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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Ulster's Great Parchment Book awarded UNESCO Memory of the World status

At an awards ceremony in Cardiff, Wales, last night, the Great Parchment Book of the Honourable Irish Society was inscribed to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.

The Great Parchment Book is recognised as a hugely significant record of the Ulster Plantation in the early 17th century, providing a unique insight into an important period of the history of Northern Ireland for which there are few other original archives surviving. It is central to the study of the Plantation of Ulster and the social, economic, cultural, religious and political history of Northern Ireland, the UK and Ireland.

Compliled in 1639 and often referred to as Ulster's Domesday Book, the Great Parchment Book provides a key record of the population of early 17th century Ulster, not just the Protestant settlers who came from both England and Scotland, but also the native Irish, and exceptionally many women, at all social levels. It contains unique information about the properties and individual buildings they inhabited, as well as the extent and layout of the towns of Coleraine and Londonderry.

It was badly damaged in a fire in 1786, which led to it being unavailable to researchers for over 200 years, but has been brought back to life using state of the art conservation techniques and cutting-edge digital imaging (see video below). The conservation and digitisation project was supported by the London Metropolitan Archives, Derry City Council and Heritage Services, the National Manuscripts Commission Trust, City of London Corporation and University College London.

UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme was established in 1992. It's vision is that the world’s documentary heritage belongs to all and should be fully preserved and protected for all and permanently accessible to all without hindrance. The UK Register (one of several country-level programmes from around the world) recognises documentary heritage deemed by a panel of experts to be of outstanding significance to the UK.