“The Fifth Province: County Societies in Irish America,” an exhibition documenting the lifetime commitment Irish-Americans made to their heritage through membership in county societies, will be featured at NYU Open House (528 LaGuardia, between Bleecker and W. 3rd Streets) through August 14, 2011. Subways: A, B, C, D, E, F, M (West 4th Street).
With more than one-third of Americans claiming Irish ancestry, the United States is euphemistically known as Ireland’s “Fifth Province.” Irish immigrants retained a strong connection not only to the land of their birth, but also to specific places in Ireland. This link with home was nurtured by county societies, which also helped to preserve Irish identity for future generations through a variety of social, cultural, and sporting events.
Ireland’s 32 county societies have provided benevolent, protective, and fraternal sustenance for Irish immigrants since the late 1840s. This is especially notable in New York City, which claims the largest cluster of Irish county societies, with the greatest longevity.
A dozen fabric panels reproduce historic photographs, documents, and memorabilia that chronicle the activities of Irish county societies in New York City over the past century. Many of these are drawn from collections in Bobst Library’s Archives of Irish America. In addition, minute books, medals, costumes, oral histories, and home movies enhance this glimpse into an ethnic associational world that is hidden from the eyes of most New Yorkers. “The Fifth Province” highlights universal aspects of the immigrant experience that are as relevant today as they were in the past.
The exhibition is curated by NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House. For more information, call 212.998.3950.
Exhibition hours are: Mondays, closed; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, noon–5 p.m.; Thursdays, 2–7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 p.m.