Dictionary of Irish Architects - Background
In the century between the 1870s and the 1970s at least four biographical dictionaries of Irish architects were projected or initiated. Of these only Rolf Loeber's A Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Ireland 1600-1720 – originally intended to form part of a more wide-ranging work by various contributors – was brought to completion. The year before its publication in 1981, the Irish Architectural Archive was loaned one of its major collections in the form of several hundred files of information which had been assembled during the 1950s and 1960s by the retired Dublin architect Alfred Edwin Jones (1894-1973) also with a view to compiling a biographical dictionary of Irish architects.
The Jones files were not easy to consult, containing a mixture of cards, large foolscap sheets, tiny scraps of paper, photographs (sometimes uncaptioned) and photocopies (sometimes faded to near-illegibility). Their unsuitability for consultation by members of the public and the rapidly increasing use of personal computers during the course of the 1980s gave rise to the idea of creating a database of Irish architects which would not only incorporate the information contained in the Jones files but would also draw together other data held in - or made available to - the Irish Architectural Archive.
In 1990, thanks to a grant from the Skaggs Foundation, Oakland, California, a PC was purchased, a database was set up, and a start was made on inputting data. A further grant from the School of Irish Studies in 1993 enabled the hardware to be updated. From 1995 to 2005 the project was generously supported by grants from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. This on-line version designed by Terminal Four and LPHMedia was facilitated by a grant from the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs.
It should be noted that the Irish Architectural Archive's database was not originally intended for publication but for in-house use, to provide information for staff, visitors to the reading room and correspondents. This resulted in a rather informal approach, particularly in the matter of footnotes and references. The recent decision by the Irish Architectural Archive to make the database available on the Internet exposes the need for much revision, standardization and clarification of the existing data in addition to the continuous process of inputting new information as it comes to light. The compiler asks readers to make allowances for the many omissions and mistakes in what should be viewed as a work in progress.