Over many decades in Westmeath, precious memories of times gone by have been recorded by groups and individuals in an effort to document what are often fading memories of our past.
Now, Westmeath County Council, with funding from Creative Ireland, are undertaking a major audit of these collections, to compile a list for the first time of what has been recorded in the county. Do you know of oral heritage recordings made about people, places or topics in County Westmeath? Perhaps you’ve made recordings yourself? If so, then the Westmeath Heritage Office of Westmeath County Council would like to hear from you.
According to Dr Tomás Mac Conmara, of Mac Conmara Heritage Consulting, who have been appointed to lead the audit, the project will help encourage the people of the county to engage with their own heritage. He explained that the project is not seeking to physically take collections, but instead is aimed at compiling information about the collections, like their current location, format and content.
“There is a rich cultural heritage in County Westmeath. However, the changes which we have seen in recent decades mean that it has never been more important for us to actively engage with our oral tradition and heritage. I am confident that a significant amount of material has been collected over the decades relating to Westmeath. This can range from the professional work undertaken by the Irish Folklore Commission to a community collection of folk traditions and customs, or a family recording, undertaken to document the memories of a grandmother. The purpose of the audit is to identify, in so far as possible, what has been collected and to put that information together for the first time in one database,” Dr Mac Conmara stated.
There has already been a very positive response to the project according to Dr Mac Conmara. Westmeath County Library, local history societies, Raidió na Gaeltachta, as well as regional and national repositories such as the National Folklore Collection, National Archives and the National Library of Ireland have all been contacted. Most importantly, however, the audit will also focus on private collections and the work of various community groups and heritage organizations, who according to Westmeath Heritage Officer, Melanie McQuade, have been the most active in recording our heritage.
“We are fortunate in Westmeath to have a very active network of heritage groups and individuals, who are committed to preserving various aspects of our past. The audit of oral heritage collections will provide a fantastic resource for all of these groups and for the wider community. We have already gotten a very positive response from various groups and are really looking forward to hearing from across Westmeath and further afield and to establish what has been recorded over the years.
“The audit and the accompanying database will give people an idea of the recordings that already exist and will help to identify priorities for future recording work. We would really appreciate people’s help in identifying other oral history recordings or collections held by community groups and individuals so that we get as complete a picture as possible as to the current volume and extent of recordings,” Ms McQuade added.
The successful completion of the audit is sure to be a significant resource for historians, scholars, the education system and the general public. If you have any information on oral heritage recordings or collections on County Westmeath topics, people or places, please contact Mac Conmara Heritage Consulting on 087 916073 or by e-mail at [email protected]. The audit will be completed in late October 2022 and will be avai