PATRICIA Haselbeck Flynn, surveying the collection of photographs taken by her grandfather and put on display in the Limerick City Museum and Archives this week, professed to being “completely overwhelmed to see them”.
Ms Flynn, who lives Ahane, painstakingly restored the massive collection after grandfather, Franz Sebastian Haselbeck, entrusted them to his son Frank, who in turn, on his deathbed, begged his daughter to preserve his father’s work.
Surviving fire and flood she did so, restoring and cataloguing almost half of a near 5,000-strong collection of photographs taken across six decades of the 1900s by Haselbeck, who captured some of the seminal moments of his time, as well as everyday life.
The Glazed Street - an exhibition of archival images, documents and photographic equipment from the studio of Franz S. Haselbeck, was launched by arts minister Jimmy Deenihan this week in City Hall, the current location of the museum.
Ms Haselbeck Flynn said she was offering the use of the collection as a “gift to the city”.
“I am completely overwhelmed to see them, and the way they are being displayed here in public, is absolutely wonderful,” said Patricia, who also recently produced a fascinating book called Franz S Haselbeck’s Ireland, based on the images.
“I was here during the set-up, just informally, and people were coming, because the pictures were already there, and I was able to eavesdrop, and listen to all the marvellous comments. And already people have recognised their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, which is amazing,” she added.
The exhibition features a stunning range of photographs from Haselbeck’s time, who worked as a professional photographer in Limerick from 1912 until his death in 1973.
In preserving and exhibiting the collection, Ms Haselbeck Flynn has not only fulfilled the dying wishes of her father but also preserved and now exposed to life the stunning works created by her grandfather, an archive that has been called “one of the great Irish photographic collections” and is considered of immense importance historically and socially.
“It makes all we have done, and the years of work so very worthwhile to see it displayed in this way, at home in Limerick,” explained Patricia. “I can only imagine how very, very proud he [Franz Haselbeck] would be, proud and honoured to be shown in this way in his home town.”
City archivist Jacqui Hayes praised Haselbeck as an “exceptional photographer who took his art very seriously”.
“This beautiful selection of photographs on public display in City Hall is a unique and valuable record of Limerick and its environs,” she added.
“It is really nice that while it is the first event of this type during City of Culture, in fact I was invited by Limerick City Museum and Archive to bring it here. It is very fortunate that it is coming at this time, for City of Culture, there is a lovely buzz, and it is very positive timing all round I think.
Minister Deenihan said he was “delighted to launch this exhibition”.
“These photographs give us an unrivalled opportunity to turn the clock back more than 100 years and are invaluable to the social and cultural history of the area,” he said.
Musician Johnny Duhan, a childhood friend of Ms Haselbeck Flynn’s, performed at the launch.
The exhibition is open, free of charge, until February.
Editorial, page 16