NUI Galway Documentary Celebrates Graduate and Former City Engineer of San Francisco

Apr 17 2018 Posted: 11:44 IST

University hosts two days of events to mark the legacy of Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy

A public lecture and the launch of a new mini documentary on NUI Galway graduate and former city engineer of San Francisco, Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy will form part of two days of activities marking his legacy on 24-25 of April.  NUI Galway and the University of California Berkeley both hold archives relating to O’Shaughnessy and a public lecture by Theresa Salazar, University of California Berkeley, will highlight the Limerick native’s legacy in San Francisco.

O’Shaughnessy emigrated to California in 1885, a year after graduating from then Queen’s College Galway. He embarked on a prolific civil engineering career in California and Hawaii. In 1912, he was appointed the City Engineer of San Francisco, a city still being reconstructed after the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906. He served as City Engineer until 1932, and oversaw the construction of the municipal rail system, upgraded the city’s water and sewer systems, and he carried out feasibility work on the San Francisco Bay Bridges, including the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges.

His archive was donated to NUI Galway by Bernadette O’Shaughnessy, whose late husband was a grand-nephew of Michael O’Shaughnessy. The library collection is publicly available in digital format, including O’Shaughnessy’s unpublished memoir, Engineering Experiences: From Honolulu to Hetch Hetchy.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of NUI Galway, said: “The O’Shaughnessy archive at NUI Galway is a real treasure in its own right but it also builds on the University’s connections with the University of California Berkeley. It opens up opportunities to collaborate on connecting the archives at both universities and stimulating global awareness of O’Shaughnessy’s achievements. Our University’s focus is on reaching out to the world and for the world with our work, and this digital archive means that people from Belmullet to Berkeley to Beijing can learn about the man involved in engineering some of America’s most iconic projects.”

Theresa Salazar, is curator of the Western Americana Collection at the Bancroft Library in University of California, Berkeley which holds a major collection of archival material donated by O’Shaughnessy’s daughter, Elizabeth, in 1992.  Salazar will give a public lecture about the O’Shaughnessy archive and other collections of Irish interest at the Bancroft Library on Tuesday, 24 April in Room G010, Hardiman Research Building, at 4pm. Please register at: 

University Librarian at NUI Galway, John Cox, commented: “Michael O’Shaughnessy continues to be recognised as a major figure in San Francisco and the visit of Theresa Salazar is particularly welcome in promoting digital innovation to present his legacy engagingly.”

A hugely popular exhibition that celebrates the acquisition of the personal archive of O’Shaughnessy will be on permanent display in the Alice Perry Engineering building at NUI Galway. The exhibition, entitled ‘Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy (1864-1934): Engineering the Promised Land’, was co-curated by Eamonn Cannon, Aisling Keane and Dr Jamie Goggins. The exhibition tells the story of O'Shaughnessy's career, with selected extracts from his memoir. It inspired the creation of a short documentary, which will be shown in public for the first time at 9:30am on the 25 April in the Alice Perry Engineering building, NUI Galway. Please register at:  

According to Dr Jamie Goggins, who with Eamonn Cannon, directed the documentary: “We have such a rich engineering history in Ireland. Michael O’Shaughnessy is one of the many great engineers to hail from Ireland that have had huge impact around the world by harnessing their innovation and creativity to be both practical and inspirational, creating infrastructure that has allowed societies to prosper. We are hoping that our short documentary will act as a catalyst for a greater acknowledgement of the global societal impact of such great engineers and scientists which will in turn inspire the next generation.”


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