Powering the Nation is the fascinating story of the greatest industrial initiative of the fledgling Irish Free State: the Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme. Lavishly designed, this visual history examines the construction of this mammoth of modern ingenuity and its symbolic power during the dawn of electrical technology in Ireland. In the 1920s, the Free State sought to harness electricity to step beyond the political nationalism of its painful revolutionary era and provide for its citizens. The endeavour was not without anxiety from a population that took pride in tradition and was deeply suspicious of technology.
Leading Irish design historian, Sorcha O’Brien, uses extensive archival research to exhibit the publicity drive from the ESB, Siemens and innumerable artists and tourist bodies to excite perceptions that would transform lifestyles and, inevitably, the Irish landscape. O’Brien expertly evaluates the images behind the story: the technical drawings, Seán Keating’s deeply emotive paintings, artists’ lithographs and drawings, and boundless paraphernalia of photographs, postcards and cigarette packets.
Table of Contents
1. National Identity and Electrical Technology in 1920s Ireland
2. The Power Station: A German-Irish Industrial Building
3. Negotiating Building: Technical Drawings and Illustrations
4. German Technology and Propaganda: Siemens Industrial Photographs and Prints
5. Records of Work: German and Irish Worker Photographs
6. An Irish Project: ESB Advertisements
7. The National Imaginary: Irish Tourist Photographs
8. Artistic Visions: Paintings and Prints by Irish Artists
9. Official Recognition: The Commemorative Stamp
10. Collecting the Shannon Scheme: Irish Tourist Postcards and Cigarette Cards
Conclusion: The Shannon Scheme: Imaging a Technological Ireland
About the Author
Sorcha O’Brien is a design historian with interest in technology and identity in both physical and digital forms. She teaches Design History and Theory to Product and Furniture Design students in Kingston University, UK. She is co-editor of the anthology Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture and subject editor for the Bloomsbury Encyclopaedia of Design.