The Irish Left Archive: Version 2.0 for 2013/2014 November 18, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Politics.
Earlier this year during the Summer the 300th document was added to the Left Archive. Across six years since it was started in 2007 the Archive has built up into a broad ranging selection of documents of various types from pamphlets, leaflets, newspapers and journals of the Irish left and the left (and others) beyond Ireland who reflect upon left-wing activity on this island. So as you know, you’ll find materials from numerous different formations from various points in the 20th century and after and all easily downloadable in PDF format.
Just after the Summer long-time reader of the CLR Aonghus Storey contacted us with the idea of updating the Archive and adding to it in the form of an extended website which would provide a means of engaging with it and using in a better way than hitherto. Given that searching for a specific document has up until now meant using this page here that wouldn’t be difficult, but as the outline of what Aonghus proposed became clear it was obvious that such an update was not just necessary but long over due.
While the Archive will remain hosted on the Cedar Lounge Revolution with new posts continuing to appear every Monday as always, the new extended site – directly linked to the CLR – will offer a completely different way of interacting with the materials in the Archive. That sounds like media speak but just this once it’s fair to suggest the rhetoric happens to be accurate.
After a process of working out what was required and what was feasible with Aonghus, once he revealed the new site it’s fair to say it exceeded all expectations. It hosts the documents in the Archive in full and will be added to as they are posted to the Archive. It’s fully searchable by formation or group, date, title and so forth. Moreover it has a number of additional features that we think are going to be handy for us all.
For example, there’s now a short description of the individual formations or groups – something that was sorely lacking on the previous version. You could find a document from a group but have next to no idea of that group’s history. All that is changed. There’s also space for longer descriptive pieces on formations, whether in the form of essays or or reminiscences. We’re eager to increase the oral history aspect of the Archive.
Moreover the interactions that have made the Archive so valuable – indeed that are arguably the best way of understanding these materials, the anecdotes and memories by people who were involved or there at the time about formations and groups can be started and continued on the extended site in comments.
Because it’s focused on the materials in the Archive it makes the process of cross-referencing and comparison easier. And it just looks better.
That’s not the end of the process. What we hope is to have a more social ‘launch’ of the site at some point early next year.
But in the meantime it would be great if people treated it as a beta test where suggestions as to how it is organised, and the content and descriptions can be improved – for example some are lacking full details, others are reliant on secondary sources and may simply be incorrect. And your own interactions with it, how does it work for you as a user/reader/interested party, are essential for us to know what refinements to make. This is a shared project so any and all advice, clarifications and corrections are welcome either in comments or by email, though preferably publicly so that people can interact with them.
As always the idea is that the Archive will eventually become as reasonably comprehensive a resource for those on the Irish left and beyond it as is possible and that it continue to contain not just the documents and descriptions of them and the groups who produced them but also commentary from those who were involved in producing them.
Don’t forget, though, to look at this section here, where there are a list of additional resources and sites of interest for those looking at the Irish left including Irish Anarchist History, Irish Election Literature, Irish Election Manifesto Archive and Irish Labour and Working Class History (and any other suggestions greatly appreciated).
Collectively all these sites are building into something that has never been possible before, easy, free and open access to our history with little or no mediation by others allowing us all to view, read and make up our own minds about these materials. Recently I noted how many yard ago in conversation with a then WP (later DL) TD I mentioned that it would be good to get a history of the Irish left written. The response wasn’t exactly positive, but that’s not the point. That project, in book format, remains to be done, but in a way this is better, more wide ranging and more collective and individual way of achieving that end.
Again, many thanks to Aonghus who is staying on board as part of the group overseeing the Archive. Without his input, advice and work this project would never have seen the light of day. And also, many thanks to everyone who has participated in the Archive over the past six year in whatever way, whether just reading, commenting or donating materials. Those 300+ documents there now are a testament to that participation by a broad range of people.
But as always, there’s the thought that those 300+ are but the tip of the iceberg, there’s many multiples of that number still out there, so any donations are very much welcome and if you have any or know of any that are suitable don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.