Minister of State for Justice at the Department of Justice and Equality with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration, and Integration, David Stanton, is to launch the West of Ireland Traveller History Project at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar today, October 21.
The Traveller History Project is an initiative that is currently working with the National Folklore Collection in UCD to record and archive Traveller traditions, culture, language, customs, and history. The west of Ireland phase of the project will commence in late October 2016 and will be facilitated by the Western Region Traveller Health Network (WRTHN ) in conjunction with the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life.
The Traveller History Project is working to support people from the Traveller community to collect and archive their own history and experiences of life in both contemporary and traditional Ireland. This will allow future generations to have a greater awareness of Traveller culture, identity, and heritage. A formal recognition of the Traveller community as a distinct ethnic minority is key to Traveller history becoming more visible. Geraldine McDonnell of the Traveller History Project will speak of her recent experiences of working all over Ireland recording interviews that have now been placed into the National Folklore Collection Archive UCD. Martin Collins, co-director of Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, will talk about the invisibility of the Traveller community in Irish history and the impact this has had on Travellers’ confidence and self-esteem, emphasizing the importance for Travellers to reclaim their place in Irish history.
Kathleen Ward from Tuam will be master of ceremonies for this event. Ms Ward has been collecting Traveller history for many years and has a keen interest in genealogy. She said: "I hope better awareness and knowledge of the richness of history and traditions of Travellers will encourage pride among younger generations of Travellers, who too often only hear negative reports about their community in the media." Pippa Daniel, project manager of Mayo Traveller Support Group, said: “This is an important partnership project in the west of Ireland which will see the community creating an important living archive of the history and folklore of Travellers which is too often forgotten."
Rosa Meehan, curator at the Museum of Country Life, commented: “The National Museum is delighted to be associated with this project. Post 1950s Ireland has seen massive changes – the changes to the lives of Travellers needs to be recorded by the community themselves. It is so important to remember and preserve the richness of those traditions and folklore.”