Discovering Historic Fingal a Guide to the Study of Monuments, Historic Buildings and Landscapes was commissioned in Summer 2006 by Fingal County Council, in association with The Heritage Council, as an action of the Fingal Heritage Plan 2005-2010. The purpose of the guide is to provide a practical, comprehensive and user-friendly reference book to all available archaeological and architectural source material for Fingal. The concept of an area of “Fingal” begins in the early medieval period, with the land known as Fine Gall or “territory of the strangers” referring to establishment of Viking settlers. The guide is intended for a wide range of users, including the general public, professional users, those in formal education at all levels, policy and decision makers, and the wider archaeological and architectural communities.

The guide introduces the essential source material for researching the built heritage of the county including textual information, maps, photographs, illustrations, models and artefact repositories. In order to provide the necessary context, researchers are also guided towards national repositories and general sources of Irish archaeological, architectural and art historical source material which may be relevant. The guide is not intended as an exhaustive work or a bibliography, but is instead intended as a practical reference book to guide researchers to where useful information can be found.

New researchers should approach the information contained in both primary and secondary sources with a degree of caution, and develop an understanding of “source criticism”, or the strengths and weaknesses of historical material. Historical sources are not infallible, are unlikely to be wholly accurate or truthful, and researchers assessing the significance and value of source material would be wise to be aware of who produced the work, how, why, when and for whom it was done. Even modern sources of built heritage information, where the levels of accuracy, knowledge and accountability are continually increasing, have to be seen in the context of the varied and disparate disciplines who produce, collect, collate, analyse and disseminate work on our built heritage. One of the key challenges to researchers is to have a critical understanding of the approach, terminology, professional literature and foci of past and present, professional and non-professional sources and later commentators. For example, a maritime archaeologist, an art historian and a conservation architect will view a painting of ships sailing into port in different ways, ask different questions, and produce commentary and interpretation of the same painting for very different purposes. The painting itself may reflect a partially idealised landscape to communicate the artists intent rather than a strictly accurate depiction of the view at that moment in time, and the port itself may have significantly changed since the time of the painting, and perhaps since the time of the commentary.

The aim of this guide is to direct researchers to sources of information on Fingal, so that they can ask their own questions, and use these materials to make their own contribution. Researching is a learned skill of actively, diligently and systematically discovering, interpreting and revising facts. With the ever-increasing range of information and databases available in libraries, repositories and the internet, new researchers are sometimes disappointed to find they cannot do a very quick search and find the information they need immediately. Research is often about finding the right question, or questions to ask. It is also often a cyclical process, as based on the information gathered, you may need to re-focus your topic and locate new materials using many different resources such as books, articles, maps, photographs or combinations of any or all of these. The increasing amount of information available through archaeological excavation is transforming our ideas of the past, especially for periods such as the Bronze and Iron Ages. Source materials provide a wealth of core information and interesting side-tracks that can be re-interpreted and re-evaluated so that you can make your own contribution to our understanding of the heritage of Fingal. The type of source material may vary depending on the question asked, whether for someone researching the place they live, or a particular period, or perhaps a building they like.

The guide is available to download from the heritage section of Fingal County Council:

Bolton, Jason (2008) Discovering Historic Fingal: A Guide to the Study of Monuments, Historic Structures and Landscapes. Swords. Fingal County Council.
Bolton, Jason (2008) Antiquities of the Ring of Kerry. Dublin. Wordwell