Irish Fest has just kicked off. It's a time for those to celebrate their heritage and others to experience a different culture. But once Irish Fest is over, there will be a new way for those to learn about the Irish hundreds of years ago.
"This is the original book, beautifully bound and signed by this lady," said VP of the Kansas City Irish Center, Tom Shawver.
Shawver knows the value of a good book.
"You're holding history in your hands," he said.
By that measure, the Kansas City Irish Center just became the proud inheritor of centuries of history.
"We've got 250 boxes of books, and 30 books per box," Shawver said.
The books are dating as far back as 1547 and it's all thanks to a massive donation from an Arkansas collector of Irish history.
Kansas City competed against other cities like Chicago for the donation. The entire collection is worth well over $100,000.
"This collection that we have now really rivals pretty much what they have in Ireland," Shawver said.
It could be easy to get buried back in the stacks, but each book a person opens brings to the surface a new chapter, a moment in Irish time.
"How much science and history, and moving bogs in Galway meant to people," Shawver said of some of the things he's learned while perusing the books.
The collection includes novels and tracts on religious and political freedom and so much more.
"This is where we keep the boxes of books that we have yet to catalogue and get on shelves," Shawver said.
But once the collection is organized and on display, it'll be a great opportunity for Kansas City's Irish community to remember and look back at their roots - beyond the parades and festivals that come once a year – one stack, one page at a time.
"Kansas City was a railroad town and so many of the workers were Irish, it's what brought them here, they also were the ones that were the bricklayers that built this city on the bluffs," Shawver said. "They can come in for free and sit down and start seeing what we have and learning more about their history and the history of Ireland."
The full collection is expected to be on display by early November at the Kansas City Irish Center, located in the basement of Union Station.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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