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The Mary Robinson Centre - 'Giving Voice' Exhibition

This is the first time Mary’s archive has been exhibited publicly, offering rare insight into the life and work of Ireland’s first female President and now global world figure, charting her career championing human rights. A precious gift of historical material that to helped shape the Ireland we live in today and continues to shape the world, Mary Robinson’s archive includes over 500,000 documents, letters, artefacts, books, photographs, recordings, clothing and much, much more.

The fifty pieces in this exhibition were selected to illustrate Mary’s life’s work giving voice to those without a voice of their own.Highlights of the exhibition include Mary’s US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour of the US, awarded by President Obama, the Choctaw Indians’ honorary chief award, presented to Mary on her visit to thank the Choctaw tribe for their donation to Ireland during the Great Famine of 1847 and Mary’s Mayo Person of the Year Award, given in recognition of her work as a Senator and human rights lawyer.

The exhibition also includes some of Mary’s personal memories, such as the story of her visits to Somalia, experiences that had a moving impact that endures to this day, and handmade paintings gifted by schoolchildren during Mary’s time as President of Ireland. Perhaps the most iconic and best known piece in the exhibition is The Light in the Window, the light Mary placed in the window of Áras an Uachtaráin as a welcoming beacon of hope for Ireland’s global diaspora.

Ballycastle based visual artist Varvara Shavrova has created two installation pieces for this exhibition. The first of these, The Curtains of Letters shows correspondence between Mary and the Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton and Václav Havel among others. Varvara has also created The Tree of Voices, a focal piece for the exhibition, illustrating Mary’s work with the United Nations, The Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice and The Elders among others - the vital role of giving voice to the voiceless, an enduring theme carried from her Presidential election campaign.

The Giving Voice exhibition is located at Ballina Library, Pearse Street, Ballina, Co. Mayo. It is open Tuesday-Saturday and runs to end October 2015. Admission is free.

Ireland’s first Presidential Library, The Mary Robinson Centre, will be housed in Mary’s childhood home Victoria House on the banks of the River Moy in Ballina. The Centre will be home to a museum and presidential archive, with educational and research facility exploring the themes of Women’s Leadership and Gender Equality. Developed in partnership with Mayo County Council and NUI Galway, the Centre will open in its permanent home at Victoria House in Spring 2017.

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