In this seminar, Laura McAtackney of Aarhus Unversity presents her work on one of the abiding controversies regarding the role and experiences of Magdalene Laundries in Ireland relates to what they were actually like to experience and live in as institutions. While they have been justified as a safe haven and sanctuary by many of the nuns; life in a harsh and restrictive carceral facility have been recounted by many of the inhabitants. The two different perspectives can be difficult to reconcile and indeed the authorities have often decided to sideline narratives associated with the women in favor of the official histories (including in the McAleese Report). In 2018 I was provided with the opportunity to access a defunct Magdalene laundry that was currently in private hands. It had transferred from a Magdalene laundry to an industrial laundry in 1992 and had only recently closed. The owners wished to move towards redevelopment but they were conscious of public opinion regarding how we deal with these sites. They were therefore open to advice on archaeological and heritage best practice. As a result, this paper will discuss the potential role of contemporary archaeology and critical heritage in understanding such sites, including the use of site-responsive techniques utilized to direct the narratives of women who had lived there. This paper will discuss the theoretical basis, methodological approaches and initial findings from this collaborative archaeology and heritage project.
2019-2020 Seminar Series