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DCU launches the Irish COVID-19 Oral History Project

DCU launches the Irish COVID-19 Oral History Project

Dublin City University has today launched the Irish COVID-19 Oral History Project. It focuses on orally archiving the Irish lived experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, for historical purposes. 

Led by Caitriona Ni Cassaithe and Professor Theo Lynn, the project will curate a collection of oral histories, detailing the Irish experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and how Irish communities are living through it, both at home and abroad. The findings are intended to be used by historians, researchers and policymakers in years to come to inform responses to future pandemics. It was inspired by work being undertaken by Prof Jason Kelly (IUPUI) on the US-based COVID-19 Oral History Project, a partner project of A Journal of the Plague Year, and efforts are being coordinated with the IUPUI project.

All data will be stored in Ireland and managed by DCU but will be shared with the wider research community, including IUPUI, over time on an open access basis. 

The team behind the oral history project are asking the general public to go to the project website, covid19oralhistory.ie, record their answers to the questions asked and upload them.

For those who cannot record their submission for whatever reason, there is an option to submit a written response on the website.

Caitríona Ní Cassaithe, from the School of STEM Education, Innovation & Global Studies, said 

“History is experienced and viewed differently by the various people who shape it and are impacted by it. Our current moment in history is one that will be debated, discussed and contemplated for decades, if not centuries to come. 

Oral histories can be used to give a voice to the silent or neglected Irish communities – those people whose voices are not always heard in history.”

Principal investigator, Prof. Theo Lynn from DCU Business School, said

“This is a unique moment in Irish history that is transforming society and how we interact with each other.  It is accelerating how we use digital technologies in ways that we could not predict a year ago. This project seeks to use digital technologies and the power of the crowd to create a digital archive of this time for policymakers, historians and students of the future.”

Prof. Jason Kelly, Director of IUPUI’s Arts & Humanities Institute said

“The historic moment through which we are living necessitates that historians document and archive the many voices and lived experiences of people across the globe. Oral history is an important method to accomplish this. The collections that we are creating right now will become essential historical records and have the potential to generate rich insights relevant to fields such as the history of medicine and public health policy. 

Given the global dimensions of the current pandemic, it's essential that we foster international research partnerships, and I'm very pleased that we have an opportunity to collaborate with the faculty at DCU.”

Prof. Daire Keogh, DCU’s President-designate said

“History is shaped by evidence, but traditional narratives are driven by official records which seldom capture emotions and what things felt like.  By recording the lived experience of ordinary Irish people during this time of international crisis, this project is creating a unique rounded resource. The project leaders have created a truly cross-disciplinary initiative that draws on DCU’s strengths in a range of areas, from History to Digital Technology. 

I am delighted, too, that the collaboration with Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis will support comparative studies.   This initiative will ensure that Irish citizens have a voice when future historians set about appraising the global impact of COVID-19 on our society.”