Heritage & History
Dublin City Libraries provides access to rich collections highlighting the Heritage and History of Dublin, and Ireland's, past.
Dublin City Archives
Dublin City Archives contains records of the civic government of Dublin from 1171 to the late 20th century. These records include City Council and committee minutes, account books, correspondence, reports, court records, charity petitions, title deeds, maps and plans and drawings all of which document the development of Dublin over eight centuries. Dublin City Archives also acquires private collections that relate to the history of the city of Dublin or to individuals who worked within the Municipal City.
Dublin City Archives is also responsible for the storage of historic Dublin City Council Planning Application Files for the period 1952-1988 inclusive. Learn more about how to obtain planning application files.
Dublin and Irish Collections
The Dublin and Irish Collections are an important resource for local history studies. The library holds an extensive range of books relating to Dublin and Ireland to which are regularly added new publications. We hold a considerable collection of material dating from the 16th to the 21st centuries.
The Dublin City Archives
This includes records from the following collections;
- the Dublin Mansion House Relief Fund 1880
- the South City Markets Fire Relief Fund
- the O'Connell Monument Committee
- and the Duchess of Marlborough Relief Fund
For more details see the Charitable Committees page.
The Irish Theatre Archive, held at Dublin City Library and Archive was founded in 1981 and now consists of over 250 collections, and 100,000 individual items. For more details see the Irish Theatre Archive page.
Dublin City Archives holds records from the now defunct Pembroke Township which existed from 1863 to 1930, and for Rathmines and Rathgar Township which existed from 1847 to 1930. For more details see the Other Local Authorities page.
Wide Streets Commissioners 1758 – 1851
The Commissioners for making Wide and Convenient Ways, Streets and Passages in the City of Dublin was established by an Act of Parliament in 1757.
For more details see the Parliamentary Commissions page.
The Private Collections include Archives from the Civics Institute of Ireland, Jacob's Biscuit Factory, the John V. O'Connor papers, the Mount Street Club and the Patrick English Frongoch letters.
For more details see the Private Collections page.
The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association (RDFA) was established in 1996 to commemorate all Irish men and women who volunteered, served and died in the First World War 1914-1918. The RDFA fulfils its remit by organising public exhibitions, lectures, seminars, visits and the publication of a journal, Blue Cap. In 2005, the RDFA decided to place its archive with Dublin City Library & Archive, where it is available for public consultation. For more details see the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association Archive page.
The Dublin City Archaeological Archive [DCAA] was launched in July 2008. This is a Dublin City Council project, managed jointly by Dublin City Archaeology, Dublin City Archives and Dublin City Council’s Heritage Office. The DCAA’s remit is to preserve records arising from archaeological investigations conducted in Dublin City by archaeologists working in the private sector, with special reference to excavations carried out before 2004. For more details see the Dublin City Archaeological Archive.
The city of Dublin has been governed by its own elected representatives since the 12th century. The Dublin City Assembly which flourished during the Middle Ages and survived until 1840, met at the great feasts of Christmas, Easter, Midsummer and Michaelmas for the transaction of business, but extra meetings could be held if necessary. For more details see the Dublin City Assembly page.
The Dublin City Sports Archive was established by Dublin City Library and Archive in September 2010 to provide a lasting legacy to Dublin’s term as European Capital of Sport. For more details see the Dublin City Sports Archive.
The Dublin and Irish Collections
Book and Manuscript Collections
Dublin City Library and Archive Special Collections holds a valuable collection of early printed books and illustrations for children. Major Irish authors in Irish and English are particularly well represented, as well as translations of their works into other languages. Chapbooks and 18th- to 20th-century schoolbooks also form part of the holdings.
This collection was donated to the city by the Irish bibliographer E. R. McClintock Dix. It contains some 700 books and pamphlets, mainly 17th and 18th century Dublin and Irish imprints, along with a number of fine bindings.
John T. Gilbert's valuable library of mainly 17th and 18th century books and manuscripts relating to Dublin and Ireland was purchased by Dublin Corporation after his death in 1898. It forms the nucleus of the special collections of Dublin City Libraries.
From the 1920s it has been a policy of the library to buy a copy of any book published in Irish. The earliest Irish volume in the collection dates from 1616.
The Yeats collection contains books and other material relating to the poet William Butler Yeats, mainly first editions of his work, and to the Irish Literary Revival, together with a collection of items, including hand coloured broadsides, printed at the Dun Emer Press by the Yeats sisters.
The library also holds extensive collections of editions of the works of writers and artists such as Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Brendan Behan, John Millington Synge, Jack B. Yeats and John Montague. Publishers such as Dolmen Press, Gallery Press and the Three Candles Press are collected in their own right
This collection consists of 235 books and pamphlets relating to Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula.
Directories and Almanacs
Almanacs and street directories are an invaluable resource for researchers into 18th and 19th century Dublin. The earliest directory in the collection is from 1636. Learn more about our Directories and Almanacs.
The library houses a collection of maps of ancient and modern Dublin from the 17th century to the present day. From Speed's map of 1610 to Rocque's map of 1756, through to the Dublin City Development plans of today this collection traces the growth of the capital city. Maps of Ireland and the counties are also held.
Ordnance Survey Ireland's Digital Historic Map Viewer is available online in the Reading Room. It features hundreds of maps including the 6 inch mapping series (1837 to 1842) and the 25 inch mapping series (1887 to 1913) for the Republic of Ireland.
Ephemeral material is collected on an on-going basis. Among a wide range of items, this includes political cartoons, programmes and playbills from plays and musicals staged in the Dublin theatres, and Irish sports programmes for Gaelic football and hurling, soccer, rugby and swimming.
The library follows the development of theatre in Dublin with a collection of programmes and playbills from plays and musicals staged between 1828 and 2005 in Dublin theatres such as the Abbey, the Gaiety, the Gate, the Olympia, the Peacock, Queen’s Theatre and the Theatre Royal.
As well as journals such as Gaelic Sport, World Soccer, and The Irish Field the library collects sports programmes from soccer, rugby, Gaelic football, hurling and swimming events.
Political, social, and business ephemera
Political cartoons, pamphlets, Irish political ephemera, leaflets, posters and flyers for social and cultural events are collected.
Newspapers and Periodicals
National and local newspapers, some dating from the 18th century, are held in the library. Newspapers continue to be collected on an ongoing basis and are available to the public in digital or microfilm formats. Some newspapers are available in hardcopy.
Daily newspapers are available for reading in Dublin Libraries' Business Information Centre in the Central Library, Ilac Centre, Henry Street, Dublin. 1
Periodicals, journals and magazines
Journals and magazines from the 18th century to the present day cover such diverse topics as local history and antiquities, architecture, sport, religion, literature, education, archaeology, transport and music.
Access databases produced by Dublin City Library & Archive.
Find genealogical resources supplied by Dublin City Libraries.
See what stories made the news in Dublin over the years during the current month.
Resources and information to assist you in tracing your family tree.
Browse images from our Archives, special collections and the Dublin City Council Photographic Collection
Pictorial and Audiovisual Collections
The library holds a collection of approximately 1,600 slides, mainly of Dublin city and surroundings, collected by historian, F.E. Dixon. It contains a wide range of historical pictures.
Search and browse Postcards and Views online. This collection is made up of postcards from Dublin City Libraries' collection. The main emphasis is on postcards of Dublin from the 19th and early 20th century.
Audiovisual material collected in the library concentrates on the oral tradition. Local history, community films and interviews, plays, lectures and poetry readings are held in these formats.
On Wednesday, 27th May 2015, Dublin City Council's Public Library Service took possession of a copy of a rare eye-witness account of the outbreak of the 1916 Easter Rising. The account was in the form of a letter written by Elsie McDermid, a popular opera singer of the era, to her mother in England on the occasion of Elsie's visit to Dublin. She was in Dublin to perform in Gilbert and Sullivan shows at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. However, the performances were cancelled as a result of the dramatic outbreak of the Easter Rising on Monday 24th April 1916. Elsie wrote a 26-page letter and in it she related, among other things, the digging of trenches in St. Stephen’s Green and eye-witness accounts of the first casualties on the streets of Dublin.
The letter, which includes Elsie’s hand-drawn maps of Dublin during the Rising, now forms part of a personal 1916 archive owned by Elsie’s nephew Colin McDermid.
The letter begins “We are living in stirring times. I am writing this to be posted if there is any post office left and will keep it till I know it will go.” Elsie McDermid kept the letter and other souvenirs of 1916, including shell casings and postcards, which her family preserved. The letter has never been published in historical accounts of the Rising but it and the other items in Elsie’s 1916 archive featured on the BBC's 'Antiques Roadshow' in the Spring of 2015.
Dublin City Libraries and Archive would like to extend a sincere thanks and its appreciation to Colin for the donation.
Elsie McDermid made her stage debut in Covent Garden in 1914 and had a London stage career well into the 1920s. She performed leading roles in many Gilbert and Sullivan classics including ‘The Pirates of Penzance’, ‘The Mikado’ and ‘The Gondoliers’. She also performed roles in Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’ and Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’. Born in Middlesbrough in 1889, she died in Eston, North Yorkshire, in 1933.
The Elsie McDermid 1916 Letter - Usage Statement
Ownership of the Elsie McDermid Letter resides with Colin McDermid. Colin has very kindly granted Dublin City Council rights to reproduce the letter here.
Printing or downloading of the letter (text, images) is permitted on a temporary, non-commercial basis for personal use only.
Commercial Use and Reproduction:
Those wishing to use the content of the Elsie McDermid Letter (text, images) for commercial purposes or to publish* the content should contact Dublin City Libraries ([email protected]) for permission. When applying please state which content is being used and give the precise details of the type of use planned – exhibition, book, magazine, newspaper, performance or other. Conditions to apply.
*Includes website or other electronic means.