Posted: 01/07/19

To celebrate the launch of the Famine Walk, an official trail that marks the 167km walked by 1,490 tenants from Co Roscommon to Dublin in 1847, the ADAPT Centre recently showcased cutting-edge digital technology being used to uncover the hidden histories of the famine emigrants. Documents relating to the tenants were discovered in 1979 in Strokestown House and form the Famine archive.  The Famine Archive is made up of a huge number of priceless documents that provide a record of economic, social and estate history over a 300 year period, including invaluable documentation on the plight of tenants and labourers during the famine. 

The event, titled ‘Famine Irish Archiving and Digital Storytelling’, took place in Trinity’s Science Gallery and was run by the ADAPT Centre in collaboration with the National Heritage Trust and Strokestown Park House.  ADAPT has been working with the archivists and historians to reconstruct the narratives of the 1,490 tenants and trace their paths and descendents in North America. Combining the rich historical and cultural evidence of the archive with the innovative digital technologies of the ADAPT Centre offers a unique opportunity to better understand the historical content and create new content to further enhance our interpretation of the past. Contributors at the event in the Science Gallery included Director of the National Famine Museum and Irish Heritage Trust, Caroilin Callery, Archivist from Strokestown House, Martin Fagan, and Professor Owen Conlan and Nicole Basaraba from the ADAPT Centre.

Earlier this year (25th-30th of May) the Biennial National Famine Way Walk took place to commemorate the tenants who walked the route as part of a forced migration from the Strokestown Park estate in Co Roscommon. The tenants were forced to travel the length of the Royal Canal to Dublin before sailing to Liverpool to gain passage on one of the coffin ships travelling to Canada.  

The Famine Way is a route marked both physically and digitally by 31 bronze shoe monuments lining the canal.  These monuments were cast from a pair of childrens shoes from famine-era Ireland and also serve as digital markers.  Anyone with GPS or location-based services on their phones can access information on the 1,490 and their forced migration, and also read one family's story of that fateful journey through the eyes of the twelve year old Daniel Tighe, as told by Marita Conlon-Mckenna.  Many of the stories of those who took the journey remain untold and while the team works to piece them back together to share, the beautifully written historical fiction from Conlon-Mckenna serves to bridge the gap and paints a picture of what the families would have experienced as they travelled to Dublin and beyond.

The long-term goal of the initiative is to develop a mobile app that integrates this location-based story and historical information, offering a chance to walk in the shoes of the 1,490 and creating an opportunity for more meaningful engagement with the stories.

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