| In 2001 the Library
and Information Services Council (Northern Ireland) was awarded
a grant of in excess of £250,000 from the New
Opportunities Fund Digitisation Programme to create a digital
library of material relating to the 1800 Act of Union between Britain
and Ireland. The Act of Union Virtual Library Project comprises a
partnership of Belfast
Public Libraries, the Centre
for Data Digitisation and Analysis at Queen's University, Belfast,
the Linen Hall
Library, the Public
Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), Information
Services at Queen's University, the Ulster
Folk and Transport Museum and the Ulster
Work started on the project in January 2002. The Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis has established a digitisation team to image scan paper-based material relating to the Act, and process the material through an advanced optical character recognition system where possible to create a machine-readable version of the original text. Manuscript material and poor quality typeface material are being image scanned and the text keyed.
The aims of the project are twofold. The first is to offer those interested in the history of the Act of Union easier access to invaluable archive material that is held in specialist collections. While digitisation will never render obsolete the need to consult original documents, it can provide a research tool for those who might find it more feasible to view material at home and in their own time. Secondly, digitisation can also aid conservation in that there is no need to photocopy or handle fragile material when an electronic copy can easily be secured.
The following types of material are available on the website: pamphlets, parliamentary papers and statutes. In time, these will be augmented by manuscript material, primarily from the papers of landed estates, from PRONI and contemporary newspapers. The material has a free text search facility and, like library cataloguing systems, is also searchable by bibliographic elements. There are also links to the institutions that hold the original versions of the archives.
The pamphlet material will eventually comprise the bulk of the pamphlets written from 1797 to 1800 during the `Pamphlet War'. It should be noted that the imperative to avoid duplication, allied with the decision only to publish one edition of each pamphlet, means that complete lists of holdings can only be accessed via each individual institution's website. Parliamentary debates and journals cover the period from 1797 to 1804 and hence can help scholars to place the Act of Union within its historical context. Details of the coverage for newspapers, statutes and manuscript material will appear at a later date.
Further information about the project can be obtained from the Centre
for Data Digitisation and Analysis (see contacts
page for contact details).
For Information about the Act of Union see the essay on the subject
by Jonathon Bardon and a timeline of significant dates.
Click here for
a prinable version of this page