Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland

VRTI Team Members speak at UK Parliamentary Archives event

Two VRTI colleagues spoke in London on 1 September at an event jointly presented by the UK Parliamentary Archives and the Virtual Treasury. “Acts of Recovery: archival reconstruction in the digital age” marked the collaboration between the archive and the VRTI research programme. Deputy Director Dr Ciarán Wallace and Senior Researcher / Archival Discovery Lead Dr David Brown joined host Adrian Brown, Director of the UK Parliamentary Archives, and an invited audience in the Jubilee Room, off Westminster Hall.

Elizabeth Hallam Smith, Ciarán Wallace and David Brown in the Jubilee Room, Westminster. Photo credit: Parliamentary Archives UK

The papers focussed on the shared history of archival loss by fire and the efforts to recover from it. Ciarán Wallace spoke about the destruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland and the digital reconstruction process. David Brown explained how the VRTI created a unified transcript of the ‘Minutes of the Committee of the Lords and Commons for Irish Affairs, 1642-3’. Turning to that other archival disaster, the Great Fire of 1834, Dr Elizabeth Hallam Smith, Historical Research Consultant, Architecture and Heritage, UK Parliament, and an Honorary Research Professor at the University of York, presented a fascinating paper on ‘The UK Parliament and the Legacy of the 1834 Fire: Destruction, Survival and Recovering the Past’. Ciarán then presented a hardbound copy of the Committee for Irish Affairs transcript to the Parliamentary Archives on behalf of the Virtual Treasury.

Elizabeth Hallam Smith accepts a copy of the Committee for Irish Affairs transcript on behalf of the Parliamentary Archives. Photo credit: Dr Audrey Whitty, NLI

The east-west collaboration, and the shared experience of loss by fire, was best symbolised by the side-by-side display of two Parliamentary Archives documents. The first was an unpublished parliamentary report on the Irish Poor Law system  listing the names of the men and women who staffed Ireland’s workhouses during the peak of their occupancy in the decade after the Great Famine. Many original Poor Law Commissioner records perished in the Four Courts Fire in 1922, but the UK Parliamentary Archives has provided the VRTI with this unprinted return dated March 1855, which can be viewed here:

Photo credit: Parliamentary Archives UK

The second document was a damaged volume recording wages paid to male and female staff working in Westminster in 1833-4. This rare survivor was rescued from the flames during the Great Westminster Fire and carefully conserved by the Parliamentary Archives.

Main image credit: Flickr – Wally Gobetz, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Thursday, 7 September 2023, 3:47 PM

Jean-Philippe SanGiovanni