Irish civil rights activist’s photographic collection to be stored in National Photographic Archive

By Mark O’Brien

President Michael D Higgins was present for the handing over to the National Photography Archive of a collection of 2000 images taken at LGBT Pride events in Ireland.

The Christopher Robson Photographic Collection was presented to the National Library of Ireland (NLI) by Mr Robson’s civil partner Bill Foley and the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN).

Christopher Robson was a founding member of GLEN and was a well known civil rights activist.

He was involved in many campaigns for equality and civil liberty and served as a long-standing board member of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Ana Liffey Drug Project.

He died in 2013 after a short illness and willed the collection, which comprises 2000 slides taken between 1992 and 2007, to the National Photographic Archive.

This was a period of remarkable change for LGBT people in Ireland which laid the foundations for the country’s historic vote in favour of same sex marriage earlier this year.

Speaking at the event last week, Elizabeth Kirwan, Curator of the NLI’s National Photographic Archive said:

We are strongly committed to collecting and sharing the record of contemporary Ireland and are very grateful to receive this important donation of the Christopher Robson Photographic Collection today. We would like to express our gratitude to Chris’s partner Bill Foley and GLEN for their generosity and we are delighted to be able to receive this collection, both to preserve and to make it accessible to the wider public.

President Michael D Higgins
President Michael D Higgins was present for the handing over of the Christopher Robson Collection the the National Photography Archive (image: Marc O’Sullivan)

Co-Chair and founder of GLEN with Mr Robson, Kieran Rose was also present at the event.

“I am delighted that, together with Bill, GLEN is presenting this important photographic collection to the NLI’s National Photographic Archive,” he said.

“Chris was an extremely passionate and committed activist whose work had an enormous impact on social progress and human rights in Ireland.”

Chris’s photographic and campaigning work went hand in hand, and spanned a 25 year period of remarkable and transformative change for LGBT people in Ireland. His calm leadership through GLEN was instrumental in achieving this progress and has laid the foundations for the next phase of change to ensure that LGBT people can participate fully and equally in all aspects of Irish life. I am very pleased that this work will today be included in the National Photographic Archive and therefore will become publicly available for all to enjoy.

The National Library also houses the Irish Queer Archive which contains the most comprehensive collection of material relating to homosexuality and LGBT literature.

The National Photographic Archive is located on Meeting House Square in Temple Bar. The Reading Room is open to by appointment only on Tuesday and Thursday mornings between 10am and 1pm and Wednesday from 10am until 1pm and 2.30pm until 4.30pm.

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