Beyond 2022 Creates a Virtual Record of Ireland

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Beyond 2022 is an all-island and international collaborative research project working to create a virtual reconstruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland, which was destroyed in the opening engagement of the Civil War on June 30th, 1922. The ‘Record Treasury’ at the Public Record Office of Ireland stored seven centuries of Irish records dating back to the Normans. 

Together with their 5 Core Archival Partners and over 40 other Participating Institutions in Ireland, Britain, and the USA, Beyond 2022 is working to recover what was lost in that terrible fire one hundred years ago. On the centenary of the Four Courts blaze at the end of June 2022, they will launch the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland online. 

Many millions of words from destroyed documents will be linked and reassembled from copies, transcripts and other records scattered among the collections of their archival partners. Beyond 2022 will bring together this rich array of replacement items within and immersive 3-D reconstruction of the destroyed building. 

The Guardian provided some background that led to the Beyond 2022 project. According to The Guardian, in June 1922, the opening battle of Ireland’s civil war destroyed one of Europe’s great archives in a historic calamity that reduced seven centuries of documents and manuscripts to ash and dust. 

Once the envy of scholars around the world, the Public Record Office at the Four Courts in Dublin, was a repository of documents dating from medieval times, and packed into a six-story building by the River Liffey. It was obliterated when troops of the fledgling Irish state bombarded former comrades who were hunkered down at the site as part of a rebellion by hardline republicans against peace with Britain.

The Beyond 2022 project was able to recover hundreds of thousands of items. Retrieved material includes details about the Cromwellian land redistributions the shaped modern Ireland.  

According to The Guardian, the project mixed old-fashioned academic sleuthing, artificial intelligence and collaboration with dozens of archives in the UK, continental Europe, the US and Australia. The results are an immersive 3D reconstruction of the destroyed building and a vast digital archives. It will be an open-access free resource with a searchable website. The 3D reconstruction gives viewers a detailed, and eerie, tour of the Public Record Office as it looked before the fire.

Beyond 2022 was funded by Ireland’s department of culture, and spearheaded by Peter Crooks (director of Beyond 2022), and his colleague at Trinity College Dublin’s history department Ciarán Wallace. The project used AI handwriting transcription, and included material uncovered in the national archives of Ireland and the UK, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, the Irish Manuscripts Commission and dozens more institutions. 

Beyond 2022 described the impact of this project:

3-D Immersive experience providing Next Generation Access to the Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality model of the Public Record Office of Ireland and replacement collections

Inventory loss and survival from the 1922 fire

Digitized image collections from the archives of Core Partners and Participating Institutions, including conserved and listed selections from the National Archives of Ireland’s “1922 Salved Records’

Searchable content across manuscript and text records of 50+ million words documenting seven centuries of Irish History.

Knowledge Base for Irish History enabling the seamless linking across multiple collections both within and beyond the Virtual Record Treasury.

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