The rabbit-holes outnumber the rabbits

The hundredth anniversary of our destruction of the File Treasury of the Public File Workplace of Eire fell final week and the mud has now settled on the launch of  www.virtualtreasury.ie, our response to that disaster. For the previous few years, the undertaking was trailed (“beyond2022.ie“) as a reconstruction of the collections burnt in 1922. The PR-fueled headlines on Irish media had been that “know-how” (no matter that’s) was going to revive all the things misplaced a century in the past: simply don your immersive headset and swim off via the 1821 census, mar dhea. Anybody with a titter of wit (a bunch that apparently doesn’t embrace many Irish information editors) may see this was pure smoke-blowing.

The unique Treasury
The VR model

So now that it’s reside, what’s the decision? On the Digital Actuality aspect, the very first thing to be stated is that the reconstruction of the Treasury building is great. To have the ability to wander via the magnificent galleries and empty areas that held all these data is awe-inspiring and never somewhat unhappy. The second factor is that the “Treasury View”, a VR doll’s-house view of the record-bays contained in the constructing earlier than 1922, is simply foolish.  That is the a part of the positioning closest to that blown PR smoke. For anybody making an attempt to entry data it’s ineffective,  a web-based exhibition possibly, definitely not a restoration or reconstruction.

Vacant Treasury Bay

The actual meat is buried away within the emphatically non-VR Browse section. Not “Browse All”, which is a dutiful and spectacular itemizing of accomplice establishments and their data, the opposite one, “Browse PROI Catalogue”. This makes it clear that the center of the undertaking is to take Herbert Wooden’s huge 1919 printed itemizing of PROI holdings (helpfully included on the backside of the web page) and use it as an unlimited collection of pigeonholes for substitutes, copies and abstracts of these destroyed holdings. The sheer ambition required even to aim that is simply jaw-dropping. Hats off: there are a number of lifetimes’ work right here.

This method creates its personal issues, although. The primary one is the massive warren of classes inside classes, a big majority of which in the end result in a bald “Destroyed”.  The rabbit-holes vastly outnumber the rabbits. One other is that Wooden’s file hierarchy is deeply unintuitive for researchers a century later. “Extinct Jurisdictions” will get a top-level itemizing, whereas the enormous Nineteenth-century census holdings are stuffed away down in sub-section 9 of “Miscellaneous paperwork”. The priorities of Edwardian gents record-keepers are emphatically not ours.

Nonetheless, there are gems in all places: Digital copies of the National Archives of Ireland’s Church of Ireland registers (a few of them, not less than);  The perfect account I’ve learn of the 1766 census, with surviving transcripts all in the one place; links to the details of individual tenants underneath the Land Acts;  A transcript of the 1831 census for Inishtioge in Kilkenny; The minute ebook of the Corporation of Brewers and Maltsters of Dublin; Herbert Wooden’s great  account of Certain Registers of Irregular Marriages Celebrated by Unlicensed Clergymen, Known as Couple-Beggars.

However making an attempt to get on the gems will be excruciating. Rather less software program engineering and somewhat extra give attention to the analysis expertise would assist. By which I imply a easy, regularly-updated plain textual content itemizing of all of the transcripts and pictures on the positioning. Please?

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