Thursday 5 December 2019

Beyond 2022: Ireland uses technology of the future to restore seven centuries of its lost history

This morning, an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD formally launched the Beyond 2022: Ireland's Virtual Record Treasury research project with a capital grant funding allocation of €2.5m from the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltact.

The all-island scheme aims to restore the lost history that resulted from the devastating fire at the Four Courts during the Irish Civil War in 1922. The fire destroyed the Public Record Office of Ireland, and with it seven centuries of historical, genealogical and administrative records.

Through virtual reality, the new flagship project seeks to re-imagine and recreate these archival collections.

Beyond 2022, Ireland's Virtual Record Treasury is a collaborative project led by Trinity College Dublin in partnership with the National Archives of Ireland, the National Archives UK, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and the Irish Manuscripts Commission.

Speaking at the official launch, which was held in Dublin Castle, Director of Beyond 2022 said: "The scale of copies and duplicates we have identified in other archives is astounding. We are already working with over 35 libraries and archives in Ireland, the UK and US. And this is only the beginning."

The first phase of the research project identified over 200 volumes of transcripts suitable for enhanced digitisation, now scattered between archives in the United States, the United Kingdom and archives on the island of Ireland. These handwritten records contain more than 25 million words from documents destroyed in 1922.

With funding now secured, the project will create a Virtual Record Treasury and reunite for the first time in a century, thousands of stories of life, law, land and loss in Ireland’s history.

The primary outcome from Phase II will be a fully immersive, three-dimensional, virtual reality model of the digitally reconstructed Public Record Office of Ireland, which will be launched in June 2022 to mark the centenary of the fire. This model will be used as an interactive tool for engagement and research, whereby visitors will be able to browse the virtual shelves and link to substitute or salvaged records held by archives and libraries around the world.

See Trinity College Dublin's news story, which carries more details of the project and a video, here.