Chat is offline

Collection preview


We have digitally enhanced Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy’s memoirs. The digital memoirs enable you to explore the archive through O’Shaughnessy’s own distinctive voice. You can read the memoirs to discover contextual items from the digital archive.

Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy Archive

Update Mar 2019

On 14 March 2019, the University of California, Berkeley's Bancroft Library and its Irish Studies Programme screened Engineering the Promised Land, a 20 minute mini-documentary produced by NUI Galway in 2018. 

The screening was attended by faculty and members of California's Engineering and Irish-American communities. It also launched the beginning of a 3 month display of archival material relating to Michael Maurice O'Shaughnessy from both its and NUI Galway's collections, co-curated between the two Libraries.

The event formed part of the campus's St Patrick's Day celebrations. 

Update Apr 2018

We are delighted to announce two upcoming events relating to Michael M. O'Shaughnessy. Both are free and open to the public, but space is limited, so we ask that you register using the links below.

  • Tuesday, 24 April 2018, 16.00-16.45. Theresa Salazar, Curator of the Western Americana Collection at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, will speak about their Michael M. O'Shaughnessy archive, as well as other archival collections of Irish interest held at the Bancroft. Please register here. This event will be held in room G010, Hardiman Research Building, NUI Galway. 
  • Wednesday 25 April 2018, 09.30-11.00. Premiere screening of a mini documentary about Michael M. O'Shaughnessy, and a reception to mark the permanent installation of the exhibition Michael M. O'Shaughnessy - Engineering the Promised Land in the Alice Perry Engineering Building. Please register here. This event will be held in room ENG-G047, Alice Perry Engineering Building, NUI Galway. 

Update Oct 2017


The Archive

In 2016, the O’Shaughnessy family donated an archive of papers belonging to their relative, Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy (1864-1934) to the NUI Galway Library. O’Shaughnessy came from Loughill, Co. Limerick, and completed a degree in Engineering from 1882 to 1884 in what was then Queen’s College Galway. The following year, he emigrated to California, where he embarked on a prolific career in Civil Engineering.

The first half of his career was in private practice on railroads, land development, and irrigation projects in both California and the Hawaiian sugar plantations. In 1912, he was appointed the City Engineer of San Francisco, his term lasting until 1932. His appointment came just six years after the devastating earthquake and fire which destroyed much of San Francisco. His legacy was to oversee the city’s municipal streetcar system, upgrade the city’s water and sewer systems, and carry out feasibility work on the San Francisco Bay Bridges (Dumbarton, Golden Gate, and San Francisco-Oakland Bay). He is best remembered for the construction of the Hetch Hetchy dam and reservoir system, which to this day provides water for over 2 million residents of the San Francisco Bay region.

The archive in NUI Galway comprises:

  • His memoirs (four in total). Engineering Experiences: From Honolulu to Hetch Hetchy, Reminiscences of Hawaii, (February 1920), My Trip Abroad (July-October 1925), and Hetch Hetchy: Its Origin and History (1934); the latter being the only memoir from the collection that has been published to date.
  • Approximately 300 sheets of blueprints, maps and drawings that relate to O’Shaughnessy’s early career as a private consultant.
  • Reports, files and correspondence relating to the projects O’Shaughnessy was involved in as a private consultant.
  • Approximately 2,000 photographs that depict O’Shaughnessy’s professional and personal life in vivid detail. There are also many photographs of the fascinating O’Shaughnessy daughters that document their lives after their father’s death, up until the 1960s.

The archive will be of interest to anyone with an interest in the history of civil engineering, Irish emigration in the late 19th century, debates on environmental conservationism.

The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley also holds a major O’Shaughnessy archive with substantial primary source material relating to his time as City Engineer. Read more information on the archive held by The Bancroft Library.