Technology shares forgotten accounts of Irish history


6 Aug 2008

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Have you ever wondered what happened to all the old archived material collected by town councils, hospitals and parish centres on life in Ireland when the poorhouse was the destination of the starving and the sick or when dancehalls were the centre of our social life?

Limerick city has decided to open up archived material collected from the Famine era right up until 1972 when we joined the EU, or EEC as it was then known, by creating an online digital catalogue of its records accessible at www.limerickcity.ie/Archives/.

This joint initiative with Shannon Development, which is supported by the EU and Shannon Broadband, is actually the first project of its kind in Ireland.

With Limerick city bringing all this material online, members of the public will now be able to find out for themselves, from first-hand accounts from the time periods, what life was like in Limerick in the past. This makes for a welcome change from having to apply for an appointment with an archivist to view documents, opening up a new research avenue for college and secondary school students alike.

“A key feature of the portal site is that it offers an open source, standards-based archives platform, using a web language called Encoded Archival Description (EAD), which enables the files to be shared with other archives in Ireland and internationally,” said Jacqui Hayes, Limerick city archivist.

The archive material was gathered from Limerick City Council’s minute books, the Chamber of Commerce collection and Limerick Harbour Commissioners collection, so there is a good mix of social and political development from these times as well as information on key historical figures.

In order to convert all the old record books into a digital format, Limerick City Archives was able to avail of a new eArchives portal that was developed as part of a Broadband Exchange Pilot Project for cities around Europe which include Cologne and Cantabria in Spain.

By Marie Boran

Pictured L-R: Ken Stockil, project manager, Shannon Broadband; Jacqui Hayes, Limerick city Archivist with Limerick City Council; and Dr Vincent Cunnane, chief executive, Shannon Development

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