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'A whole history to capture': Dublin's Tenement Museum wants your memories of tenement life

A series of oral history sessions will be held across Dublin throughout the spring.

Tenement. Henrietta Street, Dublin Source: Wikipedia Commons

DUBLIN’S TENEMENT MUSEUM is aiming to gather firsthand testimony of tenement life in the capital from people through a series of drop-in events across Dublin in the coming months.

The project, Your Tenement Memories, kicked off on Tuesday and will travel to Drimnagh, Ballymun, Walkinstown, Crumlin, Cabra, Darndale, Coolock, Finglas, Donnycarney and Ballyfermot - areas to which people were relocated from the 1930s onwards. 

“There’s a whole social history out there and it won’t be around for that much longer,”
Melanie Wright, of Dublin City Council Culture Company, has said.

Dublin Tenement Museum at 14 Henrietta Street opened in September and as part of ongoing research efforts the Culture Company’s engagement team has been gathering first-hand testimony from those who experienced tenement living and the stories from their subsequent relocation out of the city centre into suburbia, says Wright. 

It’s an important story we wanted to capture.

Built in the late 1740s, No. 14 Henrietta Street was turned into a tenement in the 1870s and remained so until the last families left in the late 1970s.

At one point in 1911 the building was home to 100 people from 17 families who had access to only two bathrooms and two taps of cold running water.

Tenement. Source: Dublin City Council

As suburbanisation grew Dublin’s tenements gradually emptied, however, as families moved out to newly created suburbs either side of the River Liffey like Coolock and Ballyfermot. 

“People have spoken about how different it was,” says Wright. “Suddenly they had two bedrooms, a garden. For many, it was like being in the countryside. 

Throughout the spring, suburbs like Ballymun and Drimnagh will host individual two-hour oral history sessions organised by the museum’s engagement team. 

These testimonies will then be collected for the museum as a part of ongoing research to capture as many first-hand experiences of tenement life as possible. 

The next session will be held at Our Lady’s Hall in Drimnagh followed by a session at Ballymun Library the following Wednesday. 

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