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Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy Archive

The Archive

The Library, in partnership with the University’s College of Engineering and Informatics acquired an archive of material belonging to Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy in 2016.

O’Shaughnessy was a Limerick man who studied Engineering in University College Galway under Professor Edward Townsend. He graduated in 1884, and crossed the Atlantic the following year to embark on his career as a Civil Engineer. He worked first as a consultant in private practice on railroads and land development work in California, and on large scale irrigation and hydraulic projects on sugar plantations in the Hawaiian Islands. After the earthquake in San Francisco in 1906, he worked on dams and channel rectification projects in San Francisco until in 1912 he was appointed the City Engineer for San Francisco. His term as City Engineer lasted until 1932 and is remembered best for the construction of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. To this day, Hetch Hetchy provides water for over 2 million residents of San Francisco and the Bay area, and its dam is named in his honour.

In 1992, O'Shaughnessy's youngest daughter Elizabeth deposited his professional papers with the Bancroft Library, at the University of Berkeley, California. His personal papers, and papers relating to his early career were sent to his family in Limerick, and these were gifted to NUI Galway in 2016. The archive in NUI Galway comprises:

  • Personal papers including an unpublished memoir, diary pieces, correspondence
  • Approximately 2,000 photographs illustrating civil engineering in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as personal family photographs
  • A comprehensive set of blueprints, maps and drawings relating to O’Shaughnessy’s early career as a private consultant

They illustrate pioneering civil engineering projects in the early 20th century, and are an important resource for anyone interested in industrial development, conservation, and the American frontier.

Work Planned

The archive has been digitised in its entirety, and work is underway to publish it online on our Digital Repository. Our intention in digitising and making this collection available is to enable collaboration with the archive at The Bancroft Library.

The archive is being catalogued at the moment, and will be ready for publication in late summer 2017.