A University of Our Time

by Kate Harris, archivist

This year, the University of Limerick celebrates its fiftieth anniversary and has been marked by a series of events branded UL50. Over the last 50 years, the university has accumulated a significant amount of material that demonstrates its development from the National Institute for Higher Education in 1972 to the University of Limerick in 1989, and beyond. This material is preserved as the University of Limerick Archives. This collection contains a variety of documents such as correspondence, plans, meeting minutes, brochures, and prospectuses. There is also a variety of ephemera, such as invitations to university events, menus from official dinners, and stickers.


Notice titled ‘Victory’ concerning the NCEA being statutorily established as a degree awarding body.


Orientation Pack from the NIHE Limerick’s first year (1972)


The archive also contains thousands of prints, negatives and slides taken over the years. As part of the celebration of UL50, the Special Collections and Archives Department at the Glucksman Library undertook to catalogue, or describe, the photographic element of the University Archives and digitise a representative sample of the collection, which will be hosted online on the UL Digital Library, due for launch later this year. Much of the collection had already been listed but needed to be renumbered, described in more detail and some of the collection needed to be rehoused in new folders and boxes.


Minister for Education, Richard Burke TD examining plans for NIHE campus Early model of campus plan 1972


Ariel shot of campus


Construction of the campus

These photographs clearly show the development of the campus, from 1972, with early classes being in Plassey House, to the sprawling campus that now exists.


Class in progress in NIHE Limerick


It is particularly interesting to see the construction stages of well-known UL buildings such as the Main Building.


Construction of the Main Building


Familiar faces

The presence of familiar faces such as Anne Sadlier throughout the archive is really lovely to see. You almost feel as though you are getting to know these people as they grow alongside the college. Anne Sadlier joined UL, then NIHE, in 1972 as Dr Ed Walsh’s secretary and member of the Planning Board, and is pictured below at her Honorary Conferring in 1995.



Exhibition – A University of Our Time

The University of Limerick archives have recently been utilised in the recent UL50 exhibition, A University of Our Time, which tells the story of the University of Limerick, and the institutions that went before it, curated by Zara Power.

Zara initially examined our box list of material and then got in contact with the Special Collections and Archives Department with lists of archival material she was considering on using for the exhibition. We located and pulled this material from the archival strong rooms and got it ready for her to have a look at the material in person in our reading room. Over a number of visits, she selected what material would be used for exhibition.


Ed Walsh and Zara Power at the launch of the exhibition


The UL50 exhibition contains a significant photographic element. In some cases, some images had already been digitised and made available through the Glucksman Library Flickr account, or in various publications. Other times, images were sought relating to a particular event or person relevant to UL’s history. If these images had not already been digitised, or if they had not been digitised to a high enough quality for an exhibition, they were numbered and brought to the digitisation department. Here they were scanned as high-quality TIFF files which are safely stored online where they will be managed to ensure they remain accessible into the future.

The exhibition was launched on the 28 September 2022 in the Millstream Building. It is open to the public, and will run until 31 May 2023. The launch was attended by the founding President, Dr Ed Walsh, who donated additional archives relating to UL, including 28 years’ worth of his diaries, to the Special Collections and Archives Department.


Dr Ed Walsh seated behind his desk, in his office in Plassey House, 1972