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Review and Recording of 'Using Digital Archives for Geographical and Archaeological Research'

By Áine Madden

 

On 23 March 2021, DRI hosted ‘Using Digital Archives for Geographical and Archaeological Research’, the second event in our three-part public lecture series on using digital archives for academic research. 

Access to brick-and-mortar archives has been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, creating challenges for humanities researchers that rely on archival materials for their research. The webinar series aim is to showcase the rich research resources contained in digital archival collections that researchers can draw on to advance their studies. 

The recording of the first webinar in the series, ‘Using Digital Archives for Historical Research’, has been preserved for long-term access in the Repository for the benefit of anyone interested in this timely topic: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.r4958772q The recording of the second webinar in the series,  ‘Using Digital Archives for Geographical and Archaeological Research’, has also been preserved as an educational resource in the Repository: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.w663hs16k 

‘Using Digital Archives for Geographical and Archaeological Research’ was chaired by DRI Digital Archivist Kevin Long who introduced the aims of the webinar series as well as the remit of DRI – as a trusted national infrastructure for Ireland’s social and cultural heritage, DRI preserves, curates, and provides sustained access to Ireland’s humanities and social sciences data. Kevin also highlighted a resource booklet that DRI developed in collaboration with its Members - 'Using Digital Archives for Academic Research' lists digital archival collections that can be explored further for academic research. This publication is freely accessible in our DRI Early Career Research collection here. The publication also includes details of our annual DRI Early Career Research Award, which grants a bursary of €500 to an early career researcher for an original piece of research (e.g. research done for master’s or PhD thesis, article or publication) informed in whole, or part, by objects/collections deposited in DRI.

Kevin introduced our first speaker, Royal Irish Academy (RIA) Librarian  Barbara McCormack. Barbara’s talk focused on the following RIA collections which are archived on DRI: 'Gabriel Beranger’s ‘Rambles through the County of Dublin and some of the neighbouring ones’ and ‘Rambles thro’ the County of Dublin and some others in Ireland’. These two albums of watercolours provide illustrations of scenery and ancient monuments, general views, and details of castles and churches in Ireland. The watercolours are copies of originals (since lost) painted on expeditions undertaken by artist Gabriel Beranger, ca. 1729–1817. These watercolours, acquired by the RIA in 1920, provide an invaluable visual record of Ireland’s historic buildings and changing landscapes, as well as providing an insight into the world before photography. Many of the buildings depicted in the watercolours have since disappeared or fallen to ruin meaning that these visual records provide a crucial gateway to a vanishing or vanished world. Barbara gave a helpful overview of how the Beranger collections are organised on DRI, contextualised with rich metadata for enhanced discoverability, and assigned Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) so the data can be easily accessed and shared. She also gave a fascinating demonstration of how to use tools on DRI, such as the IIIF Mirador viewer, which allows you to zoom in on the image as well as perform image manipulation, such as rotation, changing the brightness or contrast etc. Guidelines on how to use the viewer can be found at http://projectmirador.org/.  Barbara also highlighted additional online research resources during her talk, such as The Watercolour World, an online resource of watercolour paintings from before 1900 which aims to create the largest pre-photographic record of the world. The website can be searched by keyword or by map. The search page lets you filter images by geography, collection, artist, category, subject, and date range. The watercolours highlighted by Barbara will be of interest to researchers from a range of disciplines, including geography, archaeology, history, art, art history, and architecture. If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to view Barbara’s presentation, which has been made publicly accessible through the DRI Slideshare and is also embedded below.

 

Our second speaker, Rónán Swan, Head of Archaeology and Heritage at Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), gave an overview of the TII Digital Heritage Collections. These collections provide access to data and results arising from the archaeological and heritage work undertaken by TII over the past twenty years in the planning, development and construction of national road and light rail projects and the material offers researchers a wealth of research material. DRI’s inaugural Early Career Research Award winner, Field Archaeologist Jennifer McCarthy, used the archaeological excavation reports from the Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) Digital Heritage Collections to inform her award-winning research reinterpreting a Middle to Late Bronze Age settlement site. Rónán highlighted many access routes to TII’s digital heritage collections, including the TII Geographic Information System (GIS) Portal, Heritage Maps, and Data.Gov.ie. As Ireland’s national aggregator for Europeana, DRI also supported TII in adding their collections to Europeana, a digital platform that allows European institutions to reach a broader audience by sharing their social and cultural heritage data online. The material in TII’s Digital Heritage Collections provides a vitally important record of Ireland’s archaeological heritage for researchers and the public to explore. Discover more by accessing the TII Digital Heritage Collections on DRI and by accessing Rónán’s presentation on the DRI SlideShare.

 

Our final speaker, Jennifer Moore, Editorial Assistant at Irish Historic Towns Atlas (IHTA), spoke about IHTA Online in her talk. IHTA Online forms part of IHTA Digital and has the first 28 IHTAs available to search freely online as downloadable pdfs. The digital editions include the full text (essay, topographical information, bibliography, appendices, notes) for each town or city, as well as select maps. They are grouped thematically by town origin (e.g., monastic, Viking, Anglo-Norman, early modern, Gaelic and plantation, eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century towns). Jennifer gave a great overview of maps and mapping and how they can be used to advance research. She also provided background information on sources used in each atlas, including cartographic records, archaeological records, government records, military reports, visitor accounts, registry of deeds, photographs, and many more sources. The atlases provide researchers with a mine of information on topics such as housing, streets, transport, education, and health, as well as insight into demographic information on the Irish population. Jennifer also highlighted some wonderful online resources that researchers can avail of to advance geographical and archaeological research such as National Monuments Service, National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, and Heritage Maps, as well as how to discover GIS-based projects using IHTA material. To learn more, we encourage you to view the webinar recording or access Jennifer’s presentation on the DRI Slideshare

 

The webinar had 255 registrants and was enthusiastically received. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to host early career researchers from Higher Education Institutions from all over the island of Ireland as well as members of geographical, archaeological, and historical societies, and members of the general public. The speakers highlighted many helpful resources during their presentations which have been listed below for easy reference. We are grateful to our speakers for sharing their knowledge, time, and expertise and to our audience for their active engagement using the webinar’s interactive features. We hope that this webinar series and outputs continue to be of value to researchers interested in using digital archives for academic research. The final webinar in the series, ‘Using Digital Archives for Social Sciences Research’, takes place on 20 April 2021. Although the event is aimed primarily at students of social science, the archival collections will be of interest to researchers from a broad range of academic disciplines as well as members of the general public. For more information on the event and to register, please see our events section.

We hope you can join us for the next one!


If you have any queries about the series, please contact us at dri@ria.ie

Further Resources 

Archaeological Consultancy Services Unit Ltd. 2021. "Living between the Lakes: The archaeology of the N55 Road (Corduff to South of Killydoon Section A, County Cavan)." Story Maps. February 23. Accessed 2021. https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/952efed749e1463e8476313c44225173.

Beranger, Gabriel, ca.1729-1817. (2019) Rambles thro' the County of Dublin and some others in Ireland, RIA MS 3 C 31, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor], Royal Irish Academy [Depositing Institution], https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.dj538q67j.

Beranger, Gabriel, ca.1729-1817. (2019) Rambles through the County of Dublin and some of the neighbouring ones, RIA MS 3 C 32, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor], Royal Irish Academy [Depositing Institution], https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.3n20hj111

Department of the Environment, Climate & Communications. Accessed 2021. https://dcenr.maps.arcgis.com/home/index.html.

Digital Repository of Ireland. (2018) DRI Event Videos, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor], Digital Repository of Ireland [Depositing Institution], https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.3485bx88b.

Digital Repository of Ireland. DRI Factsheet No 2: Copyright, Licensing and Open Access, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor], Digital Repository of Ireland [Depositing Institution], https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.rb699s72v

Digital Repository of Ireland. DRI Factsheet No 3: File formats, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor], Digital Repository of Ireland [Depositing Institution], https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.jw82mv08x.

Digital Repository of Ireland. DRI Factsheet No 7: Persistent Identifiers and DOIs, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor], Digital Repository of Ireland [Depositing Institution], https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.s752kt28n.

Digital Repository of Ireland. Using Digital Archives for Academic Research, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor], Digital Repository of Ireland [Depositing Institution], https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.9p29cz86d.

Digital Repository of Ireland. User Guides, https://guides.dri.ie/

Dublin Dashboard. Accessed 2021. https://www.dublindashboard.ie/.

Europeana. Accessed 2021. https://www.europeana.eu/en.

"European Project." Irish Historic Towns Atlas . Accessed 2021. https://www.ria.ie/research-projects/irish-historic-towns-atlas/european-project.

Excavations. Accessed 2021. https://excavations.ie/.

GeoHive. Accessed 2021. http://map.geohive.ie/mapviewer.html.

German Institute for Comparative Urban History. Accessed 2021. https://www.uni-muenster.de/Staedtegeschichte/en/portal/staedteatlanten/karte.html.

Hanley, Ken, and Ed Lyne. 2021. "Ambush at Cúil na Cathrach, West Cork, Ireland: A story of conflict and sacrifice in the Irish War of Independence, 25 February, 1921." Story Maps. Feb 17. Accessed 2021. https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/d7e5d00d05b842f58c87d176d5b9a192.

Heritage Maps. https://www.heritagemaps.ie/

Ireland’s Open Data Portal. Accessed 2021. https://data.gov.ie/.

Irish Historic Towns Atlas. Accessed 2021. www.ihta.ie .

Irish Historic Towns Atlas Digital . Accessed 2021. https://www.ria.ie/research-projects/irish-historic-towns-atlas/ihta-digital.

Irish Historic Towns Atlas Online. https://www.ria.ie/irish-historic-towns-atlas-online.

National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Accessed 2021. https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/.

National Monuments Service. Accessed 2021. https://www.archaeology.ie/archaeological-survey-ireland.

Prout, Antoinette. 2021. "Royal Irish Academy Blog." A colourful collaboration. November 18. Accessed 2021. https://www.ria.ie/news/library-library-blog/colourful-collaboration.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland. Accessed 2021. https://www.tii.ie/.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland. "The M6 A Route Through Time Audiobook." Abarta Heritage. Accessed 2021. https://www.abartaheritage.ie/m6-a-route-through-time-audiobook/.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland, National Roads Authority, & Railway Procurement Agency. (2017) TII Digital Heritage Collections, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor], Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) [Depositing Institution], https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.v6936m966.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland, National Roads Authority, & Railway Procurement Agency. (2018) 1. Archaeological Excavation Reports, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor], Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) [Depositing Institution], https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.v9807h80j-3.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland GIS Portal. Accessed 2021. https://tii-gis.maps.arcgis.com/home/index.html.

The Watercolour World. Accessed 2021. https://www.watercolourworld.org/.