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New Collection: Erasmus Smith Schools Archive Primary School Plans

Watercolour picture of the front elevation of an Erasmus Smith School House in Ardee, Co Louth

The Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) is delighted to announce that the Erasmus Smith School Primary School Plans collection is now available through the Repository. This is the first collection in a series that Erasmus Smith Schools have digitally preserved and shared through DRI. The collection contains high resolution images of architectural plans of primary schools that were funded by the Erasmus Smith Schools educational charity, mainly from the early nineteenth century. There are 64 sets of plans that show a wide range of designs, which came through a variety of funding schemes.

On publication of the collection in DRI, Erasmus Smith School Trust archivist Alan Phelan said:

Our collections offer a unique snapshot of Irish education and land history from the Protestant perspective – Erasmus Smith Schools charity provided grants that aided the building of over 250 schools since the 1660s and so has many points of contact across a broad spectrum of the humanities. Access to this material has been up to now by appointment only or in response to specific queries, so these digital deposits at DRI will bring our holdings to a wider audience, research groups, and other academic exchange possibilities. To work on digitising key parts of our collections, the Archive hopes to enable sustainable long term digital storage, create excellent and controlled access points, and bring the collections into wider networks like Europeana which will generate new research possibilities.

DRI Director Natalie Harrower said: 

We are delighted to digitally preserve these highly colourised architectural plans in the Repository and open them to easier access. They are a wonderful addition to the architectural and design material that DRI holds. The collection provides an opportunity for researchers to learn a huge amount about Irish society and education in the nineteenth century and the collection is a rich resource for those interested in the architecture and social history of Ireland. We also look forward to seeing them added to Europeana where they can be explored alongside European School Plans from the nineteenth century and increase their exposure to researchers from all over Europe.

The ‘Erasmus Smith Schools Primary School Plans’ show how one educational organisation approached the task of providing buildings for the education of Irish children and it is an important chapter in Ireland’s wider social history. The collection joins a growing body of material in the Repository that looks at education and built heritage in nineteenth-century Ireland; for example, the nineteenth-century pamphlets on education in Ireland contained within the Oireachtas Library collection ‘Dublin Castle Tracts’ which can be explored in the Repository. The Repository also holds a large number of architectural plans and photographs. The addition of these nineteenth-century school plans by Erasmus Smith Schools Archive marks the further enrichment of the themes of education, built heritage, and social history within the Repository. You can now explore the Primary School Plans collection in the Repository.


Image: The image is of an Erasmus Smith school in Ardee, Co Louth and is a watercolour rendering of the front elevation of the building by the architect James Sheil. The school is one of the few still in operation, now an Educate Together primary school.