By Niamh McGee
The personal histories and experiences of survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, where over 800 children were found in mass graves, are currently being gathered by researchers at NUI Galway’s History Department under a new project launched by the university.
The project, titled ‘Archiving Personal Histories: The Tuam Mother and Baby Home’ was launched on the 7 February and is based on collecting oral accounts of those who survived the conditions of the home.
The project hopes to include both the experiences of the mothers who spent time here, as well as accounts by those who were born and grew up in the home as young children.
The launch of the project coincides with the Government’s confirmation that a full forensic investigation will take place at the Tuam site later in the year.
The launch began with a workshop involving survivors, staff and students from the University.
The attendees were also invited to attend two panel discussions based on the challenges of collecting and archiving oral histories.
Speakers present included Catherine Corless, the historian who discovered the mass graves, Breeda Murphy of the Tuam Home Survivors’ Network, activist Catríona Crowe and journalist Conall Ó Fátharta.
NUI Galway staff members Dr Barry Houlihan, Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley, Dr John Cunningham, Professor Caroline McGregor and Dr Caitríona Clear also spoke at the event.
NUI Galway President Professsor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh launched ‘The Tuam Oral History Project’ in the new Human Biology Building on campus that evening. The oral history part of the project hopes to include oral sources from people of the local area, and feature input from anyone who is interested in contributing to that area of research.
Towards the end of the event, a screening of Mia Malarkey’s documentary, ‘Mother and Baby’ was shown, and poetry from Elaine Feeny and songs by Padraig Stevens were read and sung aloud.
The launch had an emotional conclusion, as discussions were held by survivor Peter Mulryan, Breeda Murphy from the Tuam Home Survivors Network and campaigner for survivor rights Eunan Duffy.
The project hopes to liaise with local schools and the Galway community, as well as to give University students a greater knowledge of the history and offer an opportunity for students to become involved.
“The role of historians is key to this, but also the importance of the creative aspect and the involvement of students,” says Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley, one of the lead researchers on the project. Her colleague Dr John Cunnigham is also leading the project.
The oral history collection will be housed in the James Hardiman Library on campus.
If you wish to get involved with the project, or have something to contribute, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.