The Irish Community Archive Network (iCAN) has been awarded the winner of the ‘Networks of Archives’ in the 2020 Community Archives and Heritage Group (CAHG) national awards which took place via a virtual awards ceremony today.
Established by the National Museum of Ireland’s Education Department in 2008, the iCAN initiative works to encourage and support a network of communities in collecting, preserving, and making accessible their local history and heritage online.
Working in partnership with local authorities in Clare, Galway and Wicklow, iCAN has supported the creation and development of 28 online archives to date, 17 in Galway and Mayo and 11 in Clare and Wicklow. Local Authority Heritage Officers have played a critical role in the development of the iCAN partnership model and provide community groups with professional support at local level.
With much of Ireland’s material and intangible cultural heritage in the care and ownership of its citizens and diaspora, iCAN is empowering local communities to document their own history, heritage and culture on digital platforms. They are proving to be extremely popular locally, nationally and globally, with visits to the network’s archive websites growing year on year.
Since 2011, iCAN has generated 6 million-page views from all over the world, with 1.5 million of these in the last 12 months.
For local historians, genealogists, emigrants, and teachers, the archives provide rich local information, or ‘people’s history’, that would otherwise not be documented or readily accessible, particularly for communities overseas, whether its photographs, oral histories, videos or biographical about notable local figures. For more information, visit the iCAN portal website www.ouririshheritage.org
A steering group comprising the National Museum of Ireland, the Local Authority Heritage Officer Network, The Heritage Council, Creative Ireland and iCAN community representatives is guiding the continued growth of the network, and there are ambitions to support the development of at least 130 digital archives across Ireland by 2024.
Director of the National Museum of Ireland, Lynn Scarff, said; “The iCAN initiative is all about ownership, inclusivity and collaboration and while it originated in our Education Department and is managed by our staff, its success depends entirely on the wonderful collaboration we have had from all our partners and from the participating communities. As well as the online platform, iCAN has also connected people through a wide range of events and activities since its inception, bringing people from all generations together to celebrate and record their shared history, and to enjoy a shared pride of place. We are ambitious about growing it further nationwide because every community deserves to be given the opportunity to build their own digital archive, and because these resources will be invaluable for historians of the future to draw from.”
Creative Ireland provided critical funding for the growth and expansion of the network last year. Creative Ireland Director, Tania Banotti said; “Harnessing the creative potential of our people and communities is a cornerstone of the Creative Ireland programme and the iCAN initiative does that. Participating in creative and cultural activities also really supports social cohesion and wellbeing, we well as building a strong sense of place and belonging, and so we are proud to have supported the growth and expansion of the initiative and we wish it continued success in the future.”
Chief Executive Officer with the Heritage Council Virginia Teehan said; “ We are delighted to work with the National Museum of Ireland on this iCAN initiative through our network of local authority heritage officers and wish to congratulate all involved in winning this prestigious award. In the first lockdown, contributions to our #KnowYour5k project attracted hundreds of visits to iCAN’s portal site Our Irish Heritage and now, I want to encourage even more people to enjoy these online resources and use the opportunity of the current Level 5 restrictions to learn about the rich heritage that is right on your doorstep.”
iCAN Community Rep, Hazel Morrison-Pagett, who is part of the Moycullen Heritage Group, said; “The iCAN approach cleverly harnesses and fosters the in-depth knowledge, and access to knowledge, of the small community historians, who are now bringing to the fore much of Ireland’s previously hidden and undocumented heritage. Our iCAN member groups identify with each other’s aims and hurdles, we pool ideas, training and solutions and enjoy the amazing camaraderie along the way. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have used our archive websites to keep our community connected, helping to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness – which is so important right now.”