One problem historians face is that they are usually dependent on ‘written’ sources to discover the ‘facts’ about history and historical events. Since the advent of radio, TV and digital sources of information this has been added to by a range of other media sources of ‘information’. This invariably means that that the ‘sources’ or ‘truth’ and ‘fact’ tend to be overwhelmingly those provided by those ‘able’ to write/record and to preserve their thoughts and observations . This in turn usually means that historians are dependent on official state archives or the archival material produced by the wealthy and the powerful in any society.
Current attempts being made by the Universities in the North of Ireland to archive memory about the conflict in the North also reflect the problematic aspects of archival material as a window to the past. Invariably the memories of supporters of the state will be recorded. However, will that not produce a lop-sided view of ‘history’ if memories of those who opposed the state cannot (for legal reasons) be recorded alongside them?
The importance of sources of ‘history’ also comes to the fore in relation to this particular article below. The media is an important source of ‘information’ about the past, sometimes the only source. However, the problem with ‘relying’ on RTE or any other media outlet for ‘factual’ information about Ireland’s past, is that RTE only ever reported a limited version of the ‘truth’ or of the ‘facts’. Long years of state censorship, self-censorship, heavy editing and indeed the bias of the perspectives of many of those employed in RTE (and any other media outlet) mean that RTE archives and those other media outlets have to been considered with a very critical eye by anyone wanting to learn about the past.