Archivists urged to support Irish Archives Resource’s future growth
Wednesday, 17 September 2014 – The Irish Archives Resource (IAR), represented by a voluntary group of professional archivists launched an information flyer in the National Archives today about Ireland’s only archive web portal, www.iar.ie to mark its expansion and the provision of access to hundreds of unique archival collections. The portal is unique in Ireland by facilitating users to view a rich and diverse range of archival collections in a single website. Announcing today a doubling in size with contributors from over 30 prominent archival repositories, the IAR is also calling on archivists to join the portal by providing descriptions of their key collections to support its continued growth.
New contributors to the site include Trinity College Dublin Manuscripts and Archives Research Department, RTÉ Stills Library, National Museum of Ireland Archive, University College Cork Archives, Derry City Councils Heritage and Museum Service, and the archives of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. The IAR portal enables visitors to access a free database of archival collections from archival repositories all over Ireland, north and south, many of which contain archives of relevance to the period 1912 to 1922, commonly referred to as the Decade of Centenaries.
Speaking at the launch, IAR Chairperson, Hazel Menton, said, “We are thrilled to announce the expansion of the IAR web portal, in particular as some of these collections have never had an online presence before. But there is little room for complacency, and we are keen to continue to grow the site reaching up to 70 contributing repositories by the end of 2014 in order to satisfy existing researchers and attract new users.”
Beginning as a pilot project in 2008, as a result of a joint initiative of the Heritage Council and the Archives and Records Association, Ireland, the IAR is an all-Ireland portal containing collections from Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and National Archives of Ireland.
Launching the flyer today, Minister Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said, “I am very impressed at the ever expanding list of archives being made available online through the Irish Archive’s Resource website. Archives are the basis on which our history is written. They give us an insight into the past, and by making them freely available online it is easier for members of the public to connect with their heritage. I would like to commend the IAR for continuing to develop its online collection. With archives ranging from the RTE Stills Library to the National Museum of Ireland, I am sure there is something of interest to everyone on this newly expanded website.”
Hazel Menton added, “Popular TV series such as Who do you think you are?, and the Decade of Centenaries celebrations have put the spotlight on archives. The portal is an ideal resource for members of the archival community to respond to public interest in archives and to publicise their holdings. Initial support and guidance is available to ensure collections meet national and international description standards, and we regularly hold training days for potential content providers. Eventually, it is hoped that the collections from the IAR portal will feed into similar major European wide archival web initiatives such as Europeana and Apex.”
The IAR is currently funded by the Heritage Council, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Northern Ireland. The portal is hosted by UCD School of History and Archives. With adequate funding, it aims to expand the current number of contributing archive services from 34 to up to 70.
The portal displays fonds level descriptions of archival collections according to the Irish Guidelines for Archival Description (IGAD) and General International Standard Archival Description (ISAD (G)) and includes links back to the particular repository if available. All entries must also comply with the National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Family and Corporate Names. The functionality of the portal has been enhanced to enable researchers to search collections according to archival index terms. The user-friendly search facility also enables researchers to conduct broad searches of the collections according to key categories for example, ‘archaeology’, ‘art archives’, ‘archives of private clubs and societies’, ‘landed estate papers’, and ‘photographic’ or ‘theatre’ archives.
Also speaking at the launch, CEO of the Heritage Council, Michael Starrett said, “We’re delighted to see the IAR web portal continue to expand. Prior to this, researchers or anyone interested in history had to travel to the various repositories to find out if they held archives relevant to their research.”
The variety of information contained in the collections is vast reflecting the number of repositories contributing to the portal. For example, the Irish Jesuit Archive has posted details of a collection of letters sent by serving chaplains in World War One. A number of county council archive services have also put up details of their collections including Louth County Archives Service which holds one of the oldest local authority collections dating back to the 17th century. Its Grand Jury collection records the administration of justice at this time. In the centuries that followed the records expanded to reflect the additional functions of the Grand Jury including the maintenance of dispensaries, fever hospitals, the county infirmary and gaol. Details of more recent archives listed include the corporate archive of the retailer, Eason and Son Limited which has been in business 1886.
The IAR portal is managed by a voluntary steering group made up of representatives from Archives and Records Association Ireland, the Heritage Council, Irish Manuscripts Commission and other stakeholder groups. The information flyer is available to download at http://www.iar.ie/PDFs/IAR_