Wednesday 15 January 2014

Down Survey of Ireland website wins award

Land ownership in 1641
(blue denotes Catholic landowner)
The Down Survey of Ireland website, which launched last May, has won the Best Practice Award at the annual Irish Organisation for Geographic Information (IRLOGI) research awards.

The Down Survey website maps out for the first time the dramatic transfer in landownership from Catholics to Protestants in the 1650s and changes our understanding of landownership, settlement and religious changes in 17th-century Ireland. A Trinity College Dublin project, it attracted over 100,000 visitors in the first few weeks alone.

It features the Down Survey map collection, which was believed to have been lost in a fire in 1711, and comprises, county, barony and parish maps that are rich in detail, showing not only individual townland boundaries, but also churches, roads, rivers, bogs, woods and settlements.

Led by Dr Micheál Ó Siochrú, Associate Professor in History, the project team (David Brown and Eoin Bailey) tracked down over 2,000 contemporaneous copies of the original survey maps in dozens of libraries and archives throughout Ireland, Britain and France. They are now available as a free online resource. By overlaying these maps onto Ordnance Survey maps, Google maps and satellite imagery and employing GIS technology, the website allows users to explore this turbulent period in Irish history in exciting and innovative ways.

If you haven't taken a look at the website, you really should. It's key features include:
  • 2,000 magnificent county, barony and parish maps from the Down Survey
  • National, provincial and county maps detailing massive landownership transfer
  • Mapping out of murders and violent assaults reported during the 1641 rebellion
  • Representation of 17th-century road network
  • Searchable database of over 10,000 landowners

The Down Survey of Ireland, undertaken by the Cromwellian regime in the years 1656-1658, introduced modern mapping techniques into Ireland and led to the creation of the recognisable maps of the country. It was also the first ever detailed land survey on a national scale anywhere in the world and measured all the estates to be forfeited by Catholic landowners.

The IRLOGI ‘Best Practice Award’ is in recognition of the project's successful cooperation between the humanities and cutting-edge technology, building on the work of the 1641 Depositions project and the FP7-sponsored CULTURA project. The IRLOGI is the umbrella organisation for the geographical information industry in Ireland. Its research awards are sponsored by the Ordnance Survey of Ireland.