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Announcing the ‘Digital Preservation of Reproductive Health Resources: Archiving the 8th’ project

The Digital Repository of Ireland is celebrating the launch of a new project that will provide long-term preservation and access to at-risk materials generated by the women’s reproductive health movement during the campaign in the approach to the 2018 referendum on the 8th Amendment.

The three-year project is funded by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Award in Humanities and Social Sciences. It will engage a variety of organisations who campaigned, and will collect, catalogue and preserve much of the born-digital content generated by these groups. These organisations include Terminations for Medical Reasons, Together for Yes, Coalition to Repeal the 8th and the Abortion Rights Campaign. Because of the voluntary nature of the organisations who created the material, much of it is at risk of being lost.

The Irish Qualitative Data Archive will also archive data from the Facebook page InHerIrishShoes and the research projects: ‘Re(al) Productive Justice Project’ [1], ‘Physician Advocacy and Reproductive Rights in Ireland’, and the ‘What Works Project’ [2]. The materials will be preserved in the Digital Repository of Ireland and made available to researchers and the general public. Selected material of European relevance may also be aggregated to the Europeana platform.

[Photo: Screenshot from An Coimisiún Reifrinn/Referendum Commission, Your Vote Means Everything: The Independent Guide to the Referendum on the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy]

The project will also investigate best-practice in cataloging and archiving these types of materials. In particular, it will explore suitable vocabularies for potentially controversial Reproductive Health topics, as well as investigating methods and tools for archiving social media and web-based content.

Lead researcher on the project, Dr Kathryn Cassidy, welcomed the funding:

There is a window of opportunity here to capture and preserve the conversation that occurred around the referendum, a conversation which took place to a large degree online, on websites and social media. It’s really important to act now before some of these sites become unavailable. This funding is therefore very important and timely. It will allow us to make this data available on the DRI platform, and make it a part of the historical and contemporary social and cultural record that the DRI aims to preserve.

Dr Aileen O’Carroll of the Irish Qualitative Data Archive, Maynooth University, said:

We know that in previous referendums the records of the groups involved in campaigning have been lost. Today these records are located on hard drives and in email boxes and are even more vulnerable than in the past.

[Photo by Aileen O’Carroll]

DRI Director Dr Natalie Harrower added:

The campaign leading to the referendum on the 8th Amendment to the Irish constitution marked an extremely significant moment in Irish history, with passionate arguments from both sides, and personal stories being presently publicly in unprecedented ways. The impact of the referendum is not just its outcome, but also the mark that the debates, processes and stories make on history from various angles: social, political, electoral, medical and women’s history. 

We are grateful to the Wellcome Trust for investing in this project, and hope that the archive will serve as a rich source of this history for researchers and the general public for many years to come. We are seeking to represent the widest array of voices possible, and encourage organisations involved in the referendum campaigns - from all perspectives - to get in touch with the DRI.

We are keen to hear from organisations with relevant materials from either side of the campaign. Watch this space for more news and information about this exciting new project!

[Photo by Aileen O’Carroll]

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The DRI would like to offer particular thanks to the following individuals for their support in preparing the application:

Dr Emily Mark Fitzgerald 

Dr Mairead Enright 

Dr Joan McCarthy

Dr Mary McAuliffe

Dr Sydney Calkin

[Main image: Caoimhe Kerins and Aoife Cooke, photographed by Aileen O’Carroll]

Footnotes

[1] Re(al) Productive Justice: Gender and Disability perspectives, funded by Wellcome.

[2] What Works? Sharing Best Practices in how Civil Society Organisations use the Internet in Organising and Building for Socio-Economic Rights and Trust. Funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC) and sponsored by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).