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Monday 25 September 2023 Dublin: 18°C
SON Photographic The Beyond 2022 research project re-creates, through virtual reality, the archival collections that were lost in the Dublin Four Courts blaze nearly a century ago.
# Civil War
Tributes to Professor Séamus Lawless, who died on Mt Everest, as project to restore Four Courts documents launched
Historical records destroyed by fire at Dublin’s Four Courts at the beginning of the Irish Civil War have been restored digitally.

WARM TRIBUTES WERE paid to the late Professor Séamus Lawless, who died while climbing Mount Everest, at the launch of a digital restoration project of the historical records destroyed by fire at Dublin’s Four Courts at the beginning of the Irish Civil War.

Lawless was one of the experts involved in the digitisation project. 

His wife Pamela, his daughter Emma and his newborn son, as well as the extended family, were all in attendance at the event today. 

The Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury research project re-creates, through virtual reality, the archival collections that were lost in the blaze nearly a century ago. 

The new digital archive comprises of records of seven centuries of Irish history, genealogy and administration that were held in the old Public Record Office of Ireland.

On 30 June 1922, the bombing of the Four Courts destroyed thousands of historical documents, including a lot of the census records. 

‘His academic legacy’

The Irish Research Council led by historian, Dr Peter Crooks, and computer scientist, the late Dr Séamus Lawless of ADAPT, the SFI-funded Research Centre, identified over 200 volumes of transcripts suitable for enhanced digitisation.

39297146_1558118178234181_r-3-390x285 GoFundme Dr Séamus Lawless was one of the experts who helped identify over 200 volumes of transcripts suitable for enhanced digitisation for the project. GoFundme

Paying tribute to his colleague, Crooks said the Beyond 2022 project is Lawless’ “academic legacy”. 

Many of these documents, that were once held in the Four Courts had copies, which were now scattered between archives in the United States, the United Kingdom and archives on the island of Ireland. 

These handwritten records contain more than 25 million words from documents destroyed in 1922.

Speaking at the event in Dublin Castle today, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the project will create a virtual record treasury and reunite for the first time in a century, thousands of stories of life, law, land and loss in Ireland’s history.

Beyond2024 SON Photographic Zoe Reid, Senior Conservator at the National Archives of Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan and Dr Patrick Prendergast, TCD Provost. SON Photographic

The primary outcome of the next phase of the project is to have a fully immersive, three-dimensional, virtual reality model of the digitally reconstructed Public Record Office of Ireland, This will be launched in June 2022 to mark the centenary of the fire. 

It will be an interactive tool used for engagement and research, whereby visitors will be able to browse the virtual shelves and look at the salvaged records held by archives and libraries around the world. 

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan said the breadth of the material that will be digitised over the course of this project “is truly astounding”. 

“Anyone with an interest in history, on the island of Ireland and around the globe, will be able to engage with the past in a completely new and exciting way that is personal and meaningful.”

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