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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Autograph books of revolutionary prisoners go online

A new site – Kilmainham Gaol Autograph Books – has been launched to showcase some of Kilmainham Gaol Museum's collection of 120 original autograph books from the 1916–1923 period.

The book volumes contain the personal signatures and thoughts of many people who were involved in the struggle for national independence and who sacrificed so much.

High quality facsimile images taken from thirteen of the books with a particularly strong connection with the 1916 era make up the online collection.

They originate from Belfast, Dundalk and Mountjoy Gaols; Frongoch Internment Camp, in Wales; Stafford and Lewes Prisons in England; and Dublin Castle Hospital, as well as Kilmainham Gaol itself, where the Rising Leaders were executed.

Visitors to the new website can leaf through the pages individually and read directly from the signatures, mementoes and dedications recorded there to gain an insight into the lives and experiences of these remarkable people. The personal histories of approximately 480 individuals are explored with links to other sources such as the Bureau of Military History or the Census records from 1901 and 1911. There's some good historical context features on the site, too.

As well as providing an evocative online memorial for the men and women of 1916, the website is designed to encourage members of the public with interesting family stories to tell or memorabilia from the era connected to people who feature in the Autograph Books to contact the Gaol Museum (see the dedicated 'Help Us' link in the menu options).

The website was developed by the Office of Public Works Heritage Service at Kilmainham Gaol with the assistance of their historical consultant, Professor Mike Cronin of Boston College, Dublin. More books from the Collection will be published on the site in due course.