Children in care deserve memories too, say experts behind unique memory keeping project


Children in care deserve memories too, say the University of Stirling researchers behind a unique archival project which is gathering pace in the care community.

At a recent gathering at the University of Stirling’s campus, care practitioners, policy makers, academics and people who have been in care explored how memories can be captured and preserved in residential childcare settings.

The event was the latest stage of the Archiving Residential Children’s Homes (ARCH) project, a collaboration between the University of Stirling and University of Osnabrück, created to explore how everyday experiences of young people and children in residential care are treasured and documented.

Professor Ruth Emond of the Faculty of Social Sciences, who is leading the ARCH project, said: “We started ARCH because we believe in the importance of capturing and treasuring the memories of children in care. In families, stories can be passed on and memories shared and kept alive. But who looks after the stories and memories of young people in group care?

“We hope that, with events like these, the ARCH project starts a national conversation around memory keeping for children in residential care, and around how these types of records are accessed.”

Among the speakers was Craig Houston, a poet and also a support worker for young males who have had short-term prison sentences. Craig used the event to gather feedback and thoughts from delegates, and to note his own thoughts from the day, which he has used to create new poetry celebrating ARCH.

Professor Emond said: “ARCH is about memory making and memory keeping, so we thought it was important to commemorate the event itself. We wanted to do that in a creative and lasting way, and Craig and his poetry was a perfect way to do that.”

Craig said: “I think the message from the ARCH project is so powerful. One of my biggest takeaways from the event is that memories are the foundations for the future. It’s hard to go forward when you don’t know where you’ve been.”

More than 50 delegates attended the event, including representatives from Aberlour Children’s Charity and former residents of Aberlour Orphanage, who are working closely with ARCH researchers on the project.

Last year a new archive was created at the University of Stirling making more than a century’s worth of records from Aberlour Children’s Charity accessible for the first time. One of the event’s delegates was Ron Aitchison, who spent his childhood in the care of Aberlour Orphanage in the 1950s and 1960s. Ron has donated his personal archive of Aberlour orphanage, collected over a number of years, to the University.

The ARCH research is supported by the Arts and Humanities Council and the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG). Further work will include creating living archives and exploring the complex ethical and moral challenges, as well as the regulatory framework, involved in recording a shared past in ‘state’ care.

Find out more about ARCH by visiting

Read and hear Craig Houston’s poem here.

Theme by the University of Stirling