On Wednesday 19th February at 8pm in the Talbot Hotel, Dr Karen Dempsey gave a talk on ’Sights, Sounds and Smells: Experiencing Daily Life at some Carlow Castles’.

Dr Karen Dempesy
Photo: Paul Curran

What comes to mind when we think of the medieval castle? Hopefully we have moved beyond conjuring images of wars and sieges as typical of daily castle-life. But, do we think of a castle as a busy place full of the noises, sights and smells of a community or is it an empty dreary space that is cold, dark and devoid of people? Much of our research and studies on castles has focussed on architecture and landscape or pinpointing particular patrons. What is left out of these narratives are the daily lives of people – and their things, in other words, the community of the castle. Can we speculate about the experiences of the people who built, lived or worked within these spaces? Focusing on the castles of Carlow, this presentation explored daily life in the later medieval period.

Photo: Paul Curran

Dr Karen Dempsey is a medieval archaeologist who is investigating daily life, in other words, the experiences of medieval people in their world. The research focuses on castles as well as the homes of medieval ordinary people. Understanding what makes a home or what archaeological expression homes and households (of all sorts) leave behind is a key theme across her work. Dr Dempsey is very interested in how present societies utilise past material culture to negotiate and legitimise their views or ideals, something that is very visible in the world today. One of the core themes in her research is that space and place are intrinsic to how communities make themselves; therefore, she believes that communities’ engagement with cultural heritage enables people to make meaningful contributions to their individual and shared identities. Dr Dempsey is keen to demonstrate and share how relevant the medieval world is for contemporary debates, particular relating to social and structural inequality.

Listen to Dr Dempsey’s talk here

Photo: Paul Curran


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