Intangible cultural heritage in Ireland


Intangible cultural heritage encompasses the traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts. Ireland ratified the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in March 2016, and Uilleann Piping and Hurling were included on the interim National Intangible Cultural Inventory.

While Ireland’s tangible heritage (buildings, monuments, landscapes, structures and natural heritage) is well understood, the study and awareness of intangible cultural values is relatively new. For many professionals engaged in the conservation of tangible heritage, much of the literature on intangible heritage is found in Continue reading


Staigue stone fort, Kerry

Staigue fort is one of a number of stone forts, related to ringforts and cahers, which have defensive features shared with Dún Aonghasa on the Aran Islands, and with Doon Fort and the Grianán of Aileach in Donegal. A number of these impressive forts on the Ring of Kerry can be found at the western end of the Ring of Kerry, including Loher, Cahergal and Leacanabuile. Staigue fort appears as a circular, dry-stone enclosure wall or rampart, surrounded by a fosse and external bank, with a causeway forming the entrance to the fort. The walls were constructed using internal and external faces of roughly coursed dry-stone masonry enclosing a rubble and fill wall core. The walls show an external and internal batter, so that they walls taper from approximately 4m wide at the base to 2m at the top.  The single drystone entrance passage has three lintels, with the external lintel relieved by another lintel one course above. The interior of the fort has two wall-chambers, and a series of characteristic X-shaped stairways leading to the top of the walls – a feature also seen in stone forts of Donegal.

Continue reading

Early maps and charts of Ireland

Early maps and sea charts offer a great deal of insight into the past. Prior to the 16th century, mapped depictions of Ireland were part of the culture of other nations. From the 16th century onwards, maps and charts became increasingly more technically sophisticated and accurate with regards to placenames and topography. By the 17th century, the emphasis in mapping had shifted from maps for defence and military campaigns to the plotting of large areas as part of the process of confiscation of land. In addition to maps, a diverse range of charts of Ireland were created from the 16th century onwards. Charts created for defensive purposes often included large scale mapping of ports and anchorages. A comprehensive list of early maps and charts of the Irish coast is provided in Exploring the Maritime Archaeology of Ireland.

Continue reading

Risks of Mechanical Cleaning Historic Stone


, ,

The removal of soiling from a building can be achieved using water, chemicals, poultices, lasers, and also mechanical cleaning methods. Mechanical cleaning requires the use of force using hand-held tools such as brushes, sponges, scalpels etc. or with equipment such as vacuums, or dry air-abrasion. Mechanical cleaning can be low-impact, and is often used where water or chemicals are not suitable. However, stone can easily, immediately and permanently be damaged by mechanical cleaning.

Abrasive cleaning systems direct particles onto soiled masonry in a stream of compressed air of between 1.5 and c.7bar.  The systems work by Continue reading

Drone Surveys of Historic Buildings

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are useful tools for surveying historic buildings and structures, as well as assisting in diagnosing building failures. Drones can also be useful for archaeological research and of ruined buildings and their surrounding landscape.  Drones are small, portable, and able to hover and operate in confined spaces, yet are powerful enough to carry DLSR still and HD/4K video cameras for survey work, as well as lidar and terrestrial scanners. For historic buildings and heritage sites, drones offer high-resolution  imagery and data which can be used for monitoring, recording, presentation, interpretative display, surveying, and mapping. Continue reading

Green Fort Conservation Plan


The Green Fort is a seventeenth century earthwork fortification in Sligo on the west coast of Ireland. The fort is an archaeological monument, and one with the highest level of legislative protection. Currently, a conservation plan is being developed to determine how best to protect, manage, interpret and present the


The Green Fort is the largest and strongest of three spear-shaped bastion forts erected in the seventeenth century to protect Sligo town. These forts were the still-extant Green Fort and Coney Island Fort, and the now-lost Stone Fort which lay beneath Sligo Town Hall . The Green Fort appears to have had two or possibly three stages of development, and then passed into a long three hundred year period of abandonment. Continue reading

Aerial photographic records & satellite imagery for the study of historic buildings and places

Aerial photography, and increasingly aerial remote sensing data captured by satellite, provide a high-resolution view of the ground that can be relevant at all stages of an archaeological study, including reconnaissance, identification, analysis and, of course, as illustrations in a publication.  Many new archaeological sites, especially those that survive as earthworks, have been discovered with the use of aerial photography, both from desktop studies of existing photographic records and from new reconnaissance.  Aerial photography is also useful for Continue reading

A Study of Romanesque Stonework in Ireland

This month sees the culmination of a research project investigating Irish romanesque stonework, kindly grant-funded by the Royal Irish Academy.romanesque-1

Romanesque is a term used to describe an artistic style of architecture, sculpture, metalwork and painting found across Europe from the 11th to the 13th century. In Ireland, ‘Hiberno-romanesque’ stonework includes architectural elements such as carved doorways, arches and windows, as well as Irish romanesque stone sculpture. Continue reading

The lifespan of digital heritage

At the time of writing, Joe Donnelly is playing the last ‘Drive’ on TXFM, Ireland’s smallest commercial radio station, but one which has arguably contributed the most to emerging Irish musicians, and quite frankly, the most fun radio station around. TXFM, and its earlier incarnation PhantomFM which I first discovetxfmred in the late 1990s have consistently played excellent music amid airwaves heavy with forgettable tunes. The demise of TXFM, which ends transmission at 8pm this evening, is a reflection of the vulnerability of digital data to sudden change, and begs the question – what is the lifespan of digital data?

Much of the information generated in the field of cultural heritage has been in digital format since the late 1990s. Increasingly over the last five years, more and more archival and digital resources have become available online, such as the resources of the National Library of Ireland, the British Library and others are increasingly available. However, accessibility to these information resources is reliant on accessibility to the platform which hosts them. Similarly the explosion in photographs, maps, reports, scans, 3D-images and the plethora of digital data generated by modern audiences has created an incredible amount of information. However, there remains the thorny problem of how long does this information last. Can we open a digital image from 15 years ago? How long does an audio file last? What is the lifespan of digital data? Continue reading