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Public Memory Archive
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The Public Memory Archive is an extension, and indeed a development upon, the Oral history centre and archive which was founded in 2000 at the Department of History, University of Malta with the chief aim kindling an appreciation of, and embarking upon, research in oral history. The OHC listed as top priority the recording, transcribing, preserving and archiving of oral recollections and experiences on a variety of research topics, as part of a wide project entitled “Voices of the Twentieth Century”. To quote from its mission statement, this endeavour gave preference to the recording of “recollections by working men and women, functional illiterates and members of minorities and subcultures whose voices and material culture have been ignored”, thus bringing the common labouring people to the centre stage of historical inquiry.

The setting up of the Public Memory Archive addresses the growing interest in the study of the relationship between memory and history, a trend stimulated by oral history, which is developing into a (trans)disciplinary field of study in its own right, coming to include various theoretical paradigms and methods. The areas of research embraced are: the study of remembrance and representation; the many uses of collective memories in the construction of the past, in myth making and official commemoration; the contestation by subjective and shared memories of mainstream or ‘monumental history’. The crossover between subjective, shared or popular memory and public history is a theme which overarches all our list of projects, underpinning our main research strategy.

Addressing this main objective, the new research work plan of the Archive incorporates all the work-in-progress projects and the previous oral history archive in its entirety – close to one thousand recorded testimonies/interviews – while increasing the quantity of fieldwork projects, thus substantially widening the thematic fields covered. Also in conformity with its research agenda this centre for Public Memory and its archive is establishing two new archive sections which are really inseparable from the Oral History collection and archive. The first, and more tangible, is a collection of Records of Daily Life which brings together, digitalises and preserves a wide selection of ‘ordinary records’ in a unique archive, thus acknowledging their critical importance for understanding and reconstructing the past. These records are of an informal (e.g. letters, diaries, home accounts and cooking recipes), semi-formal (rent-books, private contracts) and formal/official (baptism, marriage, health or death records/certificates) nature. They also include a variety of other ephemera (such as printed flysheets, amateur theatrical posters and philharmonic band club musical scores, just to give some examples) as well as visual records, mainly (family, group or other amateur) photographs and home video recordings, all of which are also essential for our understanding of past popular culture.

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