Meet Beyond 2022: Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland shortlisted in the 2022 AI Awards

11 November 2022

Beyond 2022| Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland, a project led by Professor Peter Crooks (Trinity College Dublin), has been shortlisted for the Best Application of AI to achieve Social Good Award in the upcoming AI Awards. The Virtual Treasury is an all-island and international collaborative research programme to recreate digitally the Record Treasury of the Public Record Office of Ireland (PROI) which was destroyed on the 30th June 1922 during the opening engagement of the Irish Civil War. 

The Virtual Treasury has developed a suite of deep-learning models capable of transcribing most handwritten historical texts. The models, developed by Dr David Brown, are designed to produce an accurate first draft, with a character error rate of less than 3%, good enough to make the document searchable and reducing the onerous task of full manual transcription. Through Virtual Reality, this project is working to re-imagine and re-create the PROI and its archival collections. Many millions of words from destroyed documents have been recovered, digitally linked and reassembled from copies, transcripts and other records scattered among the collections of our archival partners around the world. This rich array of replacement items has been brought together and made freely available within the website launched officially in June of this year, on the centenary of the destruction. 

Virtual Treasury Programme Director Dr Peter Crooks, Associate Professor in Medieval History, Trinity, said: “The Record Treasury at the Public Record Office of Ireland was one of the great archives of Europe.  The devastating cultural loss of the archive in 1922 has hampered our understanding of Ireland’s past. Thanks to the meticulous record-keeping of generations of archivists, historians, copyists, genealogists and clerks, thousands of duplicates and transcripts of Ireland’s records, scattered across the world, have been preserved. Record by record, shelf by shelf, historians, archivists and computer scientists are bringing Ireland’s destroyed national treasure back to life.”

Beyond 2022 | Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland is an all-island and international collaborative research project, funded by the Department of Culture under the Decade of Centenaries Programme (2012 – 2023), working to create a virtual reconstruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland destroyed in the opening engagement of the Civil War on June 30th, 1922. From its inception the project has involved Computer Science research, along with research in History and Archival Studies, to provide greater access to Ireland’s deep history.

The AI Awards ceremony will take place on the 23rd November 2022 in the Gibson Hotel, Dublin.