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Launch of DRI Community Archive Scheme and DRI Early Career Research Award #DRI10

The Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) was formed ten years ago in September 2011. It was originally funded through a PRTLI (Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions) Cycle 5 funding grant. In this phase (2011-2015), DRI was built by a research consortium of six academic partners. It was officially launched in June 2015 and continues to be managed by three core academic institutions – Royal Irish Academy, Trinity College Dublin, and Maynooth University. To mark our ten-year anniversary, DRI staff members are writing a blog a week focusing on different DRI milestones achieved over the past ten years. This is the eighth blog in the #DRI10 celebratory blog series.

In the eighth blog in the #DRI10 series, Áine Madden and Deborah Thorpe reflect on the launch of the DRI Community Archive Scheme and the DRI Early Career Research Award.

DRI Community Archive Scheme

Although DRI operates on a paid Membership Model, we wanted to make sure that long-term preservation of digital materials was open to a wide range of organisations, including those operating on a non-funded, voluntary basis. We, therefore, launched the DRI Community Archive Scheme four years ago to provide free DRI membership and digital preservation training and support to low or no-income organisations and community groups. Without the voluntary labour of community archivists, much of our shared cultural heritage would be undocumented, so it is important that, as a national repository for Ireland’s social and cultural data, we support community-based collection work by widening access to digital preservation.

We were delighted to award the inaugural 2019 DRI Community Archive Scheme award to the Cork LGBT Archive, founded by Orla Egan, which aims to preserve and share information about the rich history of Cork's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. The Cork LGBT collection has been preserved for long-term access in the Repository and has also been aggregated to the Europeana hosting platform through DRI where it can be accessed and enjoyed by a wide European audience. Commenting on the importance of digitally preserving cultural and sharing heritage data, Orla noted that:

It is really important for communities, like the Cork LGBT community, to have a sense of our history and of how social change happens. And this in turn helps to create a more inclusive and nuanced version of Irish history. Digitisation provides a tool to enable both the preservation and sharing of our history. [1]

We at DRI are proud to be able to provide sustained access to a collection that gives visibility to an important aspect of Ireland’s hidden heritage and community activism. The Cork LGBT Archive can be explored here: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.2j635q62d

Image: Patrick Egan, Orla Egan, and Mira Dean, Cork LGBT Archive

Since its initial launch, the annual DRI Community Archive Scheme has continued to offer support to a range of community groups and organisations reflecting the diversity of Ireland’s digital cultural heritage. Previous winners include the Asylum Archive; Cork Community Media Hub; the Elephant Collective; Dublin Ghost Signs; and Dublin-based Community Films by Joe Lee. The 2022 DRI Community Archive Scheme is open to applications until 29 Oct 2021, and we look forward to supporting further community-based archives through this Scheme.

Building on the success of the Community Archive Scheme, DRI has been working to expand support for community archives through outreach activities such as the October 2020 webinar ‘Archival Activism: Community-Centred Approaches to Archives’, hosted in collaboration with National Archives, Ireland. This event opened up an important conversation about how national memory institutions can offer their digital preservation skills and profession-based knowledge to support community-based archival initiatives and form equitable partnerships. In Sept 2021, we partnered with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) for ‘Engaging Communities with Archives: Video as a Tool for Activism, Advocacy, and Archival work’. This webinar aimed to continue the conversation opened at last year’s ‘Archival Activism’ event about how organisations can collaborate with care with community groups to empower people with the knowledge and skills to create and preserve their own stories. These knowledge-exchange events have allowed the DRI to ensure that its approach to the ethical collection and preservation of community archives is informed by the perspectives, experiences, and expertise of a range of individuals and groups, including community archivists, activists, professional archivists and librarians, and academic researchers. On a personal level, being involved in the organisation of these outreach events has provided a valuable opportunity for research and reflection on the potential for community-based archival practices to democratise and open up access to digital cultural memory. I look forward to seeing how DRI will build upon its work in supporting the self-curated archival practices developed by community archivists in the future. 

Áine Madden

DRI Early Career Research Award
 

DRI’s Early Career Research Award was launched in 2019. The Award grants a prize for an original piece of research by an early career scholar that is informed by objects or collections on our Repository. The Award was devised in order to address two of DRI’s priorities. Firstly, we wanted to help to support the careers and professional development needs of early career researchers in the humanities and social sciences, who are often on short-term, precarious contracts. The award does this by presenting researchers with a bursary of €500, along with an award that has been assessed by a panel that includes representatives from the DRI as well as an external assessor. We also publish the winner’s work, both on our website and on the Repository for preservation and sustained access, and promote it via our communications channels. Secondly, we aimed to stimulate and develop engagement with, and reuse of, DRI members’ collections in academic publications. We wanted to make researchers aware of the breadth and depth of digital collections that are available to research and re-use – and so this award both raises the profile of such collections on DRI, and offers recognition for academics who incorporate them into their research.

I remember the day that Jennifer McCarthy was presented with the award for 2019 because we had arrived at the Royal Irish Academy amidst a deluge of torrential rain. Jennifer was handed her award by DRI’s Director Dr Natalie Harrower in front of the crowd assembled for a public lecture on ‘Personal Digital Archiving’. The prize was given for her work on the reinterpretation of a Middle to Late Bronze Age settlement site uncovered during site investigation works prior to the construction of the Youghal Bypass, Co. Cork in the early 2000s. Jennifer used the archaeological excavation reports from the Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) Digital Heritage Collections to inform her award-winning research. The piece of writing that won the Award for Jennifer, entitled, ‘The importance of digital dissemination: an archaeological case study’, has been published in the Repository here: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.jh34hf28d. In the concluding paragraph, Jennifer emphasises the importance of digital resources in research like hers: ‘dissemination of final excavation reports is critical to the discipline, enabling researchers to continually develop and explore new possibilities'.

 

Image: Winner of the DRI Early Career Research Award 2019, Jennifer McCarthy, with DRI Director Natalie Harrower 

The award-giving process was very different for our 2020 winner, Dr Siobhán Doyle. Siobhán was selected for her research on how representations of heroic death and martyrdom emerge in exhibitions commemorating the 1916 Rising at the National Museum of Ireland, National Gallery of Ireland (Dublin) and the Ulster Museum (Belfast) in 2016. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no in-person celebrations were possible. However, we were thrilled to be able to preserve her award-winning submission, 'Historical Narratives on Display: The Bullet in the Brick, National Museum of Ireland', for long-term access in the Repository here: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.vt15d640k. This research draws on 'The Inspiring Ireland Project' visual collections on the DRI. Published during the pandemic, when access to bricks-and-mortar archives was not possible, this work is an important testament to the usefulness and importance of digital resources such as those preserved and promoted on DRI to academic research.

Deborah Thorpe


It has been wonderful to reflect, for this blog post, on how we have worked with both community archivists and early career researchers over the past few years in our mission to preserve, curate, and disseminate Ireland’s humanities, social sciences, and cultural heritage data. Over this time, we have encountered, supported, and raised the profile of a brilliant range of people, organisations, collections, and digital objects. We really look forward to building upon, and expanding, this important work in the future. 

By

Áine Madden, Communications and Engagement Coordinator

Deborah Thorpe, Education and Outreach Manager


Notes

[1] Egan, Orla. 2021. "‘Archives of Our Own’: Hidden Heritage and the Cork LGBT Archive." Digital Repository of Ireland. August 18. Accessed October 19, 2021. https://dri.ie/hidden-heritage-and-cork-lgbt-archive.