The Institute is joined this semester by visiting fellow Sophie Sweetman McConnell. Sophie’s association with the Keough-Naughton Institute began when she was tipped off by her brother, Richard Sweetman, to attend the initial Irish Seminar “Memory and History: Ireland 1500-2000” in Dublin in 1999. A member of the Ireland Council, Richard did everyone a good turn that day, as the Institute since has benefitted from Sophie’s intellect, warmth and good humor.
Sophie has spent her time this semester transcribing and annotating a collection of 365 letters written by her great grandfather to his nephew over the course of years from 1866-1905. The project is not simply to satisfy interest in her family history, but aims to preserve the historical record of the mercantile class in Ireland during that time.
Following a career in publishing and inspired by the Irish Seminars she attended, Sophie returned to school and completed an M.A. in Irish history from New York University where she wrote her thesis based upon the family letters. This time in the Institute gave her the opportunity to fully explore the family papers, and she aims to publish her current work once complete.
As visiting scholar, Sophie is enjoying “the resources – both the knowledgeable people and the collections available at the Hesburgh Library.” These collections include the Sweetman Family Papers donated by Richard Sweetman, which can be found in Special Collections. Now a member of the Ireland Council herself, she is the first to be a scholar and steward of the Keough-Naughton Institute.