Archives around the world join forces to bring Ireland’s destroyed Public Record Office back to life
From Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media
Last updated on
From Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media
Last updated on
Today, (27 June) the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, will launch the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland.
For the first time in 100 years, the public will be able to ‘step back in time’ to explore a virtual recreation of the Public Record Office of Ireland and its collections, as they were on the eve of their destruction at Dublin’s Four Courts at the outset of the Civil War.
When the Public Record Office of Ireland was destroyed by fire in 1922, hundreds of thousands of precious historical documents relating to all aspects of Irish life were lost — apparently forever. The Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland is a vast and growing treasury of replacement documents newly discovered in partner archives around the world. Freely and permanently available online, everyone with an interest in Ireland’s past will be able to explore 7 centuries of Irish history through tens of thousands of searchable documents.
The Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland is the outcome of a 5-year State-funded programme of research entitled ‘Beyond 2022’. Led by Trinity College Dublin, Beyond 2022 has combined historical investigation, archival conservation, and technical innovation to reimagine and recreate, through digital technologies, the archive that was lost on 30 June 1922.
The ground-breaking research programme has been developed by historians in Trinity College and computer scientists in the SFI ADAPT Centre, in partnership with 5 core partners: National Archives of Ireland, National Archives (UK), Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Irish Manuscripts Commission and the Library of Trinity College Dublin. The Virtual Record Treasury is a meaningful legacy for the State’s Decade of Centenaries programme (2012-2023). It is funded by the Government of Ireland under Project Ireland 2040 through the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
The Virtual Record Treasury at a glance:
Speaking ahead of the launch, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said:
"The Virtual Record Treasury is an enduring and meaningful legacy for our Decade of Centenaries. It belongs to the people of Ireland, democratising access to our rich archival heritage and making our shared history accessible for everyone. It is an invaluable historical resource for people of all traditions across the island and for everyone of Irish heritage around the world. It is an immense achievement and testament to the commitment and dedication of the Beyond 2022 project team.”
The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said:
“This is a really exciting project which opens new doors into Irish history. It brings together a wealth of information from around the world to illustrate what happened in Ireland, and helps to fill in the blanks arising from that infamous 1922 fire in the Public Record Office. I congratulate the team on bringing this amazing project to life."
Minister Catherine Martin reflected:
“The pioneering technology behind the Beyond 2022 project is so exciting and testament to Ireland’s leadership and talent in ground-breaking research and innovation. The Decade of Centenaries has gifted us with a wealth of resources at our fingertips, such as the Virtual Record Treasury, to help us to step back in time and engage with our history, grounded in the factual evidence for the events that occurred. What was previously unexplored, unintelligible, or inaccessible to us is now revealed, allowing for new insights and perspectives. It is an inspiring and enduring legacy for our Decade of Centenaries, which my department is delighted to support under Project Ireland 2040. The partnership and generosity of spirit from the archival partners and the resulting all-island and international collaboration is outstanding and most sincerely and deeply appreciated.”
'Beyond 2022’ Programme Director Dr Peter Crooks, Associate Professor in Medieval History, Trinity, said:
“The Record Treasury at the Public Record Office of Ireland was one of the great archives of Europe. The devastating cultural loss of the archive in 1922 has hampered our understanding of Ireland’s past. Thanks to the meticulous record-keeping of generations of archivists, historians, copyists, genealogists and clerks, thousands of duplicates and transcripts of Ireland’s records, scattered across the world, have been preserved. Record by record, shelf by shelf, historians, archivists and computer scientists are bringing Ireland’s destroyed national treasure back to life.
“The Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland draws strength from partnerships which now link the core partners with over 70 institutes worldwide, including the Library of Congress, USA; the Huntington Library California; Parliamentary Archives of the UK Houses of Parliament and the National Library of Australia. Closer to home, county archives, university libraries and private collections across Ireland have joined in the work. As more partners join and more historical records are added the Treasury will continue to grow.”
Trinity’s Provost, Dr Linda Doyle, added:
“What seemed impossible has been made a reality by the fusion of historical research with technological innovation. I want to congratulate the team at the ADAPT Centre in Trinity who worked so creatively with historians and archivists to make this virtual treasury accessible to the public. Technology should be at the service of society and, having watched this project evolve over the past 4 years, it gives me great pride to see that demonstrated today.”
Dr Maurice Manning, Chair of the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations said:
“Back in 2018, the Expert Advisory Group was delighted to endorse the initial research concept underpinning the Virtual Record Treasury. I think it is fair to say that what has been achieved since has exceeded all of our expectations. Beyond 2022 has created a magnificent opportunity for people of all ages to explore and engage with the past in an unprecedented way, grounded in factual analysis and archival discovery. It is a wonderful and enduring legacy for our Decade of Centenaries.”
Building the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland: Scope, Scale and Transformations | Tuesday, 28 June 2022, 12-2pm…
Researchers in History (Trinity College Dublin) and Computer Science (ADAPT Centre), will discuss the challenges and discoveries encountered in their work on Beyond 2022.
Reverberations: Memory, Art and Archives | Thursday, 30 June 2022, 4-5.30pm…
On the centenary of destruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland, a panel discussion will explore creative responses to cultural loss and disputed anniversaries. This event features the first screening of a new art-work by Mairéad McClean, Decade of Centenaries Artist in Residence with Beyond 2022, followed by a panel discussion.
‘Gold Seam’ collections in the Virtual Record Treasury are full-scale reconstructions of entire series of archives that were destroyed in 1922. Bringing together digitised images of replacement manuscripts with transcriptions and translations, ‘Gold Seams’ provide an enriched understanding of life at the time.
The Medieval Exchequer Gold Seam provides access to one of the most significant and underused sources for the history of late-medieval Ireland and its connections with Britain and the wider world—the records of the medieval Irish exchequer. Dating back to the thirteenth century and continuing for nearly 200 years, these records are a treasure trove of information about Irish society, economy and politics in the centuries after Ireland was conquered. The records reveal how royal government was financed and how Ireland was administered by—and for—the English crown.
The Cromwellian Surveys Gold Seam provides unprecedented access for anyone researching land ownership in Ireland throughout the early modern period. The maps and books presented here are extraordinarily rich in detail and provide a window into the world of the Irish Catholic nobility and the mainly Protestant ascendancy that replaced it.
The returns for the 1766 religious census of Ireland are one of the richest sources available to the historical and genealogical researcher for the period prior to the commencement of the statutory census series in 1813. More than 50% of the 1766 census can be reconstructed in whole or in part. Over 50,000 names of individuals across all religious denominations have been transcribed from these sources. 59 original items from the census survived the Four Courts blaze, covering parishes in Armagh, Cork, Derry, Limerick, Louth, Tipperary, Tyrone and Waterford because they were held over in the Strong Room at Easter 1922. These salved returns have been conserved and digitised by the National Archives (Ireland) with support from the Irish Manuscripts Commission.
The ‘Beyond 2022’ research programme was founded in Trinity College in 2016. In 2017 and 2018, the National Archives (successor institution to the Public Record Office of Ireland), the National Archives (UK) and Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, joined forces in creating a research partnership with Trinity and the ADAPT Centre. This marked the first formal partnership of these 3 ‘genetically-linked’ archival institutions. They were soon joined as Core Partners by the Irish Manuscripts Commission and Trinity College Dublin Library. In 2018 the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations identified Beyond 2022 as a significant all-island and international initiative, which could provide a lasting and meaningful legacy beyond the Decade of Centenaries. In 2019, the Taoiseach announced support under Project Ireland 2040 through the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, which enabled Beyond 2022 to mature into a unique collaborative framework within Irish cultural and academic life.
For media queries concerning Beyond 2022, please contact Fiona Tyrrell, Media Relations Officer, Public Affairs and Communications at Trinity College Dublin:
You can view the State’s Decade of Centenaries Programme for 2022, using this link below:
For queries concerning the Decade of Centenaries Programme, please contact the Press and Information Office of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media: