Friday, April 17, 2020

Conradh na Gaeilge - Digital Exhibition Launched

Last month a mini digital exhibition of the Conradh na Gaeilge Archive, featuring over 40 images taken from the collection, was launched to tie-in with Seachtain na Gaeilge. As luck would have it, work was almost complete before we went into lockdown for Covid-19, and we were able to remotely launch this wonderful exhibition on St. Patrick’s Day, the final day of the annual campaign. In previous blogs (see below for links) I have described the work that goes on behind the scenes before a collection is opened to the public, the processes an archivist needs to carry out and the decisions that need to be made. It was also announced that material would be released to the public in tranches, rather than waiting for the whole collection to be fully processed, due to the vast size of this wonderful collection. This new exhibition is therefore designed to perform another very important function - it gives the user context, something which is of particular importance when access is being rolled out in this gradual manner.


When examining an item from an archival collection, it is vital that the user understands its context. For example: How does this item relate to the collection as a whole? How does it relate to other items in the collection? This exhibition aids the user in discovering those answers. Firstly, on the homepage the user is given background information on the organisation itself, the timeframe covered in the collection and the history of how and when this material was gathered and donated to NUIG.

On the second page of the online exhibition ("Arrangement"), a detailed explanation is given on how the collection is arranged, why certain topics were grouped together, and why certain decisions were made. When considering the arrangement of a collection, the archivist is always thinking of how discoverable material in the collection will be and how easy the collection is for the user to navigate. (Some of that decision making process is covered here).

Finally on the page labelled “The series”, 45 images can be seen, each representing an individual series, and each one attached to a description of that series. Currently 13 of these series are open to the public, as mentioned previously, and in these cases the descriptions include links to the archive catalogue. The benefit of being able to see descriptions of all 45 series (and not just those accessible), means the user understands the context within which the released material sits, and knows what to expect from future releases.

How to navigate the Digital Exhibition:

A casual browse of this exhibition will give the user, at the very least, an overview of Conradh na Gaeilge’s work as an organisation and an idea of what has been transferred to NUIG. Trawling through the 45 images available on the “The series” page is a pleasure in itself.

However to fully benefit from this exhibition, gaining a proper understanding of how to use it to navigate to the archival catalogue is recommended. The best way to gain this knowledge is through trial and error, but I have gone some way towards describing the process here.

When a user clicks on any one of the 45 images representing individual series, they are brought to a dialogue window that shows the image in larger detail on the left, and a bilingual description of the series itself on the right.

Under this text a small icon of the same image can be seen, with a link beside or under it (see image). If the text is substantial you may need to scroll down to get to these.

By clicking on either the icon or on the link a new page opens which gives not only the description but other metadata such as publisher information, title of the series, unique identifier and, where the series has been released to the public, a link to the archive catalogue (this can be found in the field “relation”). (Again, you will need to scroll down the page to access all this information).

It also gives a larger version of the image, which, if clicked on, can be further examined including through zooming.

How to use the Archive Catalogue:

The archive database that is used in NUIG is known as CALM and this is where anything in our archives, which has been catalogued, can be found. When a user clicks on any of the links within the “series” page of the Conradh na Gaeilge digital exhibition, they are brought not only to this archival database, but to a specific location – the catalogue entry for that series.

This will again show the description, along with new information such as the date range, the format (eg paper, photographs, audio) and the extent (how many boxes, sub-series, files etc.). However, probably the most useful tool available on this page is the link to the hierarchy browser, which can be found in the “Ref No” field. (In the image below, the cursor is pointing at this link).

What is the Hierarchy Browser?

This is the hierarchy of any collection and shows series, sub-series, files and items in a tree-like hierarchy in descending order. In the example above the catalogue entry for the 4th series in the collection “Branches...” can be seen. By clicking on the G60/4 link in the “Ref No” field we are brought to the hierarchy browser, and can see not only where this series comes in the context of the overall collection (it is the one highlighted in yellow), but what sub-series and files are in this specific series.

The + and – icons to the left of a series, sub-series etc. show that further expansion is possible [see images].

The hierarchy browser is probably the easiest way to navigate through the catalogued collection. As more tranches are released, their catalogue entries will be added to the archive database. Links from the digital exhibition will also be added to point to these new entries.

This digital exhibition is therefore not only an educational and fun exhibition in its own right, it is also both a key tool to understanding the context of items and series within the Conradh na Gaeilge collection AND a handy link to accessing and exploring the archive catalogue CALM. As progress continues on processing and cataloguing the collection, this exhibition also becomes the perfect reference for exploring the latest series as they are released.

Whether exploring the exhibition for the first time, or checking back to see whether specific series have been released, I hope you enjoy it!

Until next time,

Beir bua,


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