Second Level Senior Cycle

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Research Facilities at Dublin City Library and Archive

The Dublin and Irish Local Studies Collection offers a research facility to Second Level History and Geography students preparing for the Leaving Certificate.

At a central location on Pearse Street, the Research Reading Room is open to students who wish to use the resources of the library. These include an unparalleled collection of material on Irish history, with particular emphasis on the Dublin area.


Students can use the library to

  • Political cartoon by John Doyle on O'Connell's election as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1841Access the collection of over 225,000 books and hundreds of periodicals relating to Ireland, its history and its historical personalities. Our stock includes books which date from as far back as the 15th century to those published up to the present day.
  • Commence research on significant individuals in modern Irish history. The library has created project files on these individuals, which contain basic biographical information, some primary source material and a guide to further research.
  • Search and browse Libraries and Archives Digital Repository: Digital records relating to Dublin, including photographs, postcards, letters, maps and ephemeral material. Highlights of the collection include the Fáilte Ireland Photographic Collection, Wide Street Commission Map Collection (1757-1851), the Irish Theatre Archive and the Birth of the Republic Collection, which comprises material from the period of the foundation of the Irish state.
  • Study the collection of newspapers and periodicals - which include many from the 19th and 20th centuries. Such primary sources often provide new insights and new ways of looking at history.
  • Use genealogical resources to trace their family tree, our maps, files and street directories to discover the history of their locality and our photographs and print collections to obtain a vivid picture of what it was like to live in Ireland in times gone by.

Focus on the Leaving Certificate History Research Study

What sources are available in the Dublin City Library and Archive Collections for your Research Study? How many primary sources do you need to consult?

Watch our slideshow to find out more the project requirements, as well as examples of library sources for three significant individuals and their involvement in Irish history – Lady Ishbel Aberdeen, Daniel O’Connell and Archbishop Rinuccini.

(Cannot view slide? Read the slideshow transcript here.)


Membership is free and open to all post Junior Certificate students. Students will need to supply proof of identity, such as a Scholar Card, a Passport or Youth Card. We do not offer open study space to students and each student will be required to respect the conditions of membership.

Each second level student will also be provided with a pack which includes a guide to our collections, instructions on how to use the Reading Room and finding tools such as catalogues and other lists and helpful hints on how to use the different kinds of sources available to the student of history.


Dublin and Irish Local Studies Collection: Second Level Students' Pack

An Introduction to the Dublin and Irish Local Studies Collection

Map of Ireland and BritainThe Dublin and Irish Collection holds material relating to Ireland and particularly to Dublin city and county. The collection includes books, newspapers, photographs, maps, prints, drawings, theatre programmes, playbills, posters, ballad sheets, political cartoons, audio-visual material such as tapes and film and ephemera such as theatre and sports programmes.

Books and manuscripts

We hold an extensive range of books relating to Dublin and Ireland, to which we add new publications on an on-going basis. In addition to over a quarter of a million items from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries we also hold a considerable collection of older material of which the Gilbert Collection, comprising material from 16th to 18th centuries, forms the core.

Newspapers and journals

Our collection of newspapers and journals dates from the 18th century up to the present day and covers such diverse topics as local history and antiquities, architecture, sport, religion, literature, education, archaeology, transport and music.

Directories and almanacs

Almanacs and street directories are an invaluable resource for researchers of family and local history. Our collection of Street Directories dating from 18th century onwards holds information on who lived where and who did what in Dublin.

Other resources

Lists of the contents of each collection mentioned here are available from staff.

  • Photographs, slides and maps: Other photographic holdings include aerial photographs of Dublin and photographs of Dublin buildings and people. The Dixon Collection is comprised of approximately 1,600 slides, mainly of Dublin city and surroundings. Our collection of maps of ancient and modern Dublin from the 17th century to present day is another important source of information on the history of Dublin and its surroundings.
  • Rocque's Map of Dublin CityFamily History: Our principal sources for family history research are listed in the printed indexes in the Reading Room.
  • Historical Personality Files: Files are held on each of the key Irish historical personalities covered in the Leaving Certificate Course.
  • Local History Files: These mainly cover Dublin districts and institutions but also include general topics such as the Magdalen Laundries, the Rebellion of 1798 and how to research World War 1.
  • Newspapers Cutting Files: These are copies of newspaper cuttings on topics in modern history and newsworthy events, including such diverse topics as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Dublin Slums in the 1930s, the 1913 Lockout and American Football in Croke Park in 1997.
  • Irish Political Cartoons: This collection consists mainly of material from The Weekly Freeman and The United Irishman.
  • Theatre Archive: This collection consists of programmes from plays and musicals performed in Dublin dating from the 18th century to the present day.
  • Birth of the Republic: This is a collection of original material from the period of the 1916 Rising until 1942. Browse and search Birth of the Republic online.
  • Irish Topographical Prints and Engravings: This collection consists of mainly late 18th and early 19th century engravings of Dublin and Ireland in general.
  • Sports Programmes: The collection of Irish sports programmes contains material from as far back as the 1950s.

Finding Material in the Reading Research Room

  • Files: Simply fill out a white slip with the name of the file as listed and give it to a staff member at the desk.
  • Books: Most of our material is listed in the OPAC on-line catalogue. You may search the on-line catalogue under the heading of the author of a book, the tile of a book or by a keyword.
  • Non-fiction books are arranged according to Class Number. The main class number for Irish History is 941.5. A class number will be listed for each non-fiction book in the catalogue. This is the reference number, which you fill in on the white slip.
  • Newspapers and periodicals: If you have a reference to a specific article, check with our staff to see if the journal is in stock. Staff will also show you how to use our indexes to find references to particular people or subjects.
  • Computer based resources: Internet access is available in the Reading Room for those engaged in historical research. The library also has a large number of CD ROMs and computerised databases.
  • Maps, pictures and photographs, other databases: Ask at the desk for our listings.

When you have found the reference to the material you wish to use, fill out a white slip or ask the staff for assistance. Some of our material, such as the Street Directories, is shelved on open access in the Reading Room.

If you cannot find the information you require, do not hesitate to ask the staff for assistance.

Sample Search: The visit of John F. Kennedy to Ireland

Sample request for research material formIt is very important to make a note of the sources you have used as you do your research; you will need to list them in your essay.

  • Step 1: Check the catalogue for books on your topic. You may have to start with a general book and look for specific references to your topic in the index.
  • Step 2: Note down references in your initial source to any other books, first hand accounts etc., directly related to your specific topic.
  • Step 3: Go to first-hand accounts in biographies, newspapers etc. Check to see if we have a local history or newspaper-cutting file on the topic. Check our lists of visual material such as maps and photographs as necessary.

Using Sources: Types of source material available

  • Sources produced by the Church - e.g. Registers of baptisms, marriages, deaths
  • The Weekly Freeman, 1887 cartoon supplementSources produced by the local or central government e.g. Voter's registers, census material
  • Sources produced for legal reasons, e.g. wills and agreements between landlords and tenants
  • Sources produced by private individuals, e.g. household accounts and receipts, diaries and personal letters, emails and text messages
  • Professional descriptions and accounts, e.g. histories, biographies, guides and travellers' accounts, and the records kept by institutions such as hospitals. Ballads, plays, street directories and web pages produced by private companies can also be included in this category.
  • Pictorial/Graphic Sources: maps, pictures, paintings, drawings, engravings, postcards, photographs, film
  • Oral Sources: tapes and interviews of reminiscences, songs and ballads, videos and DVDs produced by local communities
  • Archaeological sources: buildings (houses, shops, churches, schools), monuments (tombstones, memorials, statues), artefacts (weapons, pottery, machinery)

Every source has different strengths and weaknesses. For example a personal account of the funeral of Parnell might bring the event vividly to life, but might be biased by the outlook of the person writing the account.

Questions to ask the sources of information you use:

These will help you evaluate the source in terms of reliability and comprehensiveness

  • What kind of source is it? Written? A picture? A map?
  • Cover of The Nation newspaperWhen was the source produced? Is it a primary (i.e. produced at the same period as its subject) or secondary (i.e. produced at a later date)?
  • Who produced the source? A named individual (e.g. a journalist) or an unknown body of people (e.g. a Government Department)? What is their background?
  • Who are they recording the information for? For a friend, as in a letter; for themselves, as in a diary; for the public, as in a newspaper article?
  • What or who are their sources? Does the information they give us come directly from their own knowledge or from other people?
  • Why was the source produced? Does the writer have a particular aim?
  • What information is being given in the source?
  • Is there an obvious bias in the information being given in the source?
  • If there is, can you think of any way of getting further information? Does the source lead you to further sources? For example, does the source have a bibliography or footnotes?

Please read Terms and Conditions of Membership

Download PDF version of Second Level Students' Pack (PDF, 2.9MB)

For more information

Dublin City Library & Archive, 138 - 144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01 674 4999. Email: