National Archives: deteriorating storage conditions

Ireland's national archiv­es are in danger of being lost or destroyed amid deteriorating storage conditions, according to senior management there.

David Craig, director of the National Archives in Dublin, said there was no longer space to take in vital historical documents from government departments and organisations.

Hundreds of boxes of nation­al documents remain sealed and stored on palettes in the old Jacob's biscuit factory in Dublin which is unsuitable in temperature and has begun to let in rainwater.

Government departments are now being instructed not to send their documents in to the archives, despite a rule instructing they send them in each and every year.

"There is actually legislation in relation to the national archives which requires that we take in these documents every year and we are being forced to break the legislation because there is just no suitable storage for them anymore," said Craig.

Catriona Crowe, coordinator of the 1901-1911 Census Online, speaking in her capacity as chairperson of the Archivists' Branch of Impact, said staffing levels were also at a crisis point in the archives.

"This is making a terrible situation worse, as when staff leave or retire they are not being replaced. It is a desperate state of affairs for the country's future written history and there is a real danger now more than ever that Irish history is being lost."

There is currently a lack of funding available to allow for expansion of the site, a new site, or the proper facilities for storage to be installed, said Crowe. She is now seeking to have a National Archives advisory council set up and is looking to set up a meeting with culture minister Mary Hanafin to attempt to resolve the funding issue.

Paul Gorry, one of Ireland's top genealogists, said al­though the genealogy service is the most popular service in the archives, his work was being hampered by the storage crisis.

"A lot of the stuff onsite here, various different genealogy documents, are not accessible because of where they are all put out in the warehouse. We don't have the staff either to do the cataloguing so it can be hard to even source where materials may be.

"For example, the 1926 census is something which we just can't get access to, it is just impossible. Even as a reader here the restrictions hamper work and they are hampering research and obviously, in the long run, effective collection of history itself."

Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell who is campaigning for the improvement of the facility, said the situation was now at crisis point.

"You've got archives piling up on palettes in the middle of the factory and the rain coming in on top of them. It is time the government addressed this issue."