The BEO (Irish for ‘alive’) Digital Local Heritage Archive Library is a collection of photographs, films and stories that reflect the social, economic, educational, religious and cultural life in Galway and Ireland in days gone by with a particular focus on the twentieth century.
The primary method of gathering this historical material is through community social events hosted by local schools as well as by heritage groups and active retirement associations.
The BEO project is coordinated by the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway in association with the Galway Education Centre, Ballinasloe Active Retirement Association, Galway GAA and the Heritage Office of Galway County Council.
Over the last three decades Ireland has experienced the largest social, economic, demographic and cultural change since the Great Famine (‘An Gorta Mór’) of the 1840s. Urbanisation, immigration and becoming part of the ‘global village’ has meant that a once largely monolithic rural nation has lost or is losing many of the features that once defined it as a country, namely poverty, emigration, nationalism, religious observance, a closely knit local community ethos and a labour intensive agricultural village-based economy. This change could and should be an opportunity to enrich mainstream Irish culture by absorbing new influences.
Though Ireland has been invaded many times over the last twelve hundred years, it nevertheless still managed to maintain a ‘Celtic’ ethos and survive centuries of oppression relatively intact. Our millennia old love of poetry, music, spirituality, freedom and nature still burns deep in our souls and many invaders have become bewitched and found themselves becoming ‘more Irish than the Irish themselves’ enriching the country’s culture in the process. Being Irish is really more a state of mind than an element of race.
But it is important that we recognise and preserve our country’s human, built and natural heritage so that it is does not fade into obscurity and that its more positive characteristics can be developed to give meaning, purpose and value to the population of 21st century Ireland.