Pre-crisis Irish government policy had emphatically located the future success of the country in its ability to reposition as a knowledge society, an aim which has been somewhat displaced of late in the struggle for economic survival. Such a policy has far-reaching effects especially in the field of education. As yet there has been little or no debate on its implications for the arts (see chapter 4.1.6 for an account of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000).
EUR 21 million had been allocated to the National Cultural Institutions for digitisation, outreach etc in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 to provide access from abroad to the national collections. This will not be realised. The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has made a brave attempt to address the digital challenge, despite a 40% budget cut. Online visitor numbers to the Library across all digital platforms increased from 440 000 in 2009 to 4.9 million in January – October, 2013 and a concerted effort continues to redirect service orientation accordingly as part of the most significant transformation programme in the Library’s 133-year history. Initiatives included the introduction of an NLI Digitisation Programme; integration of the online catalogue with Google Books, Flickr, Europeana, web crawl data, Google maps, and the Open Library; the launch of the NLI blog as a medium to highlight projects, collections, events and exhibitions, and the behind-the-scenes activity of staff and the commencement of Born Digital collecting activities.
Collaborations with Digital Humanities in Trinity College, Dublin have led to interesting initiatives (see for example dh.tcd.ie / martindiary). The Library has extensive resources – up to 14 million items – awaiting digitalisation but is considerably hobbled by funding and staffing shortages.
The Irish Museum of Modern Art has made considerable strides in 2013 in respect of the digitialisation of its collection offering virtual tours, a virtual museum, an online collection database, as well as being a partner in DECIPHER, a multimillion Euro online research project, supported by the European Union, to help people learn more about art collections in museums, galleries and other cultural institutions. The work will take three years (2011 – 2013) and will result in exciting new technology to enable cultural institutions and the public to present collections using narrative and story online. The National Gallery is also a partner in this project and has an online search facility for its collection. The National Museum provides digital access to some objects in its collection.