Digital archive maps history of ordnance surveying in Ireland

24 Jun 2024

Image: © BreizhAtao/

The digital heritage resource focuses on the early years of ordnance surveying in Ireland, bringing together maps, texts, archaeological and toponymical material.

Researchers at the University of Limerick have unveiled a new digital heritage resource centred on the early years of ordnance surveying (OS) in Ireland. 

The OS200-Digitally Re-mapping Ireland’s Ordnance Survey Heritage project has compiled historic maps, texts, archaeological and toponymical material, including local customs, place names and topographical features, to offer significant insight into OS operations on the island 200 years ago. 

Between 1824 and 1842, the OS carried out the first ever large-scale survey of an entire country, at a scale of six inches to the mile and according to researchers at UL, the resulting maps are still regarded by cartographers as among the finest ever produced. 

Previously, these materials were housed across various museums, repositories and archives in Ireland and the UK. The project has gathered this historic information in one place, to form a single, freely accessible online resource for academic and public use. 

“By reconnecting digitally, the OS maps, memoirs, correspondence, drawings and books of place names into a new online resource, the project aims to open up the histories to wider audiences, enabling a richer and deeper engagement with and understanding of the OS operations in Ireland two centuries ago,” the press release about the project notes.

The cross-disciplinary collaboration was co-led by Dr Catherine Porter, an associate professor in geography at the University of Limerick, and Prof Keith Lilley from the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University Belfast and also involved a range of geographers, historians, linguists and computer scientists. 

According to Porter, the project has empowered teams of researchers from all around Ireland to unearth previously forgotten aspects of the personal and working lives of those employed by OS. It has also enabled engagement “with the island’s complex colonial histories”. 

“The new archive will be easily accessible to members of the public as well as researchers studying the period, facilitating additional understanding of pre-famine Irish history,” said Porter. 

More information is available on the Ireland Mapped website and the Digital Archive of Ireland’s Ordnance Survey

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Laura Varley is the Careers reporter for Silicon Republic