AKC News // Irish architectural archive goes online

Source: ENN - Electricnews.net
Wednesday, February 28 2007
by Ciara O'Brien

Ireland's inventory of historic buildings is being published online to create a new treasure trove for professional researchers and the wider public.

Content management firm TerminalFour has teamed up with the Department of the Environment's National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) to digitise government and local authority lists of significant buildings and gardens, map their locations, and publish the data online.

The internet database, called Buildings of Ireland, catalogues noted structures and gardens around Ireland, expands on various features of interest, and gives a history of each site. It includes everything from castles and cathedrals, to thatched houses and even boat sheds. The archive also lists important public buildings such as hospitals, as well as noteworthy gardens and other private buildings with recorded architectural features.

The database throws open the national records which were previously only accessible to government employees. These archives include photographic records of heritage sites such as Kilkenny Castle and the Botanic Gardens in Dublin.

TerminalFour provided the content management system for significant structures, both large and small, throughout the country.

Currently, the project is ongoing -- only 16 counties have been indexed, although there are plans to have the remaining ten of the 26 counties in the Republic indexed within five-to-ten years.

"To index a whole county takes a number of years," said Piero Tintori, managing director of TerminalFour. Speaking with ENN, Tintori said parts of Dublin are still being indexed, and will take some time. Each of the featured items on the site needs to be photographed and pinpointed on a map before being uploaded on to the website.

"It's amazing to put in your details and see what you can find," said Tintori. "What we're finding is, even though the site is not aimed at tourists, there is quite a lot of international traffic."

This may be down to overseas visitors researching their heritage on the site, or even potential visitors to Ireland reading up on local culture and heritage before booking their visits.

The site claims a wide audience range, including professionals such as archaeologists and council staff who may use the site when investigating planning decisions, as well as the general public.

"There are two real benefits of this project from the taxpayer's point of view. All this information was held internally in the Department [of the Environment]," said Tintori. "We are getting information that would be hidden in filing cabinets and servers out to the public."

A project of this scale is also costly to publish. According to Tintori, the county indexes were originally published on CD ROM, on a county-by-county basis. However, Tintori said this approach incurred considerable costs. With the new website, the database can be reached by a wider audience, regardless of their location, for what Tintori described as a much lower cost burden on the Department of the Environment.

"This is an important step for the NIAH to achieve its goal of becoming an archive without walls. Our new strategic plans emphasise the importance of providing records anytime, anywhere," said Willie Cumming, senior architect at the NIAH. "For the first time, the public will be able to view this remarkable collection of the buildings and gardens of Ireland on the internet."

Under the Planning & Development Act 2000, planning authorities are required to maintain a Record of Protected Structures (RPS), and it is hoped the new online database should go toward satisfying this obligation.

Date : 01-03-2007