'Ireland Illustrated' Project to Create Database of Travel Images from the 16th-

Monday, 24 August 2009

The creation of an extensive database of illustrated travel accounts about Ireland, from the 16th-19th century, is underway at NUI Galway. The 'Ireland Illustrated' project will provide an online collection of images showing how Ireland was portrayed in centuries gone by to travellers around the world. NUI Galway's Professor Jane Conroy is one of the team heading up the project: "Travel accounts played a major role in shaping mental images in early modern and modern Europe. Particularly when images came to support the text, the suggested representation might become even truer than reality. These ancient texts and the images they contain preserved an important part of history that needs to be discovered. Bringing this part of our heritage together through the Ireland Illustrated project, we will have a resource of interest and value to all". Large numbers of images and other documents will be scanned and catalogued, including those housed in libraries and museums around the country. Researchers at NUI Galway are asking anyone with books containing images about travelling to Ireland from 1500-1900 to contact them so that copies might be included. The searchable database of travel images will be available for academic use, and for the wider public. Due for completion in 2012, the Ireland Illustrated project will give international audiences access to rare books and give Irish people a way to connect with their visual heritage. Through an interactive searchable map, visitors will also be able to search for images of their own town or county. Professor Conroy, who is also Humanities Secretary with the Royal Irish Academy, adds: "In a way, travel accounts were the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide of their day, often containing drawings or sketches of the scenery and people. Quite scarce in the 1600s, accounts from that century portrayed a wild land, with quite an uncivilised population. From the late 1700s on, manor houses, estates and towns attracted more attention and a different image of Ireland began to filter through". Experts from the world of travel literature, digital humanities and libraries from across Europe gathered at NUI Galway recently to discuss the project. A similar database has been created by the University of Paris-Sorbonne containing travel accounts on France from the same period. The project Texts, Transmission and Cultural Exchange is taking place at NUI Galway Moore Institute for Humanities and is part of an interdisciplinary PhD research programme involving NUI Galway, TCD and UCC, and is funded by PRTLI4 and the Andrew Mellon Foundation.
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