The work that Co. Clare-based social enterprise the Irish Seed Savers Association (ISSA) is doing to conserve Ireland’s plant genetic resources, as well as the associated agricultural and social heritage, is celebrated in a new book.

The local group gathered with representatives of International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Ireland and many others who contributed to the beautifully crafted book at its Scarriff hub for the latest in-person launch of Other Stories, Cultural Heritage and Society.

The launch is part of a nationwide tour that ends in Dublin in late November.

Other Stories, which is available from group members free of charge, was first launched at an online event by Heritage and Electoral Reform Minister, Malcolm Noonan, as part of the ICOMOS Ireland annual Maura Shaffrey lecture during the pandemic.

ICOMOS Ireland funded the book, which showcases the work and importance of 15 culture, heritage and society projects on the island of Ireland and gives a voice to those involved in the form of personal reflections.

Heritage conservation at Seed Savers

Speaking at the launch, Fidelma Mullane, president of ICOMOS Ireland, said that the Faro Convention emphasised the important aspects of heritage as they related to human rights and democracy.

“It promotes a wider understanding of heritage and its relationship to communities and society,” she said.

“The convention encourages us to recognise that objects and places are not, in themselves, what is important about cultural heritage. They are important because of the meanings and uses that people attach to them and the values they represent.”

Head of the ISSA, Elaine Bradley, welcomed the publication and the vital role it plays in showcasing the community-led approach to heritage conservation at Irish Seed Savers.

“Not alone does Irish Seed Savers curate the heritage seed and apple trees entrusted to our care, but we preserve the stories and memories of those who have tended and maintained these vital plant genetic resources through generations,” she said.

Seed Savers
Gillian Lattimore, Irish Seed Savers; Fidelma Mullane, president of ICOMOS Ireland and Elaine Bradley, Irish Seed Savers pictured at the Other Stories launch

“In this time of catastrophic biodiversity loss, the plant genetic materials we hold are the building blocks of future food systems and the stories associated with them are the blueprints for their use – wisdom gleaned over generations,” Bradley added.

The publication captures the work done by the ISSA, examining how it and all of the featured projects started, what sustains them, and their broader impact as well as how they give us all a much greater appreciation of heritage and its relationship to communities and society.

Seed Savers
Fidelma Mullane, president of ICOMOS Ireland and Cillian Boyd, ISSA with students from Alfa Steiner Secondary School at the launch of Other Stories

Free copies of Other Stories are available at individual events, thanks to the support and funding from the Heritage Council, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dublin City Council and Dublin Port Company.

ICOMOS Ireland undertook the research and advocacy project to highlight the spirit and principles of the Faro Convention as expressed in an Irish context.