There and Back Again with 2022: bringing Dublin's lost records back from Westminster

Speakers: Elizabeth Biggs (Durham University) @ElizabethCBiggs
Paul Dryburgh (The National Archives) @pablodiablo74
Lynn Killgallon (Trinity College, Dublin)

The restrictions placed on access to archives and manuscripts during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic have brought the transformative potential of the digital into sharper focus. But where a national archive has been almost entirely destroyed that potential is magnified. On 30 June 1922 a cataclysmic fire destroyed the Public Record Office of Ireland [PROI]. The ashes of more than seven centuries of records were scattered across the city, leaving the nascent Irish state stripped of much of its archival heritage. Of the enormous riches produced by the administration of the English lordship of Ireland only a handful of original records survive. And yet, all is not lost. Funded by the Government of Ireland, Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury is a multi-disciplinary project based at Trinity College Dublin. It aims to reconstruct the PROI and its lost collections. By digitally uniting surviving originals, transcripts, inventories and indexes, the records will be restored to their shelves in a virtual reconstruction of the building. While many reconstructions can only be at fonds level, several “Gold Seams”, which aim to reconstruct lost sources even to item level, are being developed. One such “seam” deals with the financial administration of the English lordship of medieval Ireland. This presentation will introduce the Medieval Exchequer Gold Seam and some of the tools and methods used in our reconstruction of a lost archive that will become an indispensable resource for all audiences. Corruption in financial administration in the 1270s induced the English crown to develop a process of audit to check the records of successive treasurers of Ireland; this created a shadow archive of copies in Westminster, which we can use to illuminate the dark archive in Dublin. The principal output will be a dynamic edition of those hundreds of surviving copies of Irish Exchequer accounts sent to Westminster, digitised by The National Archives (UK) and made available via IIIF. The edition will use TEI methodologies and will work with Handwritten Text Recognition software (Transkribus) to rapidly incorporate nineteenth-century copies of related material. A secondary focus is to harness semantic web and link data across these vast datasets through knowledge graph technologies. This is a method by which entities appearing in records (persons, places, subjects, dates) are not only encoded, but relationships between them are identified and made fully searchable. Rather than looking at each individual reconstructed item by itself, Beyond 2022’s Knowledge Graph uses the potential of sophisticated searching to link connected materials across the archive. Finally, we will think about the medieval Exchequer and its processes and start to ask and answer new questions about English presence in Ireland, its impact and changing reach. We can start to tell the stories of those who lived under that government in new ways. The items destroyed in 1922 cannot themselves be recovered, but we can create a surrogate, virtual archive using large-scale collaboration, digital tools and understanding the processes that created both the lost archive and its shadow in a manner that will have broader applicability. The Medieval Exchequer Gold Seam researchers, Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury, Trinity College Dublin: Dr Elizabeth Biggs, Dr Paul Dryburgh, and Dr Lynn Kilgallon. Elizabeth Biggs (University of Durham), Paul Dryburgh (The National Archives), Lynn Killgallon (TCD) @pablodiablo74, @ElizabethCBiggs

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