Background

The Tuam Mother and Baby Home was one of a number of such institutions established at the foundation of the Irish state. Publicly-funded and located in a former Workhouse building, it was under the management of the Bon Secours Sisters. Thousands of women and children passed through its doors until its eventual closure in 1961. 

In recent years, research by Catherine Corless drew attention to conditions in the institution and the sector generally, prompting considerable media coverage, which focused especially on high mortality rates and insensitive burial practices. As a result, the Irish government appointed a Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, which sat between 2015 and 2020, gathering evidence and issuing a number of reports.

Aim of the Tuam Oral History Project

The key aim of the Tuam Oral History Project is to enable the survivors of the Tuam institution and their families to tell their own life stories, in the way that they want them to be told. In that regard, members of the project team will record and archive the histories and life stories of survivors and their families, as well as the memories of others connected in any way with the institution or with those who spent time there.  

The project will: 

  1. Permanently preserve and maintain the recorded recollections of individuals in the James Hardiman Library in NUI Galway along with relevant personal documents.  
  2. Provide access to this material for historical research/ print or online publication/ lectures/ education programmes and other legitimate academic purposes. Interviewees themselves will determine whether to make their testimonies available immediately or at some point in the future. 
  3. To work with survivors to provide an artistic response to their stories.

Lead Researchers/Co-PIs: Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley and Dr John Cunningham.

Interviewers: Mary Cunningham, Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley and Dr John Cunningham.

Creative Writing and Community Output: Elaine Feeney

Director/Producer of Tuam Oral History Theatre Production: Dr Miriam Haughton

Archivist: Dr Barry Houlihan

Marketing: Lorna Farren

Duration of Project

The project will be conducted over a four-year time period, September 2019 to September 2023, with input from individual team members varying from year to year.

Phase 1: Collection and Archiving of Oral Histories, 2019-2020: Collection of oral histories from survivors, families of survivors and members of the wider community in Tuam; conference/seminar participation/organization; academic publication; podcast series and exhibition.

Phase 2: Creative Output and Outreach, 2020-22: Creative output; involvement of youth researchers from the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre (UCFRC); digitisation of the oral histories (and dissemination on-line of those for which relevant permissions have been given); conference/seminar participation/organization; academic publication.

Phase 3: Finalising Outputs and Further Steps, 2022-23: Archive to be complete and made publicly available; academic and creative publications; documentary.

For a brief history of the Tuam Children's Home/Mother and Baby Home see: History of the Mother and Baby Home