Clare County Library’s entire archival collection dating back to the early 18th century is to be digitized and made publicly available online.
The finished project will feature a searchable database of previously unseen historical collections profiling Ireland’s turbulent history from the pre-famine settlements and granting of lands in County Clare, the famine and its evictions, the economic depression in the late 19th century and the ‘land war’ agitation.
Amongst the collections being digitized are the Roger Casement papers (1913-1916), The Sampson Collection (1790-1961) and the Registers of Electors from 1858.
The Clare Heritage Forum, in collaboration with Clare County Archives, has been successful in securing a grant from the LEADER fund through Clare Local Development Company to undertake the two-year digitization project. Additional project funding was secured from family history website findmypast.ie.
According to Rene Franklin, Clare County Archivist: “This massive digitization project to be undertaken by the County Archives service over the next two years will unlock the riches of our archival collections by making them available online to users throughout Ireland and around the world. The larger collections hold immense potential for researchers, historians and genealogists alike and display in-depth and as yet unseen information.”
Ms. Franklin said the securing of grant aid has allowed for the procurement of specialized scanning equipment valued at just under €60,000, allowing for the digitization of the Archival Collection held in Clare County Archives.
She continued: “Through the digitization process we will be making these pages fully searchable and will transform the research process which previously relied upon gleaning through pages upon pages of archival material. The project will consist of scanning the archival material, using OCR software for word recognition, adding metadata, and creating an online search engine.
“This digitization process will also ensure the preservation of County Clare’s unique archival collection while providing improved access to content demanded by users in the digital age. An online search engine is currently under construction. We wish to ensure the most effective facilitation of access to data contained within the digitized material,” Ms. Franklin added.
The collections in the Archives to be digitized include the Grand Jury Records and Presentment Books (1732-1882), which feature lists of judges, sheriffs, Grand Jury members and representations from ratepayers in the assizes that were held annually in the spring and summer seasons.
Also being digitized is the Board of Guardian Records from the Poor Law Unions of Ennis, Corofin, Ennistymon, Kilrush and Scariff ranging from 1839-1924; Clare County Council Minute Books dating back to the first experiences of Local Democracy in Ireland in 1899 and featuring witness accounts of the Civil War, the foundation of the State up to the present day political and administrative struggles; Rates and Valuation Books which hold a description of tenement and occupiers for certain location in Clare from 1878-1926; Registers of Electors from 1858, and collections of maps, architectural plans and drawings from the 18th century onwards.
Other private collections such as the Mac Mahon Collection (1712-1969), Roger Casement papers (1913-1916), the Inchiquin Estate Papers (1840-1954), The Sampson Collection (1790-1961) and The Griffith Papers (1878-1909) will be digitised.
Commenting on the project, Brian Donovan, Director of findmypast.ie: “These are wonderful records of great importance for people tracing their family history in Clare - we are delighted to be able to help put these records available online.”
The digitised archival material will be made available through the Clare County Archive’s webpage, findmypast.ie and Europeana, Europe's digital library, archive and museum www.europeana.eu.