Friday, January 20, 2012

The Balfour Album (1893-1895) now online on

A Corner of Killeany Village, Aranmore

A recent initiative here at the James Hardiman Library saw the contribution and sharing of some of our digital projects with the website. is a portal site where cultural institutions from across Europe can upload, link and share their digital projects that range across books, paintings, film, music, archives, manuscripts and museum objects. As recent as early January 2012, the twenty millionth digital item was uploaded onto Now, on, the Balfour Album, a truly unique collection of photographs depicting scenes and life in the west of Ireland in the late nineteenth century, is fully digitised and available.

At the James Hardiman Library, our Institutional Repository and Digitisation Librarian, Fergus Fahey digitised the Balfour Album in 2011. The incredible collection of photographs that make up the Balfour Album was created between 1893 – 1895 by the Belfast photographer, Robert John Welch. It was a gift to the former Chief Secretary for Ireland, Arthur J. Balfour in recognition of his support for the building of the Galway-Clifden Railway. The album was presented to Arthur Balfour in the summer of 1896, a year after the railway had opened. It remained in the property of the Balfour family until 1987 when it was acquired by the James Hardiman Library.

The James Hardiman Library worked closely with the Irish Manuscripts Commission (IMC) on this project. The IMC acts as a national aggregator for digital content coming from Irish cultural institutions for inclusion in Europeana. Now, for the first time, the unique collections and archives of the James Hardiman Library are shared to a truly global audience on You can view the items here

The Balfour album is also available as an online exhibition featuring an extensive history and background on the album and scenes they depict hosted by the James Hardiman Library here

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