The Irish Virtual Research Library & Archive (IVRLA)

The Irish Virtual Research Library & Archive (IVRLA), which now forms part of the UCD Digital Library, is a digital humanities and social sciences repository which draws on the extensive resources of archival and rare material held in University College Dublin. The IVRLA is one of the first comprehensive digital primary source repositories in Ireland. It will advance the research agenda into the use and challenges affecting this new method of research as well as providing an environment to support curation of digital data and information over the coming years.

The IVRLA was a component of the UCD Humanities Institute and was conceived as a five-year research project which ran from January 2005 to December 2009, funded by the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) Phase 3. An external review of the IVRLA digital repository has described the IVRLA as an outstanding example of research-driven digital technology development and has provided guidance for its transition from a project to a sustainable, institutionally supported research infrastructure supported by the UCD Library.

The output from IVRLA is a rich and extensive selection of digital content containing more than three terabytes of preservation-standard data. Users can currently access over 5,200 digital objects (comprising over 22,300 individual scans). These digital objects include representations of original texts, photographs, drawings, maps, video and audio files as well as newly created databases, catalogues and transcriptions of written texts. The uniqueness or rarity, and, in many cases, the fragility of original source material is a major obstacle to their availability and use by the scholarly community outside University College Dublin; within the university, their physical dispersal can be counter-productive to their effective use. Conservation and security considerations, while essential to guarantee their availability for future generations of scholars, inevitably give rise to some limitations or restrictions on use. By making the surrogate digitised versions available online, scholars and the general public can now access this material without compromising the original material and can begin to uncover the vast resource that is UCD’s archival holdings.

The IVRLA enables researchers and the public to access this extensive material in a digitised format from a single virtual location. The material is arranged in a total of 35 curated collections (drawn from original UCD-held material in the James Joyce Library and the participating repositories) and 16 research collections (drawn from demonstrator research projects). Users can also access educational materials based on the IVRLA collections. 

The IVRLA was designed to facilitate easy browsing or searching of its collections. Resource discovery is enhanced by the presence of rich, standards-compliant descriptive information (“metadata”) as well as linkages among objects that identify their context within the repository in general.  Users can access a wide range of UCD’s extensive archival resources in history, literature, folklore, linguistics, and music. The IVRLA collections are a hugely significant resource for researchers while its demonstrator research projects exhibit the potential to link digital resources with ongoing research.