Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland
research-strands-iconResearch Strand

Retracing Archival Footsteps

A Century of Recovery and Discovery

A century ago, the Public Record Office of Ireland faced the enormous challenge of recovering from the devastating loss of its entire collection. Research in this strand will track this remarkable phase in the PROI’s history after the fire and retrace the archival footsteps from a century ago towards recovery.

In the decade after 1922, the PROI received many donations of transcriptions, genealogical notes, certified copies and duplicates of materials destroyed in 1922. Herbert Wood — the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records who wrote the famous Guide of 1919 — was active in his retirement, advising former colleagues in Ireland on manuscripts in British libraries and in private hands. Meanwhile, D. A. Chart, the first Deputy Keeper of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland established in 1923/4, used his deep knowledge of the records lost in 1922 to develop the collections in PRONI. 

Archival Discovery has been a major success of our research to date. The sheer scale of what has survived in many locations around the world — despite the worst the centuries could throw at these records — is remarkable. Building on this, our research in this strand will enable a deeper interrogation of the major collections identified to date, deepening collaboration between our partners.

In support of these aims, the VRTI has established a new Library Network comprising six leading libraries across Britain and Ireland (Library of Trinity College Dublin, Royal Irish Academy Library, National Library Ireland, British Library, Bodleian Libraries Oxford, Cambridge University Library). These institutions will support research into the collections and provenance of materials that were, and are, being used to supplement the losses sustained by the PROI. The Network will also support the innovative use of technology to share and investigate manuscript materials across multiple locations.

This strand will also continue our support for the conservation of the 1922 Salved Records, those rare survivors retrieved from the rubble of the Record Treasury. Applying new conservation techniques, and imaging technology first developed for medical use, we will make parchment damaged by time, damp and indifferent storage available to new generations in new ways. These exciting techniques will allow unreadable documents to be read, damaged documents to be repaired, and new scientific collaborations to be formed.

Stories from this Research Strand