From politics and culture to craftsmen and adventurers, ARA’s #ExploreYourArchive week has inspired us to explore wide range of fantastic collections so far. However, for today’s post, we are going to mix things up a bit and focus instead on the Irish Archives Resource, and most importantly, what makes us unique.
For most archives, today’s theme provides them with the perfect opportunity to showcase some of the one-of-a-kind records and collections they have tucked away in their store rooms. But unlike traditional repositories, the IAR doesn’t house any collections of its own. Instead, it serves as a dynamic portal that connects researchers with archival descriptions from various contributing institutions, providing a one-stop shop for top level archival research.
Where did it all begin?
The idea for the IAR was first set out in 2007 by the Heritage Council in a feasibility study conducted to gauge the usefulness and practicality of an online archives portal for Irish repositories. Finding there was a benefit and demand for the service, Martin Bradley, director of Archives Ireland, was commissioned and entrusted with the responsibility of bringing together the descriptions of four repositories’ collections on one website. The collections of Cork City and County Archives, University College Cork Library Archives, Waterford City Archives and Waterford County Archives featured on the initial pilot launch in 2009. Upon its success, the site was re-launched five years later in September 2014 with a new look and many more contributors. Funded by the Heritage Council, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and the Department for Communities (Northern Ireland), the portal services the whole island of Ireland and can be used in English or Gaeilge.
What Makes Us Unique
The IAR is Ireland’s only searchable online database, uniting archival descriptions from a diverse range of Irish archives and repositories on one website. Furthermore, it plays a pivotal role in promoting user access to archives, helping researchers to locate collections relevant to their interests and guide them to the best archives services for their needs. The IAR also prides itself on our encouragement of the development and publication of comprehensive, standardised archive descriptions. In essence, the IAR is a collaborative hub for archivists to join forces, facilitating connections between archival collections from one repository to the next.
As it stands today, over 700 collections have been contributed to the IAR, with new collections added on a regular basis. We are always looking for and open to welcoming new contributors to the site. Advocacy and support are at the heart of the IAR and our moderators are readily available to assist in creating and uploading standardised descriptive lists to our site.