Session 13: Ystafell 1
Oral histories and the Irish language in Greater Boston: forming a digital archive

Chair: Dhanya Baird

Contributors: Brian Frykenberg, Natasha Sumner, Gregory Darwin

Boston and the Irish Language: Fifty Years of Cultural Connection in Oral History commenced in 2017 sponsored by Cumann na Gaeilge i mBoston and a grant from Mass Humanities (NEH). Inspired by extensive personal interviews undertaken by the late Prof. Kenneth Nilsen, the project documents the life stories of recent immigrants from Ireland to the greater Boston area whose first language is Irish. Hosted and disseminated by the Open Archives at University of Massachusetts, Boston, 'Boston and the Irish Language' explores the shared experiences of emigration, assimilation, employment, and the challenge that Irish-speaking Americans undergo in maintaining cultural memory and contact with communities in the homeland and in the United States. Each interview in the collection is presented with a brief biographical summary, an Irish-language transcription, and an English translation.

We will present an overview of the history of this project and of challenges faced in conducting the interviews and preparing them for the collection through a selection of excerpts that indicate the range of material contained within this archive. We will conclude by discussing the future of the project and the value of this growing electronic resource for teachers and specialists in the Celtic languages.