Northern Ireland Prisons Memory Archive
The experiences of inmates and staff from some of Northern Ireland’s most high profile prisons will be recorded and captured forever as part of a new University of Ulster project.
Cahal McLaughlin, a Senior Lecturer in Media Studies, wants to create an archive of memories, stories and experiences of those who inhabited and worked in the prisons so future generations can explore and learn from them.
The project, which will focus on The Maze in May and June, will film ex-prisoners, prison officers, doctors, teachers and visitors – in a bid to create an archive that will explore all sides of Northern Ireland’s difficult history.
Mr McLaughlin has already begun work on Armagh Gaol and it is also hoped that stories from Magilligan and Crumlin Road prisons will be recorded in the future.
With the aid of a grant of over £47,000, from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Mr McLaughlin will film and record stories which will touch on some of the most difficult times from the Troubles.
“The proposed redevelopment of most of Northern Ireland’s notorious prisons signals the removal of some of the most significant buildings from the Troubles taking with it much of the hidden and contested heritage associated with them,” said Mr McLaughlin.
“Thousands of people including staff, prisoners and visitors were touched by the prisons and their stories are a vital part of the peace process and Northern Ireland’s history.
“This previously hidden history will be made available to the public and will be used for educational purposes. A permanent home for the archive has yet to be decided”.
“The project is very important to the process of understanding our contested past. Thousands of people experienced the prisons in some way but their stories and memories have often remained hidden. It’s these stories and memories that we want to tap into before they are lost forever and I would encourage as many people as possible to come forward and share their experiences.”
Paul Mullan, Heritage Lottery Fund, added: “This is a project that tackles some uncomfortable times in our past in a way that illuminates different perspectives. At a time when Northern Ireland is moving forward it’s important that we acknowledge and share these different stories as a way of learning from the past and recognising how far we have come.”
The project has been put together in close conjunction and consultation with user groups.
The project is still in the process of collating the archive and material will not be available for research purposes for at least a year. A directory entry will appear when the Northern Ireland Prisons Memory archive is officially launched.