Curating contested narratives: Considering the challenges of building an ‘official’ oral history archive in Northern Ireland

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Proposals for the establishment of an oral history archive of conflict-related testimonies have been in the ether in Northern Ireland for decades. Alongside other information retrieval and historical investigation mechanisms, the 2014 Stormont House Agreement (SHA), included the provision for an official Oral History Archive, which would act as a central repository for individuals to ‘share experiences and narratives related to the Troubles’. Sketchy in terms of its operational detail, it proposed that: ‘As well as collecting new material, this archive will attempt to draw together and work with existing oral history projects’ (SHA, 2014: 5).
Drawing on the author’s experience of auditing the extent and reach of community-based oral history projects, and as research lead for the ‘Accounts of the Conflict’ digital archive at Ulster University, established in 2014, this paper interrogates the aspirations for a central, state-facilitated archive which seeks to both archive existing testimonies and to gather new oral histories. It highlights the challenges which this dual mandate poses, arguing that these are not only practical in nature, but also political, ethical and emotional.
This paper seeks to examine the embedded assumptions as to the purpose and utility of establishing such an archive and to explore whether such new archives should - be default - be digital in form and publicly accessible, and what practical and ethical issues this raises not only for the archivist but for those wishing to utilize the archive for wider societal and peace-enhancing impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 23 May 2019
EventViolence, Space and the Archives - Hardiman Building, National University of Ireland, Galway, Galway, Ireland
Duration: 23 May 201924 May 2019


ConferenceViolence, Space and the Archives


  • archives
  • violence
  • space
  • Northern Ireland
  • oral history
  • policy
  • conflict


Dive into the research topics of 'Curating contested narratives: Considering the challenges of building an ‘official’ oral history archive in Northern Ireland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this