TII Digital Heritage Collections Launch

On Monday 19 June 2017, Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in collaboration with the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) and the Discovery Programme, formally launched the TII Digital Heritage Collections in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.

The TII Digital Heritage Collections include more than 1,500 archaeological excavation reports, representing approximately 80% of all archaeological excavation reports commissioned by the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the Railway Procurement Agency during Ireland’s infrastructure building programme between 2001 and 2016. In addition, the collections include 90 papers from the NRA’s seminar proceedings, published between 2003 and 2009, as well as TII’s downloadable audio books and short videos.

The collections provide a fascinating opportunity to explore Ireland’s rich archaeological heritage from every time period and every region. These resources are now securely preserved for the long term and are accessible through the DRI. They will also be accessible from a variety of important national and international platforms, including Ireland’s Open Data PortalHeritageMaps.ie (an initiative of the Heritage Council), the ARIADNE portal (a European-wide Research Infrastructure for archaeology), as well as the Discovery Programme and TII websites. These multiple points of data discovery provide access to these rich collections to the general public and professionals alike.

Commenting on the launch, Rónán Swan, Head of Archaeology and Heritage at TII, said: “These collections represent the endeavour of many hundreds of archaeologists working in commercial archaeology, who painstakingly excavated these sites. The collections are a lasting testimony to their expertise and hard work, and that of the numerous TII project archaeologists that helped manage these investigations.” Referring to the collections as a “wealth of archaeological information”, Swan continued: “making this information accessible and available for the long term delivers on our long-standing objective to realise the full value of the work contained in these reports. TII is extremely proud of this achievement and relishes the prospect of present and future scholars and field archaeologists building on the legacy of this development-led research.”

Director of the DRI, Dr Natalie Harrower, said: “The publication of these rich collections is the result of a true collaboration between parties with complementary areas of expertise. The collections provide an amazing corpus for researchers and general interest browsing, but also, importantly, TII and the Discovery Programme were committed to ensuring long-term preservation, enhanced discovery, and widespread access from the very beginning. These are goals we hold in common, and it is a joy to partner with organisations who are committed to best practices in data preservation.”

Anthony Corns, Technology Manager at the Discovery Programme, pointed to the broader dimension of the project in an era of rapid change in digital data management: “The ‘digital dark ages’ has become the buzzword for an ever-changing, fragile and expanding digital universe. In this context it is important for cultural heritage stakeholders to recognise the urgent need to address the potential loss of valuable digital data on a large scale”, he said.

“The Discovery Programme was keen to support this significant project to preserve and catalogue digital archaeological data from TII and considers this achievement an important step not only in preserving information for future researchers but also opening up access of the data to wider audiences. Significantly, this means access for local communities across the country to information that relates deeply to their surrounding environment and heritage.”

The launch featured in an Irish Times news story, which commented on the collaborative nature of the project and the significance of many of the archaeological sites recorded.

Staff of TII, the DRI and the Discovery Programme at the launch of the TII Digital Heritage Collections in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.

Pictured at the launch of the TII Digital Heritage Collections: (front row, left to right) Clare Lanigan, DRI, Natalie Harrower, Director, DRI, Lillian Butler, TII, Rónán Swan, Head of Archaeology & Heritage, TII, and Evie Monaghan, Discovery Programme; (second row) Kevin Long, DRI, Pat Reid, Heritage Council, and Louise Kennedy, National Archives; (third row) Aileen O’Carroll, DRI, Stuart Kenny, DRI, Niall Hayden, TII, and Anthony Corns, Technology Manager, Discovery Programme; (back row) Michael Nolan, CEO, TII, Neil Jackman, Abarta Heritage, Beatrice Kelly, Head of Policy & Research, Heritage Council, and Michael Stanley, TII (Photo: John Ohle).