Minister Jimmy Deenihan TD launches Inspiring Ireland at Stanford University

Inspiring Ireland is an ambitious project to bring Ireland’s cultural treasures – paintings, letters, sculpture, manuscripts, historical objects, photography, ephemera - digital and digitised - to a broad national and international audience. Ireland’s National Cultural Institutions are the custodians of beautiful and fascinating objects from Ireland’s – and indeed the world’s – past and present. Inspiring Ireland will showcase these treasures to the world, through an interactive, online, curated website that illustrates the high quality digital images of the objects, with the interpretation of the Cultural Institutions.

Developed as a collaboration between eight of Ireland’s National Cultural Institutions, the Irish Government's Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and the national Digital Repository of Ireland; Inspiring Ireland opens Ireland’s cultural heritage to a wider viewership, allowing visitors to access rich images and contextual information.

The pilot project, which is being launched by Minister Jimmy Deenihan to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day (March 17 2014), will feature an exhibition titled “A Sense of Place,” which traces the way that “place”, in the most open and creative understanding of the term, resonates through Ireland’s art and artefacts. Two other collections, A Sense of Freedom and A Sense of Identity, will also be populated with fully searchable objects.

The pilot launch in March 2014 marks the first phase of what will be a much larger programme to digitise, preserve, and share Ireland’s culture for public viewing, educational use and scholarly research. And just as importantly, it will allow users to discover and make personal connections with the treasures that Ireland holds in its extensive collections across all the Irish Cultural Institutions.

Inspiring Ireland is a joint project between the following partners: Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Digital Repository of Ireland, Abbey Theatre, Chester Beatty Library, Crawford Art Gallery Cork, Irish Museum of Modern Art, National Museum of Ireland, National Archives of Ireland, National Gallery of Ireland, National Library of Ireland.

This website is an open online portal to Ireland's digitised cultural heritage, providing public access to the digital objects of Ireland's National Cultural Institutions. Inspiring Ireland is a curated visualisation based on the Digital Repository of Ireland's technology platform, which is a preservation, discovery and access repository, funded by the Irish Government (HEA PRTLI cycle 5 funding), and delivered by the DRI academic consortium.

Digital preservation is a complex, systematic activity that is imperative for the preservation of our social and cultural heritage. The digital objects we create can be fragile and are subject to digital erosion and corruption, and changes to formats, standards and software can make it difficult to access digital objects from even a few years ago. Digitisation of the objects conserved in Ireland's Cultural Institutions opens up these compelling collections for public and scholarly enquiry - and enables an ecosystem of educational, e-tourism and creative applications.

Inspiring Ireland is the start of a large-scale endeavour to preserve, discover and open up the cultural treasures of Ireland, using best-in-class digital preservation technologies, and a suite of web visualisations and interactive tools, with expert curation and interpretation.

Investment or partnership is sought for the digitisation of selected high-profile collections in the Cultural Institutions for online exhibitions, and the development of features and tools for the Inspiring Ireland programme (on the Digital Repository of Ireland platform) in the educational, curation, e-tourism and creative applications, which showcase innovative and inspiring use of digital cultural technologies and collections.