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Katharina Bock (CITI-GENS ESR3)

Visual Voices: a User Interface – how online resources aid educational and community development

Find out more about Katharina

Pure Profile

Project Description

Research into the needs, potential, design and implementation of an online interactive web resource based on the Prisons Memory Archive (, and how such resources can engage (or otherwise) audiences with multi-layered narratives of contested pasts. The PMA has been awarded a £500,500 HLF grant, in collaboration with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland to preserve, make accessible and encourage engagement with 300 hours of audio visual recordings from the Maze and Long Kesh Prison and Armagh Gaol, which operated during the political conflict known as the Troubles. These walk-and-talk recordings feature a diverse range of participants who interacted with the prison sites in different ways, as prisoners, prison officers, teachers, chaplains, relatives, lawyers, doctors, probation officers, and maintenance workers.
There are two aspects to accessing and engaging with the PMA – as a full archive at PRONI and via a User Interface on the world wide web. PRONI are currently addressing the former and the PMA are shortly to engage with a technical partner to address the latter. The doctoral student would base their research on the second aspect of the project, which will engage with museums, libraries, schools, further education colleges and community groups in order to analyse how such an archive can be utilised in various educational and community contexts.
The project has inbuilt inter-disciplinarity with film studies, memory studies, transitional justice, oral history, education, museum studies and computer science forming the theoretical foundation of the research to date.
The current Northern Ireland Office consultation document on addressing the legacy of the past proposes an oral history archive, which will have a strong online element. Our research will be of considerable benefit to NI and similar international initiatives where digital developments open up new possibilities for addressing the role of storytelling as a means of addressing the legacy of the past in societies transitioning out of violence.
The use of the world wide web to provide tools and resources for educational and community development has been well established. What has yet to be fully exploited are the uses of such resources in societies transitioning out of violence. Northern Ireland is unique in many ways, not least in its compromise solution to conflict transformation, albeit with its own limitations and setbacks. However, NI does provide a useful laboratory for addressing political, social, cultural, educational and community initiatives. The innovative linking of culture and technology lies at the core of this application.

Project Partner

The Public Record Office Northern Ireland (PRONI) is part of the Department of Communities and the official record keeper and archive centre for government in the region. It also has an extensive collection of private archives. As the partner with the PMA in the HLF grant, PRONI and the PMA collaborate on a daily basis on the three themes of preservation, access and engagement.
PRONI will provide access to any documents relevant to the project. Partners at PRONI will provide invaluable knowledge, guidance, networks and mentorship for the PhD student as they develop dissemination strategies for the PMA.

Katharina's supervisors

Professor Cahal McLaughlin
School of Arts, English and Languages

Dr Raluca Roman
School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics

Lynsey Gillespie
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
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