Who or what is the Discovery Programme?
We are often asked this question! The Discovery Programme is an Irish archaeological research institute, established as a non-statutory research body by the then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Charles Haughey in 1991. By 1993, the Discovery Programme came under the remit of the Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, later becoming an autonomous limited company, funded by and under the aegis of the Heritage Council.
What does all that mean?
Well it means that we are company funded mostly by the Heritage Council, which is a statutory body regulated by the 1995 Heritage Act. We are the only Irish archaeological research body that can devote its time and efforts to pure research, which we aim to share with everyone as much as we can. Our Technology department actively pursues and successfully receives European funding through participation in EU projects like the Archaeolandscapes EU Project which brought about Traces of the Past. We also generate a very small income from the sales of our research publications. So, financially we dependant on the state and the EU, but in terms of research, we have the freedom to set out our own agenda. You can read more about the company on our website.
So what do you research?
When the Discovery Programme was created, a panel was set up to determine what research questions the institute would answer. It was felt that initially it could contribute best to the prehistoric era, which despite being a period of great change on our island remained under-studied. The first four projects were:
- The Western Stone Forts Project
- Ballyhoura Hills Project
- North Munster Project
Each of these projects generated a number of publications starting with the first of the Discovery Programme Reports series in 1993. Over the years we have added others such as the Lake Settlement Project, the Medieval Rural Settlement Project, and mostly recently the Late Iron Age and ‘Roman’ Ireland (LIARI) project. Discovery Programme Report 8 will be a book on the first phase of the LIARI project. Outside of these, the Technology team are working on a number of EU projects and Dr Bhreathnach has brought with her the Monastic Ireland and Mapping Death projects from UCD. So the scope of the DP still moved slightly from the prehistoric, but remains focussed on areas for which we are best placed to contribute, particularly in terms of technology.
Our intention is that not only do other researchers benefit from our work, but that the public do also. Over the years, the institute has published posters and texts for schools, and guide books and pamphlets for the public. The main reports and monographs are sold at cost or below cost price to make them accessible as possible. We also publish to external journals and magazines like Archaeology Ireland. We are also making use of the internet as an inexpensive way to share our data and research with the public. Our website hosts a number of reports and articles for download and databases have been put online such as WODAN and Mapping Death. We are currently re-developing our schools programme, which will take us into more classrooms across the country and our seminars schedule which will bring students and researchers together. Claire Cotter is about to publish a popular guide to Dún Aonghasa, continuing the tradition of titles like the Tara guide. We hope to see the Dún Aonghasa book in print early next year, please fill in the form below if you would like advance notice.
Where I can learn more?
The main source of Discovery Programme information is our website, www.discoveryprogramme.ie. We also update Facebook and Twitter regularly and you can find us on LinkedIn. Keep an eye on these for notices about when our house is open to guests, or when we are out on site and can talk to visitors. We are always happy to talk about heritage!
- #blogarch November (tracesofthepastexhibition.wordpress.com)