NUI Galway has launched a new project to archive personal histories of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.
The university hosted a public event with members from the Tuam Home Survivors Network and featuring a range of speakers, including historian Catherine Corless, Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley of the Department of History, NUI Galway, and Irish Examiner reporter Conall Ó Fátharta.
The event was co-organised by the University’s Department of History and the James Hardiman Library and opened with a survivor-led workshop involving members of the Network, and staff and students from the University. The event included two panel discussions exploring the issues of collecting and archiving oral histories of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.
In the evening NUI Galway’s President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh launched ‘The Tuam Oral History Project’, which will involve the collecting of oral histories from survivors of the Tuam home, as well as people from the local area or those with an interest in contributing to the project.
Primary researchers on the project are Dr John Cunningham and Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley from NUI Galway’s Department of History and the oral histories will be housed in the James Hardiman Library.
According to the university, creative projects stemming from the recorded histories will be inter-generational, multi-disciplinary and involve survivors and contemporary artists and will also liaise with local schools and the wider community.
Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley said: “We hope that through this event and the wider project, the voices of survivors and members of the community in Tuam will be brought to the fore. We hope that the survivor-led approach and the creative element of the programme can be used in exploring experiences of other institutions. Historical justice is a key part of this, as these stories have relevance not only to Ireland but to a variety of countries and contexts.”
Dr Barry Houlihan of the Hardiman Library said: “Archives and oral history provide spaces for reflection for present and future communities as well looking on the past. These testimonies will provide an important resource for access to private and public histories and experiences for future generations.”
Catherine Corless, whose work did so much to bring the issue of the Mother and Baby Home to public attention, said: "I was just an ordinary housewife. There were no burial records of these children. There were remains found in a septic tank. I put two and two together."
She also said that the history of the home was linked to the issue of class, while Conall Ó Fátharta, who has written on the topic of Mother and Baby Homes for many years, said: "Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby homes, industrial schools and illegal adoptions are all treated as separate individual scandals, which obscures the bigger picture of the control and abuse of women and children."
Events at NUI Galway concluded with a screening of Mia Malarkey’s documentary, ‘Mother and Baby’, followed by a panel discussion involving Ms Malarkey, survivor Peter Mulryan, Breeda Murphy from the Tuam Home Survivors Network and campaigner Eunan Duffy.