Close to 500 pieces of visual art, literature, theater, music, television and film produced during the period of the Troubles in Northern Ireland has been archived online.
The Troubles Archive is a pioneering website, created by the Northern Ireland Arts Council, and contains works dating from between 1969 and 1999, by more than 100 artists. The site also includes artists’ biographies, essays, analysis, audio clips and a timeline of key events.
The Troubles Archive builds on a successful pilot programme at the Ulster Museum.
It aims to convey the “ways in which the Arts reflected the Troubles in Northern Ireland… we can acknowledge the unique political context within which the arts have struggled and flourished in the recent history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland; a journey from the Civil Rights marches of the late 1960s to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.”
A collection of 16 academic essays has been produced as part of the project, written by leading experts in their field. Ciaran Carson, Stuart Bailie, Fergal Keane and Mike Maloney are among those who have written papers on areas including popular, folk and traditional music, visual arts, drama, architecture, and prison arts.
Writer and journalist Malachi O’Doherty commented on the value of the archive, saying: “This archive shows us that the artistic response to the Troubles was never partisan, never sectarian, always individual and always humane. This is the best counterweight we have to propaganda and simplification. No serious history of the period can now be written without reference to this.”
Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented “The Troubles were a remarkable period in Northern Ireland’s history, impacting on all areas of our lives. We know how active artists were during that dark chapter in our history and now for the first time, the Troubles Archive will draw together many of the most important works as a point of reflection, so we might gain a better understanding.
“What we have now is by no means the finished article but it is an excellent starting point.”
Highlights include clips from the BBC archives, such as Graham Reid’s “Billy” plays and Alan Clarke’s ground-breaking “Elephant”; songs by Paul Brady, Colum and Tommy Sands; photographs by Turner Prize nominee Willie Doherty; paintings by official Imperial War Museum artist Ken Howard; extracts from books, plays and poetry by Marie Jones, Anne Devlin, Daragh Carville, Jennifer Johnston, Gerald Seymour, Glenn Patterson and, of course, Seamus Heaney.
The archive also plans to preserve recorded interviews with the artists, writers and other practitioners, speaking about their lives and work in the context of the Troubles .
Check out the Troubles Archive here.