AN organisation dedicated to preserving the archives of local communities in Ireland has received a major funding injection.
The Irish Community Archive Network (iCAN) has supported the creation of 33 online digital archives since 2009, which document and preserve the history of communities in Clare, Cork, Galway, Mayo and Wicklow.
This week it was announced that The Heritage Council will join the organisation as a new funding partner, which will facilitate an expansion of its digitisation initiative and its team.
Together, they hope to support the development of at least 80 digital archives across Ireland by 2028.
“Community Archives are collections that reflect a shared history, identity, experience or interest,” iCAN explains.
“They are created by, with and for the community and our main aim is to encourage and support volunteer groups to collect, digitise and share their community’s history and heritage online.”
Over the years the archives have proved invaluable for Irish people around the world hoping to research their ancestral roots.
“Members of the diaspora regularly use the iCAN community archives to connect with local groups, who in turn assist with their family history enquiries,” the organisation confirmed.
“These connections frequently result in visits to Ireland with the local group bringing visitors to ancestral homes and graves and re-connecting them with unknown or lost family members.”
One iCAN case study saw a woman in Scotland, who accessed the archive in Moycullen, Co Galway, connected with brothers and sisters she never knew she had.
Now, thanks to a unique funding partnership, iCAN will be able to support scores more online projects for communities across Ireland.
Established by the National Museum of Ireland the organisation has developed over the years through partnerships with participating local authority Heritage Officers and with support from Creative Ireland and a raft of volunteers located within the local communities in Ireland and also abroad.
The Heritage Council paid tribute to those volunteers while confirming its iCAN partnership.
“Volunteer archivists can so often be the unsung heroes of a community, doing incredible work to safeguard knowledge, collections, stories and local history,” Heritage Council CEO Virginia Teehan said.
“The information they gather and preserve is crucial in providing people with a broader sense of themselves and where they come from and The Heritage Council is proud to be in position to contribute to this important work,” she added.
Cork County Council is the latest local authority to partner with iCAN.
Having joined the network last year and taken part in training over the last few months, a new portal for County Cork has recently been unveiled as www.heritagecourt.ie.
The site will be home to four digital community archives supported by iCAN – namely the Bere Island Projects Group, Kilmurry Heritage Group, Kilshannig Heritage Society and Youghal Community Archives.
Launching the site, Mayor of Cork, Cllr Danny Collins said: “Cork County Council is very proud to launch our new Heritage Cork portal.
“This website will be home to the four digital community archives in Cork that are part of the iCAN network which not only provides a secure and permanent online presence but also gives deserved recognition to the tremendous work being done by these groups to document and preserve their local heritage.
Members of the public can visit, contribute to and volunteer with the digital archives in the Irish Community Archive Network (iCAN). For further information or the full list of Irish community archives visit www.ouririshheritage.org.
The full list of Irish community archives is available here.