16th November 2018
In the last seven years community groups have surveyed over 800 Irish historic graveyards and digitally published over 90,00 gravestones with almost 200,000 names and dates crowd-sourced online at www.historicgraves.com creating a unique heritage and tourism resource.
This year the Heritage Council recognised the work of all of these communities by funding an upgrade of the website which is being relaunched this coming week. The upgraded website now works better on mobile phones, is more accessible to people with disabilities and has been reworked to make it easier for communities to record the stories and histories associated with their old graveyards.
The team behind the project, a small archaeology company based in Cork and West Waterford believes the Heritage Council grant has been doubly useful. Project programmer Maurizio Toscano says “The old website had developed glitches which are now gone. The website works much better on a smartphone and in the process of discussing our plans with community groups this summer we have learned a lot. We went to some groups to ask for testimonials as to what was good about the Project but they had already moved on from there. Instead we discussed problems in funding, research, and care and maintenance of our graveyards. When communities engage with their local authority heritage network they can improve their plans and communications with the National Monuments Service and then a very positive synergy develops. Irish communities have a very strong work ethic.”
The Historic Graves team believes the Heritage Council grant will now allow them to focus on these synergies and help communities improve the cultural resource of our historic graveyards. Hopefully this will mean more communities become positively engaged with their local heritage. It is also hoped that Irish burials abroad will be added to the database as well as stories about the Irish Diaspora, as half of all website users are from the Diaspora. Project director, John Tierney, says "These digital heritage projects recognise no boundaries; future-proofing the website with the help of the Heritage Council should allow us to extend the reach of our collaborations. Personally I have more family graves with headstones in London than in Ireland. Why shouldn't we collect all historic Irish gravestones, no matter where they are? It's the same people, same names, just different histories."