Public Exhibition: ‘The Full Story? Tracing Killinaboy Townlands’, The Courthouse Gallery Ennistymon Co. Clare, 2012.
    • Public Lecture: ‘Imagined Geographies of Place’, Clare, 2012.
    • Public Seminars, X-PO 2007-present.
    • Public Exhibitions, X-PO, 2007-present.
    • Presentation on the history of the group and their research at the Burren Spring Conference, Co. Clare, 2012.
    • Community Mapping Workshop, Galway City Museum, 2014.
    • Academic papers at international and national conferences, 2012-present.
  • Project case-study included in peer-reviewed academic publications by Cronin and O’Mahony.
  • More recently, it has been included in the Iarsma: Fragments from the Tim Robinson Archive project at NUI Galway (2016), and the project is recognised for the important contribution the group has made in highlighting and celebrating place-making in Ireland, in terms of historical legacies, community challenges and societal impacts.
  • Digitizing of project work for future website development (2017-present).

The outcomes are as follows:

  • The Mapping Group has taken charge of re-presenting the oral history of place on their own terms, using their considerable skills, expertise and knowledge of local history. The primary objective was to ensure that such knowledge would remain a resource for future generations.
  • On a local level, the group has made use of their extensive network of family and friends to add to the story of people and place. Nationally, the work is recognised as an exemplary participatory project in community-led cartography and place-based research in Ireland today. The Mapping Group project has allowed the oral history of place to become visible in terms that reflect the group’s own priorities. This work has been supported by the artistic knowledge of O’Mahony, academic interdisciplinary practice of Cronin, and archival resources of NUI Galway. Through their annual exhibitions, the group also elicited feedback and further knowledge from an engaged wider public as part of their research for the project.

Societal Engagement

New knowledge – the combination of local, academic, and artistic knowledge pointed a way of navigating questions around collective representation within transdisciplinary community/ institutional contexts, creating new working methodologies and adding new knowledge to collaborative with, and in, communities of place.

Higher Education Institution:

NUI Galway & GMIT

Funding source:

Centre for Irish Studies and CKI, NUI Galway; GMIT; X-PO Mapping Group; Clare County Arts Office; Burren Geopark; and The Arts Council of Ireland.

Academic Contacts:

Dr Nessa Cronin (NUI Galway) and Dr Deirdre O’Mahony (GMIT)
The X-PO Killnaboy Mapping Group Members: Brendan Beakey, John Kelleher, Francis Whelan, and Seán Whelan.