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New Cross Border research project to combine and digitise Ordnance Survey heritage material for the island of Ireland

OS trig points on top of Divis
Wed, 04 Aug 2021

Researchers at University of Limerick and Queen's University Belfast have secured c.€740,000 in funding from the Irish Research Council (IRC) and the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to bring together a trove of Ordnance Survey (OS) heritage material from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for a new 'digital humanities' research project.  This joint award scheme draws together funding from the IRC and the AHRC to fund eleven digital humanities projects across the UK and Ireland.

The research project ‘OS200: Digitally Re-Mapping Ireland’s Ordnance Survey Heritage’ aims to reinvigorate interest in the Ordnance Survey by re-connecting and sharing the divided legacies of the OS in Ireland. The project team is composed of a cross-disciplinary collaboration co-led by Dr Catherine Porter (UL) and Professor Keith Lilley at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and involving geographers, historians, linguists and computer scientists. 

As Dr Porter explains, “Two hundred years ago, Ireland was the first country in the world to be mapped entirely at the large scale of 6 inches to 1 mile. Not only did the OS produce maps, the surveyors also recorded local details including folklore, place-names, antiquities, religion, and topography. OS200 will, for the first time since the OS mapping of the island began, draw together the currently disparate maps, memoirs, letters, name books and sketches into one accessible resource that will act as a foundation to digitally and spatially interlink and enhance fragmented heritage across the island”. 

Welcoming the joint awards, Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, said “The UK-Ireland digital humanities partnership is a timely reminder of both the appetite and the potential for UK-Ireland research collaboration, both ‘east-west’ and ‘north-south’”.

The timely project will run from 2021, the anniversary of the Partition of Ireland when what was one supra-national body was divided into three mapping agencies, and finish in 2024 marking the bicentenary of the beginning of the OS mapping project in Ireland.  Key partners include the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI), the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), and the major place-name projects, Logainm.ie and the Northern Ireland Place-Name Project (NIPNP).