Irish Museums Trust
Fundúireacht Iarsmalanna na hÉireann
c/o National Botanic Gardens
Dublin 9

Joan Duff Memorial Medal

In 2019 the IMT introduced the Joan Duff Memorial Medal which is awarded to the top performing student in the MA in Cultural Policy and Arts Management at University College Dublin.

Joan Duff was a leading light in the IMT for many years.  Following her death in 2018, the Trust decided that awarding a medal to the outstanding student each year for the programme in which it played a founding role would be a fitting way to honour Joan. The medal, featuring the Trust’s logo, is based on a motif specially designed by the artist Patrick Scott and crafted by silversmith Seamus Gill.

2023 Joan Duff Medal Winner

The 2023 winner of the Joan Duff Memorial Medal was Ruth McGill. Ruth is pictured here with IMT Board Member Marie McMahon and Jean Duff, daughter of the late Joan Duff, at the medal presentation in UCD on 5th December 2023.

Ruth’s thesis was titled: ‘The Influence of Cultural Policy in the Urban Regeneration Era: A Study of Axis Ballymun’s Culture-Led Regeneration’ and examines the complex interplay between art, community and cultural policy in culture-led regeneration.

Axis Ballymun is an Arts and Community Resource Centre involved in the culture-led regeneration of Ballymun, Ireland. Culture-led regeneration has been applied in different countries as a tool in Urban Regeneration to revitalise declining areas through culture. In her thesis, Ruth analyses the dynamics of Axis Ballymun, its practice and its relationship to policy, and the interplay between them in the context of culture-led regeneration. Ruth performed a series of three interviews with current and former CEOs of Axis Ballymun, and questioned her positionality concerning these interviews through reflexivity. Her analysis reveals a value-led practice serving the community, inclusion and artistic development. This practice then led to policy being internally adapted. In turn, external policies, such as those from the Arts Council, appear to have limited influence on the core practice.

2022 Joan Duff Medal Winner

The 2022 winner of the Joan Duff Memorial Medal was Isabel Loughran. Isabel is pictured here with Jean Duff, daughter of the late Joan Duff, and IMT chairperson Pat Cooke at the medal presentation in UCD on 9th December 2022.

Isabel’s dissertation, The Development of Participatory Decision-Making with Children in Irish Arts Management, seeks to understand what has influenced and shaped the development and nature of participatory decision-making practice with children in Irish arts management. The rights-based Lundy Model of participation (2007) is employed as a framework for analysing the influences, locations, organisational structures and experiences of participatory decision-making with children, ages 4 – 12 that are gathered through semi-structured interviews with arts managers engaging in this practice. The study finds that participatory decision-making with children began in response to a broader shift in the perception of children in society. The idea of children as citizens and the drive to reset adults’ relationship with children and childhood drove a movement of academic, political and practitioner activity that formalised participatory decision-making with children and created a demand for organisations to demonstrate it. The common principles of Youth Participatory Arts, which include valuing young people as active participants in the decision-making towards the creation of art, laid the groundwork for the practice of integrating into arts management decision-making with children more specifically. Formal frameworks and support structures, such as the Lundy Model, Hub na nÓg, the Irish Government and The Arts Council have incentivised and assisted arts organisations in incorporating this practice into their strategies. While the opportunities for arts managers to implement this practice include an increased enjoyment and engagement for children and a boost in staff morale due to the pride elicited from empowering children, challenges arise for arts managers as they emphasise the lack of capacity they have, versus the amount of capacity the practice requires to be of a successful standard and to align with the requirements of the Lundy Model. The dissertation concludes by identifying areas for further research including, gathering the experiences of the practice artists as well as the perceptions from those arts managers who have engaged thus far in order to develop a fuller picture of the potential systems change that involving children in shaping our arts organisations might entail.

2021 Joan Duff Medal Winner

The 2021 winner of the Joan Duff Memorial Medal was Dafni Zarkadi. Dafni is pictured here with IMT chairperson Pat Cooke at the medal presentation in UCD on 10th December 2021.

Dafni’s thesis investigates the recent increasing popularity of contemporary traditional and folk influenced music with Greek audiences. The impact of the socio-political environment and the artists’ marketing practices on this phenomena is explored through interviews, documentary and literary research. Through exploring the main elements and influences of this type of music, a post-traditional movement in Greek music that has impacted a variety of genres was detected. The core element of this movement is the combination of electric elements from ‘western’ genres with ‘eastern’, influences from Greek folk music. The findings suggest that this diversity of sound is related with the increasing appeal that this type of music has to the audience. At the same time, the artists that represent this movement follow a ‘no branding’ marketing strategy, that includes being independently produced, having an antisystemic rhetoric, being absent from mainstream media and connecting with the audience through digital platforms and live events. This unconventional type of marketing along with the traditional music influences proved to be appealing to Greek audiences that due to the financial crisis suffered from a loss of identity which led to a feeling of nostalgia towards the past.

2020 Joan Duff Medal Winner

The 2020 winner of the Joan Duff Medal was Thea Cooke. Thea’s thesis examined the New York Opera Alliance (“NYOA”), a consortium consisting of over 50 small independent (“indie”) opera companies based in the greater New York City area.  Formed in 2013, NYOA was studied as an example of the phenomenon of coopetition – simultaneous competition and cooperation between organisations. Through a review of literature and interviews with five artistic directors of indie opera companies in NYOA, Thea’s thesis sought to describe coopetitive dynamics among NYOA member companies and to identify fruitful areas for future study for coopetition in the non-profit performing arts (“NPPA”) sector and for indie opera specifically. The findings suggest that coopetitive dynamics in NYOA differ markedly from those described in previous studies of coopetition in US-based NPPA organisations.  Instead, they closely resemble those found in the Montreal circus sector and certain other instances of dense, specialised geographic clusters of small for-profit businesses, particularly small technology firms.

2019 Joan Duff Medal Winner

The inaugural winner of the Joan Duff Medal in 2019 was Jennifer McAndrew. Jennifer is pictured here with IMT Board Members: Marion Cashman, Sean Popplewell, Pat Cooke, Clodagh Duff, Ciaran Benson and Matthew Jebb, Director of the National Botanic Gardens.

Jennifer’s thesis, titled “The Soft Power of Music Diplomacy: A Case Study of Ireland’s Showcase at South by Southwest Music Festival”, investigated how Ireland employs music diplomacy as a tool of soft power. Her research found that the music showcase delivered measurable results for participating artists, including increased economic opportunity, cultural capital, and professional development. It also had notable effects in advancing Ireland’s soft power by exerting influence, including attraction, agenda-setting, socialization, and framing effects, which enabled the Government of Ireland to more broadly achieve its policy goals of advancing Ireland’s creative industries, and branding Ireland as a creative place. Jen holds a MA in Mass Communication from Texas State University, and a BA in Irish Studies from Southwestern University. She has served as a diplomat with the U.S. Department of State since 2009 and is currently assigned to the Washington Foreign Press Center in Washington, DC.