A People’s Archive

Creating a People’s Archive


Preparations for the Modern Wife, Modern Life exhibition included crowd-sourcing objects from the Irish public. Many of these were taken down from attics or found in the back of cupboards. When the exhibition ends and they are returned to their owners, it would be a shame to see the items stored away from public view again. While some of the items received — such as a hand-held whisk — were not particularly unusual, nearly all came with personal backstories that offer a fascinating insight into the experience of everyday life in 1960s Ireland. Inspired by the crowd-sourcing exercise for the exhibition, this much larger project — creating a people’s archive — aims to showcase and make publicly available for viewing such items, stories and memories.


There are two purposes to this project:

  • The first is to create a ‘people’s archive’. The Mass Observation Archive in Britain and the National Diary Archive in Italy are just two examples of international archives that hold the memories and experiences of everyday people. The purpose of this project is to create a ‘people’s archive’ of everyday life in 1960s Ireland. It will provide a space for people to leave a record of their lives for their families and for future generations; it is envisaged that the archive will later become a tool for genealogical research. It will also be an invaluable source for future historians and sociologists interested in what life was like and how it was experienced by women of different generations in 1960s Ireland.
  • The second purpose is to gather primary source material for a book, to be written by Dr Ciara Meehan, on everyday life and 1960s Irishwomen.

Participants will be notified in writing of any changes to the purpose of the project.


Getting Involved

Members of the public can get involved in one of three ways:

  1. Attend a road show event
  2. If you are part of a community or women’s group, arrange a talk with your members. Email: c.meehan2@herts.ac.uk
  3. If you are an individual, arrange a personal meeting or to discuss your items. Email: c.meehan2@herts.ac.uk

The Material Gathering Process

This digital recorder will be used to scan and capture objects at road show events.

Items will not be retained by the project. They will be scanned and digitised in high resolution (300 dpi).

Interviews to record memories can be arranged. The format will be semi-structured and the interviews recorded using a Zoom H2 Handy Recorder that produces WAV and MP3 files – formats favoured by archives.

What will happen to the material gathered?

The material will be collected into a specially created archive. This will take the format of a virtual, on-line archive, which will be publicly available. It will feature oral testimonies and transcripts, and crowd-sourced letters, photographs and scans of objects.

Participants can determine the accessibility of their deposited material:

  1. Publicly available without restriction
  2. Future researchers / members of the public must first contact the participant for permission to access the deposited material.


There are no major risks involved with this project. However, some participants might feel uncomfortable recalling certain memories. In all instances, participants reserve the right to withdraw.


There is no financial benefit to participating. However, the archive will provide participants with a space to document their lives, and to leave a record for their families and for future generations (including historians and sociologists) interested in what life was like for different generations of women in 1960s Ireland.


In line with the laws governing data protection, participant contact details will never be made publicly available or shared with third parties.

Participants retain the right to remain anonymous or to use a pseudonym, with their true identity known only to the researcher.

Participants also have the option to place a moratorium on the public release of any information provided.


Participants retain the right to withdraw at any point without disadvantage or having to give a reason. Once a participant withdraws, their material will be removed and all personal information deleted from the project’s records.


Dr Ciara Meehan holds a BA (2003) and PhD in history (2007) from University College Dublin. She is currently a senior lecturer in history at the University of Hertfordshire. Her publications include The Cosgrave Party: a History of Cumann na nGaedheal, 1923-1933 (Royal Irish Academy, 2010) and A Just Society for Ireland? 1964-1987 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Her exhibition focussed on the representation of 1960s housewives in women’s magazines – Modern Wife, Modern Life – runs at the National Print Museum of Ireland in July and August 2015.

This project is partially funded by the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities Research Institute at the University of Hertfordshire.


Researcher:      Dr Ciara Meehan

Email:  c.meehan2@herts.ac.uk

Postal address: Dr Ciara Meehan, School of Humanities, de Havilland Campus, University of Hertfordshire, AL10 9AB, UK.

Website: modernwifemodernlifeexhibition.com