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Archives in Crisis: A Symposium Debates the Future of Archives in Irish Society

News feed for Trinity College Dublin.

Apr 13, 2010

Over 200 archivists, historians, librarians, genealogists and members of the general public attended 'Archives in Crisis', a symposium hosted by the Medieval History Research Centre in Trinity College Dublin to debate the future of archives in Irish society on April 10th last. The event was prompted by the proposed amalgamation of the National Archives of Ireland with the National Library, and the news in January 2010 that state papers due to be released under the 30-year rule cannot be processed owing to lack of resources in the National Archives.

Proceedings opened with three short presentations. The first speaker was Catriona Crowe, a Senior Archivist in the National Archives speaking in her capacity as Chairperson of the Archivist's branch of IMPACT who expressed concern over the proposal of the merger between the National Archives and the National Library.  Ms Crowe also observed that the National Archives was critically under-resourced in terms of space and personnel and that only  a small selection of papers from high-profile government departments was accessioned each year.

Fintan O'Toole, journalist and assistant editor of the Irish Times,  spoke about the fundamental importance of archives in a democratic society. In addition to the crisis facing the records of the state, Mr O’Toole highlighted the plight of the archives of the country's mental hospitals, such as Grangegorman, whose unbroken records dating back to the early 19th century offer a unique view of Ireland's "culture of incarceration". The institutions that generated these precious documents are now being closed down, but there is no statutory protection for their archives.

The third panel speaker, Eunan O'Halpin, Professor of Contemporary Irish History in Trinity College, addressed the archival crisis from the perspective of a professional historian and called on both the National Library and National Archives to put forward their own strategies offering "a credible alternative set of practical propositions".

These presentations were followed by an hour-long open forum moderated by Diarmaid Ferriter, Professor of Modern Irish History in University College Dublin.

The meeting concluded with a proposal by Professor Diarmaid Ferriter for the formation of a new committee to provide advocacy for Irish archives.

The symposium was organised in association with the IRCHSS-funded Irish Chancery Project, supported by the Trinity Long Room Hub.




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| | Last updated: April 13, 2010