Rosa Parks exhibition held in Waterford

Anna Kiely Reports
Kieran Cronin and Peggy McHale are both librarians in the Waterford Institute of Technology who established an exhibition commemorating Civil Rights Activist Rosa Parks.
Rosa Parks came to prominence after her act of defiance in 1955 when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger.

This led to the generation of Civil Rights Movements throughout Southern America.
Kieran states “I think Rosa was someone who was extremely brave”.
As an avid Historian, Kieran has travelled to Montgomery and America’s South following in the footsteps of Rosa Parks.
He discusses the time he spent there and the immensity of what he experienced.
“It really left a mark on me, it was a story I just couldn’t keep to myself,” he said.
Kieran and Peggy then began working together in order to provide the public with an opportunity to hear the truth behind Rosa Parks and her story.

Group pictured at the Rosa Parks exhibition at Waterford Institute of technology

Group pictured at the Rosa Parks exhibition at Waterford Institute of technology

“We like to have interactive exhibitions, we built a bus in the library”.
This development came thanks to the collaboration of Suirway Buses and Brian Lynch who donated seats and steering wheels.
Both Kieran and Peggy hold the belief that reenacting situations makes it more real and memorable for their visitors “we needed that central piece”.
This display was first launched in 2015 to mark the 60th anniversary of the boycott.
Since then Kieran and Peggy have held it in a variety of forums including taking it on the road.
Kieran remarks on the significance of the exhibition being held in a library “libraries are special places, they are the ultimate empowerment, being surrounded by books, it is a perfect setting”.
When groups visit this exhibition they attend a talk given by Kieran regarding the life and stand which Rosa Parks took.

They then receive the rare opportunity to view a documentary given to Kieran and Peggy by Alabama Public Television entitled “Justice Without Violence”.
Peggy then recounts what happens at the end of the exhibition, “we then take pictures of children on the bus, everyone gets to sit on the driver seat”.
This exhibition is also run in conjunction with a program devised by the Immigrant Council of Ireland and each visitor, young and old, receive a tub of jelly babies to take away.
“It is about empowering people and tapping into the campaign that we are all made of the same stuff and that racism is never acceptable”.

Peggy recounts the remarkable and poignant part of their exhibition over the last few years ““we are getting groups of students that may have never come into a third level institution before, it is about opening their eyes to what is possible”.
This isn’t the first exhibition to be run by Kieran and Peggy. They have had major success in the past “one of our Jewish exhibitions in Christchurch Cathedral received a 3,000 footfall”.
Peggy makes an intriguing point about the actions of Rosa Parks and the relevance that they still hold today.
“A lot of children said that if Rosa Parks was alive today she would be fighting against racism. It’s amazing that her actions are still needed today, it’s sad that history always repeats itself”.
Kieran mentioned the vital role he believes history should play within the education system in Ireland.
“History no longer being mandatory, I go back to that quote those who do not learn history are doomed to make the same mistakes”.

Kieran has compiled a booklet of Irish newspaper coverage at the time of the bus boycott that is freely available to all schools.
“I believe in the value of primary resources,” he said.
Kieran and Peggy would also like to thank their colleagues in W.I.T, Educate Together and Waterford City and County Council Libraries for their ongoing support.
Both Kieran and Peggy agree that the people who come in and their reactions are what makes their exhibition special and worthwhile “if you can make a difference in one or two people it’s all worth it. That’s the passion of doing what we are doing”.

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