Irish Roots

January 18th, 2010

John Grenham


The National Archives census website is getting all the attention, but there are some excellent developments also happening on the National Library site (www.nli.ie) . First, and most important, is the ongoing expansion of the online catalogues. As anyone who has ever searched the coffin-sized volumes of the old catalogue knows, finding something in it could be challenging. In fact it sometimes felt as if you were playing hunt the thimble with a malevolent god. Being able to search online by author, title, subject, series and publisher is like shining a spotlight into a dark room. For local studies especially, it is endlessly useful.

The Library’s photographic collections, now held at the National Photographic Archive, have long been a major resource for anyone researching a specific area in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. A very large proportion of the photographs are now online and searchable by subject or area, photographer or title.

The most recent addition to the site, and in some ways the most impressive, is something the Library has branded as “Sources ”. At the heart of this is former Library Director Richard Hayes’ monumental Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilisation and Periodical Sources for the History of Irish Civilisation, a 30-year project that attempted to document "all sources of information on everything relating to Ireland or to Irishmen for all periods". All of this has now been fully digitised to international archival standards, and the result is irresistible. Just go to the “Browse” section and wander around the world seeing what Irish material is held in Bogota and Moscow and Cape Town. Or enter a place name in the search box and see the extraordinary associated lists of manuscripts, articles, individuals, maps, dates …

The hours will just melt away.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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