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Special Collections & Archives: SDG Connections

Overview of the service offered by Special Collections & Archives.


UCC is a world-leader in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) initiatives and UCC Library has been at the vanguard of this work. Special Collections & Archives acknowledge that multiple perspectives are required to solve wicked problems. Since May 2022 Special Collections & Archives, UCC Library has used UCC’s SDG toolkit to implement various initiatives facilitating learning & teaching opportunities where all can be considered the ‘student’. These initiatives included public engagement programmes: linking two in-person and online exhibitions focusing on SDG14 and SDG15 to national and international themed events, and one collection-based activity mapping each collection to the SDGs. These initiatives are designed to promote and maximise use of UCC Library’s Special Collections & Archives’ collections by the UCC community and further afield, and to tie into UCC’s current research programme ‘Futures.'  We started on a small scale, by mapping a selection of our collections to the SDG tool, and evaluating our progress as we went. This approach enabled us to critically analyse our work on an ongoing basis, and adapt as necessary.

Exhibitions & Events

As an island nation, our history and our heritage has been shaped by the sea and the great Irish rivers, lakes and wetlands. Explore in this online exhibition the worlds of mapmakers, artists, conservation experts, biologists and writers responding to the theme of 'Life Below Water.' Consider how their stories, discoveries and ideas from the 17th century to the present shape our world and link to the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water, and UCC’s Sustainable Development Goal Toolkit and demonstrates why a greater awareness and understanding of the UN SDGs is required by all.

As part of the exhibition and for Culture Night undergraduate student Katie McShane and PhD student Tadhg Dennehy researched and created interactive elements.

Student Participant Reflection - Tadhg Dennehy

Working on this project was an incredible opportunity for me to engage in a meaningful and creative way with Special Collections. I was tasked with creating an audio-visual installation inspired by items from Special Collections chosen in response to UN SDG 14 Life Below Water.

Inspired by the work of Louis P.W. Renouf I found myself in Lough Hyne, the subject of his Preliminary Work of a New Biological Station (1931). Where Renouf surveyed Lough Hyne and its surrounds for species of lichen and other forms of aquatic life, I gleaned images and sounds from this beautiful and varied landscape. These then came together in the form on an immersive piece of sound and image that played as members of the public engaged with the exhibition on Culture Night.

This unique opportunity to work and engage with items from Special Collections proved a thoroughly fulfilling creative endeavour.

Student Participant Reflection - Katie McShane

Working with the Special Collections & Archives' team on the Life Below Water exhibition was an unexpected pleasure. Diving deep into the treasures of the library archives had parallels to the search for mysteries in our ocean. As book titles emerged, connections were made that related to our evolving relationship and understanding of our interdependance on the balance of ocean ecosystems. The importance of the SDG14 goal, Life Below Water is relevant for sustaining all life on Earth and I congratulate the archive team for its innovative engagement in raising awareness. Katie McShane, co-founder of WiseWater.

Explore in this online exhibition the worlds of philosophers, botanists, ornithologists, writers and photographers. Consider how their stories, discoveries and ideas from the 17th century to the present shape our world and link to the UN's Sustainable Development Goal: Life on Land, and UCC’s Sustainable Development Goal Toolkit. The online exhibition focuses on trees and birds and looks at examples found within UCC’s campus.


Collection/SDG Mapping

Elaine Harrington and Emma Horgan presented a lightning talk "When the SDGs Met the UDCs: Future Proofing Research" at CONUL 2023: Sense and Sustainability.

As part of UCC's work with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) UCC mapped its research, learning and teaching to the SDGs in late 2022. Taking their cue from Emma Horgan’s long-term role in UCC Library’s Green team and Elaine Harrington’s increasing drive to engage with the wider community they sought to implement the SDG Mapping on a local scale. To maximise use of UCC Library’s Special Collections & Archives’ collections they showed why and how mapping UCC Library's unique and distinctive collections (UDCs) to the SDGs will promote use of the collections by the UCC community and further afield. This work will also tie into UCC’s current research programme ‘Futures’ which “mines the frontiers of curiosity and inquiry at the intersection of disciplines.”

In this lightning talk (below) they describe how they applied the models established by UCC to evaluate SDG coverage in Special Collections & Archives' collections, visualise that coverage and potential gaps, and reflect on how they can enhance SDG integration into the collections. They know that some uncatalogued/unlisted collections will be excluded but many collections already show a longitudinal perspective in developing this area. They also gave recommendations for how this activity and creating a specific Green UDC aligns with UCC’s 2023-2028 strategic plan and goals, as well as the Connected University framework. They address the opportunities for research and teaching that this activity will build on the fruitful collaboration between the University’s Sustainability Team and the Library’s Green Team locally. Integrating this SDG mapping to UDCs will enable students, staff and researchers to futureproof research, teaching & learning needs. Significantly, this interdisciplinary activity offers a benchmark for all library collections, not limited to UDCs alone, as this activity has the potential for worldwide application.

The two videos that follow give examples of six collections from Special Collections and six collections from Library Archives that have been mapped to the SDGs as if each collection were a module.