Powering the Nation' is the fascinating story of the greatest industrial initiative of the fledgling Irish Free State: the Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme. Lavishly designed, this visual history examines the construction of this mammoth of modern ingenuity and its symbolic power during the dawn of electrical technology in Ireland. In the 1920s, the Free State sought to harness electricity to step beyond the political nationalism of its painful revolutionary era and provide for its citizens. The endeavour was not without anxiety from a population that took pride in tradition and was deeply suspicious of technology.
Leading Irish design historian, Sorcha O'Brien, uses extensive archival research to exhibit the publicity drive from the ESB, Siemens and innumerable artists and tourist bodies to excite perceptions that would transform lifestyles and, inevitably, the Irish landscape. O'Brien expertly evaluates the images behind the story: the technical drawings, Sean Keating's deeply emotive paintings, artists' lithographs and drawings, and boundless paraphernalia of photographs, postcards and cigarette packets.