Complicated Pasts, Promising Futures: Public History on the Island of Ireland

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This overview article explores the nature of public history on the island of Ireland, discussing current trends in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Family history and digital history are highly popular ways of engaging with the past, both on the island and among the Irish diaspora, who have a voracious appetite for engaging with their heritage. Given that the island contains a postcolonial society (Republic of Ireland) and a post-conflict one (Northern Ireland) attention is given to the ways that these difficult pasts are engaged with by communities, through examining the histories of Mother and Baby Homes, The Troubles, and dark tourism. This article also briefly comments on who is involved in public history. Academic historians are engaged at state and local levels, and are often turned to as experts in the field, but grassroots public history projects which offer participatory ways of doing history are growing. This article emphasizes the high levels of engagement Irish and Northern Irish publics have with their history, however, it also suggests that public history as a radical method of ‘doing history’ is still in its relative infancy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-14
Number of pages9
JournalPublic History Review
Early online date8 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2023

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