Wednesday 2 September 2020

Church of Ireland Gazette digitisation project extended

The end of the RCB Library's project to digitise the Church of Ireland Gazette is now in sight. A series of monthly releases, starting this month, will lead to a final tranche of editions being uploaded in February 2021.

Fr Trevor Huddleston’s account of a meeting
with Revd Martin Luther King, syndicated from
the Observer and published in the 12 April 1957
edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette.
The Representative Church Body Library's project began seven years ago as a modest collaboration with the Editor and Board of the present-day Gazette and resulted in the digitisation of all editions published in 1913. From this relatively modest start, the collaboration grew in ambition, with the RCB Library aiming to digitise and make freely available a complete run of the Church's all-island newspaper dating back to 1856.

Subsequent organic growth was assisted by a combination of state funding, private sponsorship and the support of central Church funds, and saw the upload of free digitised editions up to and including 1949 (see the search engine

Now, thanks to a generous grant from the Irish Government’s Reconciliation Fund, administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Library has been enabled to finish the job.
Starting this month and concluding in the early months of 2021, the RCB Library will incrementally release all remaining editions of this rich resource from 1950 to 2009 (at which point the Gazette becomes available as an e-paper). Each release will see ten years of editions join the search engine. The first will be of editions published in the 1950s. The second of editions published in the 1960s, and so on.

Each tranche will be released in conjunction with an online exhibition under the banner headline: ‘The Borderless Church’.

The first presentation is an analysis of the 1950s by Dr Marie Coleman, Reader in modern Irish history at Queen’s University Belfast. Her richly-illustrated text brings to life the many topical issues of national and international significance covered in the Gazette’s pages during the decade.

These include Dr Noël Browne’s Mother-and-Child Scheme, the Fethard-on-Sea boycott, and the rise of what was then termed as the ‘Paisley movement’, as well as apartheid policies in South Africa, and the impact of the Revd Martin Luther King at the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

You can read this first presentation as the RCBL's Archive of the Month for September here.

The RCB Library's librarian and archivist, Dr Susan Hood, said: ‘We are indebted to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Simon Coveney TD, and the Reconciliation Fund, for such generous support especially at this difficult time when small institutions like ours must restrict physical access to keep the public safe.

'We commend our service provider Informa who have worked so positively with us to deliver the incredibly fast and accurate search engine which is highly-valued by researchers, and we thank Dr Marie Coleman and all the subsequent Borderless Church contributors who have used this unique source to share their understandings and memories.’