There are some similarities, from a narrative point of view, between Mr. Robert Shure's Boston and Providence Irish Famine Memorials.
The Boston installation has at the outer edge of its central circular core, where two three-person sculpture groups are located opposite each other, eight historical narrative plaques which describe various aspects of the Great Famine, the Trans-Atlantic crossing of the so-called "Coffin Ships" and the Irish Immigrant experience in Boston.
Four of these narrative plaques are placed at each side of the Boston Memorial's two entrances so it does not matter at what historical point the visitor encounters Mr. Shure's recounting of Famine-related events.
In contrast to the Boston design, information contained on "THE HISTORICAL NARRATIVE WALL" at the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial is presented in a deliberately compact, linear, developmental format.
Facing the base of the Wall itself, the reader is drawn deliberately to start viewing the installation at its extreme left end where the Narrative begins and thence to read naturally from left to right until the end is reached.
In effect, Mr. Shure met the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial Committee's request for the inclusion of a substantial Historical Narrative component at the site by giving us a "blank space" on which to inscribe whatever we collectively wished.
In providing this space to us he imposed only two technical requirements upon us. First, each of the two professional historians who wrote the "Irish Famine" and the "Rhode Island Irish Immigrant" Narratives were told that space limitations were "absolute". This was so because each of the 5,000 individually cast and mounted bronze letters which would comprise the Narratives would have to be large enough to be easily read at some distance from the Wall on whose panels they were to be displayed.
The 5,000 total spaces allotted for each piece were to include individual words, letters, punctuation marks and blank spaces so it was necessary both "to count every word" and "to make every word count."
In the end, the Irish Famine portion used up 791 words and 4,915 out of a possible 5,000 characters and blank spaces while the Rhode Island Irish Immigrant piece consisted of 777 words and 4,969 characters and spaces.
Apart from imposing strict special limitations on the two scholars involved in the project, Mr. Shure had one additional requirement which was equally important from his artistic perspective.
On the section of the Memorial Wall above the narrative panels, he mounted a series of bas-reliefs representing various aspects of the Famine and its consequences. These sculptures, to be viewed from right to left while looking at the Narrative Wall, illustrated:
- "Death from starvation in Ireland",
- "The Voyage of the Coffin Ships",
- "The enduring bonds between Irish and Irish-American families",
- The hardships of the Immigrant Irish upon arrival in Rhode Island", and
- "The contributions of the Irish in building Rhode Island and America."
These images were intended by Mr. Shure to complement the historical interpretive text above which each of them is placed. Together with the three-person bronze sculpture group, the Historical Narrative Wall with its complementary text and images gives the Memorial its emotional appeal and intellectual substance.
[See also "THE SCULPTURE GROUP: CONTINUITY AND CONTRAST" elsewhere on this website.]