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The Cork Folklore Project’s Memory Map

The Cork Folklore Project’s Memory Map

The Cork Folklore Project’s Memory Map

The Challenge

What are the ways to get under the skin of a city, to access some of the layers of experience and memory that make up each neighbourhood, to hear the stories of place that aren’t reflected in guidebooks, in census data, in the tourist office and the museum? What if you could sit in on conversations that reflect the reality of the city in the past and the present, and sample a century of diverse experiences by browsing an online map to listen? And, if you want to hear more, follow those voices back to the audio archive where they are preserved?With our online Cork Memory Map, the Cork Folklore Project rises to  the challenge of generating ways to explore and represent place in a way that privileges the vernacular voice. The resource is for browsers, locals new and old, researchers, educators, and for anyone with an interest in how place and human experience interconnect.

The Research

The Memory Map Project consists of two strands:

  • A collection project of 58 archived placebased ethnographic interviews.
  • An online map-based platform for on-going dissemination of a broad range of material from our extensive audio interview archive.

The project began in 2010, when the communitybased Cork Folklore Project (CFP) chose it as a way to create a window onto just a fraction of our audio holdings. Online dissemination presented a welcome opportunity to foreground the audio nature of our interviews by sharing linked voice and transcription together on a map interface.
Along with on-going in-depth, place-based interviewing, people were invited to ‘put yourself on the map’ during a week-long exhibition and collection event in Heritage Week, 2011. We continue to populate the map with interview material, creating layers to reflect different themes, eras and experiences: the format allows us to continue in our quest to represent the diversity and richness of Cork life.

The Impact

The Cork Memory Map put the CFP ‘on the map’ as a public-facing and research organisation. A few minute of audio from an interview communicates the richness, format and nature of the material in our archives better and more immediately than any amount of archival metadata.

The ability to represent a wide variety of voices and experiences allows the multi-layered and diverse nature of life in the city to be asserted and celebrated. Here, experiences of life in the city are related ‘from the horse’s mouth’, by those rarely represented in other sources. The map is a resource for visitors to the city, for locals living near and far, and, perhaps most engagingly, for locals newly arrived.

Use of the map helps us to communicate our work to a wide range of stakeholders. It is a powerful tool allowing us and others to stimulate discussion and engagement, and to encourage understanding of the value of oral history practice.

The project allowed us to shift our focus to placebased interviewing, disrupting the expectations that often structure ‘life history’-style interviews with interesting results. The understandings that can be drawn from this will contribute to methodological development in our practice and that of others.

Because each map extract links back to the interview’s entry in our online catalogue, impact goes well beyond this curated dissemination: the map serves as an easily-accessible gateway to more in-depth interaction with our rich audio collection. It showcases our work in an immediate way for students of folklore and cultural heritage, of city planning, linguistics, history and social sciences, and is used in teaching across the university and in our Outreach Hub in workshops with school students.

The project stands as a model of digital humanities practice. The work of Cheryl Donahue in developing the first online platform is documented in her MSc thesis, and we have documented the subsequent dissemination by Penny Johnston of the map on an open-source cultural heritage platform in a stepby-step guide on the website.

As a model of place-based oral history practice, the project investigates and shows how people connect with place, be they long-term residents or migrants, young or old, Southsiders or Northsiders. As such, it is a portrayal of the city from the bottom up, documenting the everyday and extra-ordinary ways in which meaning becomes layered onto landscape, and a way for people to connect with other lives and other experiences that are physically close but outside of the listener’s experience.

The Cork Memory Map is not a time-bounded project, and continues to be iteratively developed as an important pathway of free dissemination for our on-going work, and a gateway to our audio collection of over 700 interviews.

For More Information

“The Cork Memory Map has transformed our practice. It is a flexible and accessible platform that allows us to open up our audio archives and share our material more widely, while satisfying our duty of care. It communicates the worth of the undertaking more clearly than we ever could. ”

– Clíona O’Carroll, CFP Research Director

College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences

Coláiste na nEalaíon, an Léinn Cheiltigh agus na nEolaíochtaí Sóisialta

College Office, Room G31 ,Ground Floor, Block B, O'Rahilly Building, UCC