Prisons Memory Archive

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      Between 2006 and 2007, the Prisons Memory Archive (PMA) filmed participants, including former prisoners, prison staff, teachers, chaplains, visitors, solicitors and welfare workers back inside the Maze/Long Kesh Prison and Armagh Gaol. They shared the memory of the time spent in these prisons during the period of political violence from 1970 - 2000 in Northern Ireland, commonly known as the Troubles. Underpinning the overall methodology is co-ownership of the material, which gives participants the right to veto as well as to participate in the processes of editing and exhibiting their stories, so prioritising the value of co-authorship of their stories. The PMA adopted life-story interviewing techniques with the empty sites stimulating participants’ memory while they walked and talked their way around the empty sites. A third feature is inclusivity: the archive holds stories from across the full spectrum of the prison experience. A selection of the material, with accompanying context and links is available online

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      The protocols of inclusivity, co-ownership and life-story telling make this collection significant as an initiative that engages with contemporary problems of how to negotiate narratives about a conflicted past in a society emerging out of violence. Inclusivity means that prison staff, prisoners, governors, chaplains, tutors and visitors have participated, relating their individual and collective experiences, which sit side by side on the PMA website. Co-ownership addresses the issues of ethics and sensitivity, allowing key constituencies to be involved. Life-story telling, based on oral history methodologies allows participants to be the authors of their own stories, crucial when dealing with sensitive issues from a violent past. The website hosts a selection of excerpts, e.g. the Armagh Stories page shows excerpts from 15 participants, while the Maze and Long Kesh Prison page offers interactive access to 24 participants from that prison. Using an interactive documentary structure, the site offers users opportunities to navigate their own way through the material and encourages them to hear and see the ‘other’, central to attempts at encouraging dialogue in a divided society. Further, public discussions have been held after screening of excerpts with community groups in the following locations - Belfast, Newtownabbey, Derry, Armagh, Enniskillen, London, Cork, Maynooth, Clones, and Monaghan. Extracts have been screened at international academic conferences in Valencia, Australia, Tartu, Estonia, Prague, and York. A dataset of the content, with description and links, is available for REF purposes.
      Original languageEnglish
      Media of outputOnline
      Sizesee dataset provided
      StatePublished - 2010

        Research areas

      • Memory, Prisons, Northern Ireland, Troubles,

      ID: 1831353