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Professor Cahal McLaughlin

Queen’s University launches the Visual Voices of the Prisons Memory Archive

29/03/2017


Queen’s University in partnership with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), and the Prison Memory Archive (PMA) Management Group, will today (Wednesday 29 March) launch The Visual Voices of the Prison Memory Archive project.

The Prison Memory Archive is a collection of 175 filmed walk-and-talk recordings with those who had a connection with Armagh Gaol and the Maze and Long Kesh Prison during the conflict in Northern Ireland.

The unique recordings were filmed during 2006 and 2007 with prison officers, prisoners, and probation officers, discussing at length their experiences of the prison. A diverse range of other participants include relatives, teachers, chaplains, lawyers, doctors, and maintenance workers.

The recordings capture how everyday life was impacted by the conflict and builds a story of the prisons.

Over £500k has been awarded to this project from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project aims to give the public access to the full archive of 300 hours of audio visual recordings and associated material over a three year period. 

The collection will also be preserved and there will be an extensive engagement programme by community and educational groups that will address our conflicted past in a contested present.

The work of the Prisons Memory Archive is under-pinned by an ethical framework of life- storytelling, co-ownership and inclusivity.

Cahal McLaughlin, Professor of Film at Queen’s and PMA Director, said: “We are delighted to announce the launch of the Visual Voices project and to continue our relationship with the Heritage Lottery Fund and our partnership with the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland. This project is made possible by the participation of the many voices who gave us their time and energy. We hope this project will add to Queen’s global reputation in post conflict and peace building research.”

Michael Willis, Director of the Public Record Office (PRONI), commented: “‘The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland is delighted to be working with the Prisons Memory Archive Management Group and Queen’s University Belfast on the Visual Voices project to preserve, catalogue and make available the Prisons Memory Archive with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. This project gives PRONI an opportunity to include, in a very real sense, the voices of those individuals who may be under-represented in our archive. The recordings are unique memories and experiences which provide a commentary on recent events.

“They are voices that may not appear in other records and so bring an additional perspective to the records that we already hold. We hope this project will enhance awareness and understanding of our recent past.  As part of the Department for Communities, we look forward to engaging with new audiences and ensuring this archive is preserved for future generations.”

Angelina Fusco, Member of HLF’s NI Committee, added: “We were delighted to fund this project. We’ve travelled with the project from the early recording phase through to the current phase which will see the archive open and accessible to all. The breadth of heritage that is covered in the archive through the diverse range of stories and interviewees is fascinating. Using National Lottery player’s money, the Heritage Lottery Fund invests in all types of heritage projects to ensure that people can explore and understand our complex and often challenging history.”

Jenny Meegan, PMA Chair and participant, said: “It is a privilege to be involved with the PMA. I particularly value the way that the principle of co-ownership means that, as participants, we are fully consulted about the use of our recordings and our decisions are respected.  Participants are members of the management committee and are active partners in this exciting project which tells inclusive and unheard stories about life in the prisons.”

For further details or to visit the archive please visit http://prisonsmemoryarchive.com/

Media inquiries to Zara McBrearty, Communications Office at Queen's University Belfast on Tel: 028 90 97 3259 or email z.mcbrearty@qub.ac.uk 

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