by Maria Ryan, Web Archivist.

This week marks six years since the National Library of Ireland (NLI) began collecting and archiving websites. It is also six years since the 2011 General Election and furthermore, a year has passed since the 2016 General Election. Given our longstanding tradition of collecting political material, it was natural that the NLI would begin to collect online election material.

The NLI’s collections are full of wonderful election ephemera. This includes election posters, pamphlets and leaflets, all of which are still being collected to this day. For example, take a look at this notice of results of a County Tipperary election from 1830.

The library is also home to the personal papers of many leading Irish political figures. These fascinating collections include those of Daniel O’ Connell, Erskine Childers and Douglas Hyde, to name but a few.  These papers are available for consultation in the Special Collections reading room in 2-3 Kildare Street and offer invaluable insight into the lives of some of Ireland’s leading politicians.

Erskine Childers


Douglas Hyde

In 2011, we embarked on our first thematic web archive collection which collected the online representation of GE2011. The election was scheduled for Friday the 25th of February and in total one hundred websites were selected for inclusion in the collection. These sites were crawled both before and after the election and included cross party, nationwide candidates’ websites. Party websites along with commentary websites and blogs were also included. A more detailed breakdown of how the various candidate websites/social media accounts were selected for inclusion in both General Election web archive collections can be found here. Websites like the official government news site were also archived.

Here’s a breakdown of the type of websites that were collected.

Last year, with the aim of recording GE2016, we embarked on our largest election collection to date. Like GE2011, this collection includes cross party, nationwide candidates websites which were collected on dates before and after the election. Twitter accounts were also captured which reflects the growing part social media plays in Irish elections. The Twitter accounts of the ten candidates for GE2016 which had the greatest number of followers were also selected for archiving.

Here’s a breakdown of the sites collected.

With both GE11 and GE16, we contacted a number of academics with a known interest in this area, with a view to obtaining recommendations of websites to archive and we were thrilled with the level of response.

Follow the link to read more about these individual collections.

The political collection included in the web archive allows researchers to analyse the online representation of Irish elections since 2011. Every election and referendum held in Ireland since 2011 has been archived and is available for researchers to use, free of charge, anywhere in the world. In addition, the NLI collects continuously on ongoing political events that relate to Ireland such as Brexit. The NLI collected a number of sites relating to Brexit last year and will do so again this year.

The nature of political websites and social media accounts mean that they are at high risk of loss and deletion. The NLI’s web archive protects and preserves this vital data for future generations of researchers.  Follow the link for more information on the web archive and to access our collections.

Above website from 2011 and below from 2016.




by Maria Ryan (2016 Web Archivist)

Since our last blog, we have successfully completed four major crawls for our project “Remembering 1916, Recording 2016”. That’s almost 280 more websites for our 2016 web archive.  In our last blog, I said I would take you through how we archive the web, our main processes and how we present our archived websites to our users.

There are four main stages in the web archiving process. First up is the selection process. The National Library undertakes thematic crawls, which is to say we crawl websites according to certain subjects or topics of relevance to our collection development policy. This year, as you know from our previous blog, we are capturing and preserving Irish websites and websites of Irish interest on the 100th anniversary of 1916 and the key events of that year, in particular the 1916 Rising and the Battle of the Somme. We choose websites that reflect Ireland in 2016 and that will tell the story of this year to future generations. This year, we looked firstly to the official commemoration programme, identifying the key events and who was involved. Some examples of these websites include government departments, local history groups, cultural institutions and events organised by the Irish diaspora. In addition to those websites we identified we also collaborated with over 70 experts. These included local historians, relatives of those involved in the Easter Rising and also professionals from libraries, archives, museums and galleries. We also engaged with all levels of the education sector from primary to post-primary and third level. We received significant input from historians and also experts from other fields including political studies, music, the Irish language, English, drama and theatre studies and digital humanities. We received over 130 suggestions in total and these helped us build an inclusive and wide ranging web archive. Later in the year, we will be asking your opinion on what websites you feel reflected this centenary year.


We were delighted to archive the ICA‘s website. For this centenary year, they organised a  special commemorative event that was held in March. The National Library of Ireland also holds their archive; it is wonderful to bring the physical and the digital together.

The next step is to seek permission from the website owner, outlining our project and what we hope to achieve. We have received an overwhelmingly positive response this year. Many of those who we contacted recognised the need for such an archive in Ireland and were thrilled to have their work captured and preserved in the National Library of Ireland for many generations to come.


1916 Sackville Street is an inspiring project that we are thrilled to have in our web archive.  It remembers and reflects on the many civilians who lost their lives during Easter Week.

Our technical partners, the Internet Memory Foundation carry out the web crawls on our behalf. We schedule a time and date for crawling with them and provide them with the list of websites we wish to archive. Once the crawl is carried out, they assess the archived version of the website from the point of view of quality assurance. We also participate in quality assurance, checking how the archived copy of the site looks and feels. A copy never behaves exactly like the live version, but we aim to get as close as possible. We receive regular copies of our archived data from IMF to ensure the digital preservation of these websites.


Search our A-Z list of websites we have archived to date.

Finally and most importantly, we provide online access to the web archive. The wonderful thing about the web archive is that it is freely available to anyone, anywhere in the world. It is important to us in the National Library of Ireland to make available to our users as much as we can for those who cannot visit us in person. You can search our online catalogue, or browse our A-Z list of websites captured and find out more about our different collections in our web archive.   We want everyone to use and enjoy our web archive, whether you are studying history, politics, are a teacher or a lecturer, or you just fancy a snoop through the websites of yesterday.  Websites collected and archived this year will be going live throughout the year; you can keep up to date with our web archiving activities on Twitter and Facebook. You can also join us in person in the National Library, as part of our Heritage Week programme, on August 23rd when we discuss web archiving in more detail. For more details, please visit our website.

Maria Ryan

2016 Web Archivist

Digital Collections



by Daniel Casey (National Photographic Archive / Dublin Institute of Technology Archival Internship 2014)

I completed an internship as part of the annual collaborative partnership between the National Photographic Archive (NPA) and the DIT School of Photography from September to December 2014.  The internship provided me with a fantastic opportunity to have practical experience of working with a previously uncatalogued photographic collection, following on from a solid introduction to theories about the Archive in my second year of the BA Photography programme.

From the large quantities of uncatalogued material in the NPA one box was selected for me to work on. The box contained 74 postcards known as the Lawrence Postcard Roche Collection. Elizabeth Kirwan, Curator at the NPA and Keith Murphy, Reading Room Manager, who were invaluable throughout the internship, provided as much background information as they had. The 74 postcards were removed from a larger collection of postcards named the Roche collection. The postcards selected were Lawrence postcards, which we know as there is an imprint of Lawrence Publisher, Dublin printed on the left side as in Figure 1.


Figure 1 Antrim Castle, Antrim

The extraction of the selected postcards over other items in the Roche Collection was simply due to the interest in material relating to the Lawrence Collection.  The Lawrence Collection is particularly important to the NPA.  Its holdings of 40,000 glass plates were bought by the National Library of Ireland in 1943 and a significant number of printing blocks and albums were acquired later.

For any collection, it is important to know its provenance. An examination of the Roche Postcard collection turned up an acquisition note for the postcards, stating that half the collection was presented by a Mr. P. Flood and the other half by a Mr. F E Dixon on the 22 April 1980. Information on Mr. P. Flood proved elusive but Mr. F. E. Dixon was a president of the Old Dublin Society and entries relating to him were found in the Dublin Historical Records. He is mentioned by Frank Staff (Staff, 1966) and Kieran Hickey (Hickey, 1973) as being helpful to their research, and the items he donated to Dublin City Libraries can be found in a collection known as the Dixon slides.

The Roche element of the collection name is explained by its frequent occurrence among the addressees on the sent postcards. Postcards were received by Roche and Mitchell in Doneraile, Co Cork and Brookville, Ballnacurra, Co Limerick and again in Glasgow, accounting for 39 cards sent, or half of the collection. The second most popular name is that of Mrs. Irvine who had an address in Rathmines and Sandymount in Dublin, accounting for eight postcards received.

Other key information about the postcards was obtained by breaking down the constituent parts, such as the title of the postcard, the location represented, whether it was printed in colour or not, the franking, manuscript date, manufacturers text, whether it was sent or unsent, and if it matched other related materials when cross-referenced. One can date the postcards from the franking and the fact that postcards in 1902 for the first time had an image on one side with spaces for both message and address on the other. I recorded what was visible from the franking, and based on this information the earliest year of postage appears to have been 1905 and the latest 1916.

While the majority of the items are topographical views with a location mentioned on the image side of the postcard, it was decided to order the items in alphabetical order starting with the place or county, then town and so forth. Figure 2 Antrim Castle, postcard shows the title on the bottom left corner.


Figure 2  Antrim Castle, Antrim

Fifteen counties are represented, with Co Clare occurring the most, on 14 postcards and Counties Kerry and Wicklow next. The random nature of these results can be explained by a number of different factors.  For example,  it could be the personal preference of the collector for a particular county, the aesthetic view, or the type of postcard.  On each of the postcards in the Lawrence Postcard Roche Collection the location of where the image was taken is printed. It is generally readable, but not on all postcards, as this information can be obscured where the stamp was affixed. From the 74 postcards, 23 were readable, 20 of these stated they were printed in Germany or Saxony and the last three were printed in England, Ireland, or France.Blog-Daniel-Casey-Figure-3

Figure 3 Antrim Castle, glass plate

As part of my research, I cross-referenced the NLI online catalogue with the title of a postcard from the Lawrence Postcard Roche Collection and the Lawrence Collection glass plate negatives, and also with the Lawrence Collection postcard photogravures.  This resulted in visual matches with the digitised glass plates in the Lawrence Collection (for example, see Figure 3, Antrim Castle, glass plate). There are 886 copper printing blocks in the Lawrence collection for the production of postcards, an example of which is seen in Figure 4. Antrim Castle, printing block.  The blocks were catalogued by Chantal Sweeney (Sweeney, 2012), but how they arrived at the NPA is unclear.  A cross-referencing of these printing blocks was undertaken and 17 matching titles were found, of which 13 were visual matches.Blog-Daniel-Casey-Figure-4

Figure 4 Antrim Castle, printing block

While there are differences between the title of the postcard and the title of the glass plate in the collection, matches were able to be made by close examination of the details in similarly titled items. Some items share the same title but do not match.  Thirty-seven postcards, or over half of the postcards, can be traced in this manner to the glass plates acquired in 1943 and are credited with being the work of Robert French, one of Lawrence’s leading photographers.

My final task was rehouse the postcards to preserve them for future use in a way which would allow for improved access to them  but also protect them from coming into contact with other materials.  They were placed in Mylar housing which could be then be put into an acid-free ring binder.

Figure 5 Rehoused Postcards in Mylar

With more time, I would like to have uncovered more information on the collecting habits of F. E. Dixon and the Roche family. The Lawrence business model would be interesting also to examine more comprehensively in order to understand the broader printing processes and distribution mechanism for the postcards.

The work I completed in the NPA has given the postcards a value in the multi-layered story surrounding the Lawrence collection. It ties the postcards with the glass plate negatives that generated the printing blocks used for printing the postcards with the photographs possibly originally taken by Robert French.  The postcards were sold to the public who wrote their messages to loved ones or business partners and sent them through the postal system. They were retained for sentimental value or the aesthetic appreciation of the image, ultimately to be collected by a collector and preserved by the NPA. They are available to the public once again for consideration in the context of the wider cultural and social impact of photography.