On 8 February 2018 a ground-breaking project to digitally recreate the building and contents of the Public Record Office of Ireland, destroyed by fire at Dublin’s Four Courts at the outset of the Irish Civil War, has been announced by Trinity College Dublin. The destruction of the Four Courts also saw hundreds of thousands of English government records concerning Ireland, dating back to the thirteenth century, were destroyed—seemingly forever. As well as documenting the growth of the state in Ireland across many centuries the archive’s collections touched on almost every aspect of life in Ireland. TCD has now unveiled plans to bring Ireland’s Public Record Office back to life by creating a 3D virtual reality reconstruction of the destroyed building, and refilling its shelves with fully-searchable surviving documents and copies of the lost records, which have been identified by the team in archives and libraries around the world.
The project team is working to recover the information contained in the destroyed archive by identifying and digitising surviving or substitute materials held by archives and libraries around the world. These materials include records that survived the blaze, records that were damaged but not completely destroyed, duplicates of original records now held in partner archives, as well as facsimile images, antiquarian transcripts and summaries of the records made before 1922.
Led by the School of Histories and Humanities and the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology in the School of Computer Science and Statistics, the project is a collaboration with Trinity’s four archival partners: The National Archives of Ireland, The National Archives (UK), The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and The Irish Manuscripts Commission. The project is funded by the Irish Research Council.