Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Danger of 'Irish history being lost' due to poor storage of archives

From the Sunday Tribune, July 4, 2010

by Jennifer Bray

National Archives: deteriorating storage conditions

Ireland's national archiv­es are in danger of being lost or destroyed amid
deteriorating storage conditions, according to senior management there.

David Craig, director of the National Archives in Dublin, said there was no
longer space to take in vital historical documents from government
departments and organisations.

Hundreds of boxes of nation­al documents remain sealed and stored on
palettes in the old Jacob's biscuit factory in Dublin which is unsuitable in
temperature and has begun to let in rainwater.

Government departments are now being instructed not to send their documents
in to the archives, despite a rule instructing they send them in each and
every year.

"There is actually legislation in relation to the national archives which
requires that we take in these documents every year and we are being forced
to break the legislation because there is just no suitable storage for them
anymore," said Craig.

Catriona Crowe, coordinator of the 1901-1911 Census Online, speaking in her
capacity as chairperson of the Archivists' Branch of Impact, said staffing
levels were also at a crisis point in the archives.

"This is making a terrible situation worse, as when staff leave or retire
they are not being replaced. It is a desperate state of affairs for the
country's future written history and there is a real danger now more than
ever that Irish history is being lost."

There is currently a lack of funding available to allow for expansion of the
site, a new site, or the proper facilities for storage to be installed, said
Crowe. She is now seeking to have a National Archives advisory council set
up and is looking to set up a meeting with culture minister Mary Hanafin to
attempt to resolve the funding issue.

Paul Gorry, one of Ireland's top genealogists, said al­though the genealogy
service is the most popular service in the archives, his work was being
hampered by the storage crisis.

"A lot of the stuff onsite here, various different genealogy documents, are
not accessible because of where they are all put out in the warehouse. We
don't have the staff either to do the cataloguing so it can be hard to even
source where materials may be.

"For example, the 1926 census is something which we just can't get access
to, it is just impossible. Even as a reader here the restrictions hamper
work and they are hampering research and obviously, in the long run,
effective collection of history itself."

Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell who is campaigning for the improvement of the
facility, said the situation was now at crisis point.

"You've got archives piling up on palettes in the middle of the factory and
the rain coming in on top of them. It is time the government addressed this

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