Decade of Centenaries: Assessing and preserving the digital collections at risk for the Decade of Centenaries

By Irish Research Council

Posted: 28 June, 2016

This 1916 Flagship Project (New Foundations), 1916 at Risk, aimed to assess the scale of vulnerable digitised collections in Ireland, to provide support in digitally preserving these collections, and to create a centralised access point to support their wider dissemination. One of its central aims was to engage with heritage organisations holding material relating from the period 1912-1922. In December 2014, the Digital Repository of Ireland announced a call for expressions of interest from custodians of heritage material relating to the Decade of Centenaries wishing to digitally preserve their holdings. Three collections from three different organisations were selected – the National Irish Visual Arts Library (Michael Healy Collection), Dublin City Archives (Dublin City Electoral Lists) and the Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives (The Capuchins and the Irish Revolution) – the content of which was considered to make a contribution to the national discourse on the Decade of Centenaries, and which was considered to potentially be at risk of degradation and loss. Digital archivists from the Digital Repository of Ireland worked with the collections to prepare them for deposit with the Repository and to enable long term digital preservation, as well as access and dissemination. The three collections were launched at the Digital Preservation for the Arts and Humanities conference in June 2015, and awards were presented by Dr Eucharia Meehan, Director of the Irish Research Council.

The award has allowed the Digital Repository of Ireland to engage with a number of new stakeholder organisations who had not previously undertaken any digital preservation processes for their collections. In August 2015, the Digital Repository of Ireland ran a Digital Preservation Workshop for all applicants to the original call, providing training on digital preservation and data and metadata curation. This training allowed other interested organisations to prepare and deposit their data with the Digital Repository of Ireland for long term preservation. Through the award, and the subsequent workshop, the team worked with seven organisations who had not previously deposited content with the Repository. As well as providing training to allow participants to deposit with the Digital Repository of Ireland, advice was also provided on smaller scale, in-house digital preservation practice which participants could bring back to their own organisations. The dissemination of best practice guidelines and training in digital preservation fits with the Digital Repository of Ireland’s core mission.

The New Foundations award provided an excellent opportunity to develop close relationships with new and existing stakeholders, and to demonstrate the efficiency, expertise, and capacity of the Digital Repository of Ireland on a number of levels: digital archiving expertise, digitisation, partnership building, collaboration and national leadership in digital preservation. These benefits clearly feed back into the Digital Repository of Ireland’s reputation in the community, and created additional possibilities for future collaborations and leadership. It allowed Digital Repository of Ireland staff to work with stakeholders directly, meaning that policy and theoretical workflows which the team had researched could be put into practice. The project provided a complementary perspective, while it reflected on the documentary evidence of the 1912-1922 period and its digital representations, it also looked forward to the Bi-Centenary, considering how the current commemorations could be preserved for examination in 2116.

For more information on these collections, visit:

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