Digital Repository of Ireland wins at Ireland E-Government Awards

2 Feb 2015

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Dr Sandra Collins, director of the Digital Repository of Ireland and Inspiring Ireland project lead, and Dr Natalie Harrower from the Digital Repository of Ireland

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The Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) last week scooped three Ireland E-Government Awards, including Overall Winner, for its work on the Inspiring Ireland project.

The Digital Repository of Ireland won the Promoting Ireland Overseas, Open Source and Overall Award last Thursday for the Inspiring Ireland project it spearheaded in collaboration with eight of Ireland’s national cultural institutions and the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht.

The wins came as a happy surprise to DRI director and Inspiring Ireland project lead Dr Sandra Collins, who accepted the awards from An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD, at a gala event at Dublin Castle.

“We are a new organisation and we didn’t think we had a chance,” Collins tells Siliconrepublic.com. “We were absolutely speechless, overwhelmed, thrilled.”

The DRI’s Inspiring Ireland project, which won the accolades on the night, is building a centralised, curated online portal to Ireland’s cultural heritage with the aim of bringing Ireland’s cultural treasures (including paintings, letters, sculpture, manuscripts, historical objects, music, photography) to a national and international audience.

“The project brings together higher-education and cultural institutions,” explains Collins, who is listed among Silicon Republic’s Top 100 Women in STEM. ”There’s so much educational material and real treasures in the cultural institutions – to be able to work together to show them and open them up for research is a wonderful opportunity.”

Good timing

The win comes at a good time for the DRI, which is a national trusted digital repository that preserves and provides online access to Ireland’s social and cultural heritage. Bringing together The Royal Irish Academy, Trinity College Dublin, Maynooth University, NUI Galway, Dublin Institute of Technology and National College of Art and Design, the DRI consortium has been funded since 2011 under PRTLI, and it is now looking for funding to continue its work.

“This is the last year of our original grant and we hope this shows the value of our work,” says Collins. “Winning these E-government awards makes a huge difference to a small organisation like ours.”

The DRI is currently looking to raise funds for a project that focuses on Irish cultural artefacts related to 1916, she adds. “That will be perfect timing for the centenary of 1916 next year, and it’s a national project that would have international impact.”

Records at risk

Meanwhile, in June this year, the DRI will host a conference to launch the repository to the public and to highlight the importance of digital preservation for the arts, humanities and social sciences.

“We are targeting schools, scholars and the people of Ireland,” says Collins, who notes that many cultural and historical records are in a precarious state.

“In 1922 our State records were lost when the Custom House was burnt down,” she says. “But now if people don’t understand or actively take part in digital preservation, then many of our records – which might be on formats such as floppy discs – are more at risk than a century ago when we had paper records.”

The Ireland E-government awards recognise excellence and innovation by public-sector bodies who are pioneering change in the delivery of e-government services in Ireland and are are sponsored by Eircom Business Solutions and jointly run by the Public Sector Times and digital marketing company Elucidate. You can see the full list of winners on the E-government awards website.