Wicklow’s heritage has played a part in an award-winning Irish community archive network.
The Irish Community Archive Network (iCAN) has won the “Networks of Archives”’ title in the 2020 Community Archives and Heritage Group (CAHG) national awards which took place via a virtual ceremony on Monday last.
Established by the National Museum of Ireland’s Education Department in 2008, the iCAN initiative works to encourage and support a network of communities in collecting, preserving and making accessible their local history and heritage online.
Wicklow is one of three local authorities working in partnership with iCAN, along with Clare and Galway County Councils. Local Authority Heritage Officers have played a critical role in the development of the iCAN partnership model and provide community groups with professional support at local level.
“We have been members of iCAN since 2014 and indeed we were the first county site in the network”, said Deirdre Burns, Heritage Officer with Wicklow County Council.
She added: “In response to the high level of interest from groups in Wicklow we were delighted to develop a multi-platform website earlier this year that hosts the County Wicklow Heritage site and five additional community-run sites. These are Medieval Bray Project; Donard History and Heritage; Glens of Lead; Delgany Heritage Village and Glendalough Heritage Forum”.
With much of Ireland’s material and intangible cultural heritage in the care and ownership of its citizens and diaspora, iCAN is empowering local communities to document their own history, heritage and culture on digital platforms.
They are proving to be extremely popular locally, nationally and globally, with visits to the network’s archive websites growing year on year. Since 2011, iCAN has generated 6 million page views from all over the world, with 1.5 million of these in the last 12 months.
For local historians, genealogists, emigrants, and teachers, the archives provide rich local information, or “people’s history”, that would otherwise not be documented or readily accessible, particularly for communities overseas, whether its photographs, oral histories, videos or biographical about notable local figures.
In County Wicklow, the network is coordinated by the Heritage Officer of Wicklow County Council as an action of the County Wicklow Heritage Plan in association with Wicklow Archives and Wicklow libraries service.
A steering group comprising the National Museum of Ireland, the Local Authority Heritage Officer Network, The Heritage Council, Creative Ireland and iCAN community representatives is guiding the continued growth of the national network, and there are ambitions to support the development of at least 130 digital archives across Ireland by 2024.