Heritage Week focus: WIT Waterford Memories Project

Humanities

Waterford Institute of Technology’s part in preserving cultural heritage highlighted during Heritage Week

Preserving accounts of the experiences of survivors of Magdalene Laundries has massive implications for our heritage, according to Dr Jennifer Yeager, psychology lecturer at Waterford Institute of Technology who is currently working on an oral history project called the Waterford Memories Project.

Funded by the Heritage Council, the Waterford Memories Project is recording Ireland’s cultural heritage and provides a platform for further analysis of our history.

The project records and archives personal stories of life before, during and after their time in the Industrial Schools and Laundries located in Waterford and New Ross.

The research is conducted by Dr Yeager through sensitive and private one-to-one interviews; participants have the choice of a written transcript of their experience being published, or an audio or video recording.

“It is vital to remember, commemorate and learn from their experiences at a local, and national, and international level, given the “invisibility” of many of the survivors of these institutions at the time and for decades afterwards,” explains Dr Yeager.

“There is a genuine responsibility to recognise the trauma these women suffered in silence, and respond to their needs and desire to disseminate their stories according to their wishes. This project is not about giving the Magdalene survivors a voice – it is about providing the platform for their voice to be heard, coupled with professional analysis.”

Gathering and analysing these oral histories is essential to documenting our cultural heritage, adds Dr Yeager. Historical, archival research, combined with professional analysis is necessary to aid in providing a more representative understanding of the social, cultural and political history and the legacy for modern Ireland.

The material will be of use to local schools and professional researchers interested in Irish memory and history, and will form a crucial part of any further academic work to be undertaken on this subject.

It is more difficult to assess the role and functions of these institutions in the 20th century, given that many of the institutions have only recently closed; and records have so far been largely inaccessible.

People who have memories or experiences to share of their experience in Industrial Schools or Magdalene Laundries in New Ross or Waterford - including survivors, their relatives, visitors to the institutions, and members of the religious orders and are interested in participating in the research or learning more about the project can visit www.waterfordmemories.com or contact Dr Yeager at [email protected].

The Waterford Memories Project has been funded by the Heritage Council under the Community based Heritage Grant Scheme 2015.

Related Courses

Bachelor of Arts in  Arts (Hons)
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in  Psychology

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