04 Dec 2021

Online resource on Magdalene history launched for Waterford students

Online resource on Magdalene history launched for Waterford students

Online resource on Magdalene history launched for Waterford students

Researchers in the School of Humanities at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) have developed a resource for schools which will help the next generation understand Ireland’s Magdalene heritage.

Developed by Dr. Jennifer O’Mahoney and Dr. Kate McCarthy, Exploring Waterford's Magdalene Heritage: An Activity and Resource Pack is available online from 4pm this Friday.

Dr. O'Mahoney and Dr. McCarthy have developed a set of cultural and heritage-informed educational resources, focused on the social history, cultural and built heritage of Waterford’s former Magdalene Laundry and Industrial School.

The 60-page resource pack incorporates best practice across multiple domains in education, history, psychology, arts and digital humanities, and addresses many important themes such as human rights and social change via the case study of Waterford’s Magdalene Laundry.

"Educational resources which focus on addressing real world societal challenges via combined historical and current affairs lenses are core to development of ethical and informed citizens of Ireland and Europe," says Dr. O’Mahoney.

Currently involved in an EU project on institutional abuse, Dr. O’Mahoney comments on the importance of the sites of Magdalene history in ensuring Irish society acknowledges survivor experience as part of the history of the nation.

She cautions against the destruction of such sites: “Engaging with the sites of Magdalene history has become increasingly pertinent as Irish citizens bear witness to the destruction of these physical memory sites across Ireland, as the sites are either demolished or repurposed for property development."

Located at WIT, the Waterford Memories Project is an oral history driven project in digital humanities, which examines the narratives of those who lived and worked in the Magdalene Laundries and Industrial Schools in the South East of Ireland.

A lecturer in Drama, Dr. McCarthy notes that interviews and discussions with survivors of the Magdalene Laundries have highlighted “their desire to have their experiences recognised as part of the narrative of Irish history”.

The resource and activity pack responds to calls from survivors that school and university curricula should honour their experiences and include their histories.

As teachers, the team endeavours to include these experiences in their undergraduate curricula in Theatre Studies and Psychology, for example, and in their work with postgraduate students.

“Working directly with our students to explore the complexity of historical institutional abuse and how this is interlinked with broader universal themes such as prejudice, human rights and societal responsibilities forms part of our educational ethos at the Waterford Memories Project and at WIT," Dr. McCarthy explains.

Developed in consultation with survivors, representatives from Justice for Magdalene Research (JFMR), educationalists, arts practitioners and WIT students, this online resource is a unique opportunity for teachers and students to engage with survivors’ testimonies and Ireland’s history.

The pack incorporates a range of resources from academic texts, exercises, video links, archival photographs, survivor testimony, music and poetry, as well as teacher supports. The resources are suitable for senior cycle students across a range of subjects including History, English, and Politics and Society, but undergraduate students in Psychology, Theatre Studies, English, and Social Science will also find the resources of interest.

The project has been funded by Creative Ireland Waterford, Waterford City and County Council, and WIT’s Research Connexions Fund.

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