by Ken Bergin, Head of Department and Helene Haak, student support
Between 1995 and 2011, the Limerick Civic Trust conducted and collected over 148 interviews, which bring to life the voices and recollections of artists, writers, politicians, millers, fishermen, artisans, soldiers, publicans and a variety of other individuals living in the Limerick community. The oral histories include memories of Limerick from the early twentieth century through to more recent times in both urban and rural settings and from a variety of social and religious backgrounds. On 26 November 2015, the collection was generously donated by the Limerick Civic Trust to the Glucksman Library, University of Limerick.
The oral history collection is a rich and valuable part of the history of Limerick. It is a unique primary resource, which creates a direct link with the past and is particularly valuable in presenting a record of the lives of those who are often overlooked in broader historical accounts, but whose narratives greatly enrich our understanding of the past and the present. Subjects discussed in the interviews include childhood, custom, folklore, local politics, women’s lives, health, entertainment, migration and industry, as well as significant events such as the Irish Civil War (1922–1923).
Enhancing the collection
The Special Collections and Archives Department at the Glucksman Library undertook the preservation of the collection. To give access to this unique Limerick archive to both the public and the University community, the department is currently working on digitising all available interviews and transcriptions, with help in the Spring 2020/21 semester from two Public History interns from the MA in History programme, run by UL’s History Department.
This process involves adding topic-specific labels to each interview to support researchers utilising the archives. To this end, each interview is listened to in its entirety. Every change in topic by the speakers is then marked with a ‘stamp’, recording the time of the recording and a brief explanation of the topic. This will increase the research capability of the archive and saves time for users who wish to investigate particular themes and subjects. Additionally, a list with important locations is created for every interview, including their coordinates. By including this data, researchers can visualise the geographies of the interviewees’ lives, as well as changes in Limerick’s cityscape and spatial overlaps of individual interviews.
Each audio file will also be linked to a list of related resources, such as websites of mentioned companies that are still in existence, archival lists in the Limerick City & Council Archives & Local History Department and relevant newspaper articles and images. Once the work on the collection is completed, the archives will be made available as part of the Glucksman Digital Library (coming soon!). By adding labels to the interviews, the collection will be more useful, effective, searchable and accessible to a variety of users, academic and non-academic. It also paves the way for further research based on the collection, which offers itself for studies in social history, gender history, folklore, spatial humanities and a variety of other areas.