The Prisons Memory Archive: A Case Study in Filmed Memory of Conflict

Jolene Mairs Dyer (Editor), Cahal McLaughlin (Editor), Conor McCafferty (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


The Prisons Memory Archive (PMA) explores ways that narratives of a conflicted past are filmed at the site of the experiences and later negotiated in a contested present in the North of Ireland. Given the state’s failed attempts at establishing an official process for addressing the legacy of the conflict that lasted between 1968 and 1998, there are a number of community and academic initiatives that have taken up this task. The Prisons Memory Archive is one such project, whose aim is to research the possibilities of engaging with the story of the ‘other’ in a society that is emerging from decades of political violence.

The PMA filmed back inside the prisons with those who passed through Armagh Gaol (2006) and the Maze and Long Kesh Prison (2007), which were both touchstone and tinderbox during the 30 years of violent conflict. We applied protocols of co-ownership, where participants become co-authors of their own story, with the right to withdraw up to the point of exhibition; inclusivity to ensure a multi-narrative archive with prison staff, prisoners, visitors, teachers, chaplains, etc.; and life-story telling, where leading questions are eschewed in order to return more agency to the participants.

Currently, the full archive, made up of 160 walk-and-talk recordings totaling 300 hours of filmed material, is available at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, where it is preserved and made accessible to the public, and a website has been designed for educational use of the archive. This collection offers critical reflections on the processes of recording, archiving and utilising the archive in its several manifestations, e.g. feature films, website, and full archive at the Public Records Office. The perspectives offer a range of reflections, including filming, editing, archiving, web design, education, and museum practice.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages278
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-64889-483-1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jun 2022


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