RASCAL is an online resource which describes a wide variety of collections held in a number of institutions on the island of Ireland and the United States. RASCAL does not have any archives or special collections, nor does it contain detailed descriptions of individual items but rather summary descriptions of collections. You may consult any of the collections described in RASCAL in the holding institution, however researchers are encouraged to establish contact in advance of a visit in case there are short term limitations on access for some reason.

Collection descriptions may include links to digital content. A fixed number of collection descriptions is not mandated for inclusion of an institution’s holdings in RASCAL. Collection descriptions in RASCAL remain the responsibility of the holding institution.

Type of Institution

Table of Contents

  1. Libraries
  2. Archives
  3. Museums

Institutions are included in RASCAL if they have archives or rare and special collections in their holdings. Institutions represented in RASCAL may be public or private and include Libraries, Archives, Museums and web based resources. If you are aware of an institution with holdings that may be of interest to researchers please contact us at

1) Libraries

Library collections may be located in

  • public libraries, for example Libraries NI, Dublin City Libraries or Clare County Library
  • university libraries, for example Queen’s University Belfast or Boston College
  • research institutions, for example Royal Irish Academy, Met Eireann
  • special collections or societies, for example Belfast Harbour Commissioners Library or the Methodist Historical Society of Ireland

2) Archives

Archive collections may be found in the holdings of a range of institutions including universities, societies, museums and public records offices. Archives may include personal or business papers, they may comprise the papers of a family or of one person. Photographs, correspondence, diaries and notes may be found in an archival collection.

3) Museums

Collections in the holdings of museums represented in RASCAL may include a wide range of materials including personal papers, books, photographs and maps as well as artefacts. These collections may reflect a critical mass of materials relating to a particular locality, topic or era.

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How Collections are described

As the guideline for including collections descriptions in RASCAL is quite broad in scope is allows participating institutions to surface information about a wide range of collections, whether bibliographic, archival or digital. It does not impose any limits based on age, format or extent. Large, complex collections and single item collections are represented. The focus of collections included in RASCAL is limited primarily to Humanities and Social Sciences collections, although this is interpreted in the widest sense to include, for example, the history of science and the history of medicine.

In order to supplement the usual catalogues or listings associated with collections and address the problem of uncatalogued collections RASCAL focuses on top-level information about collections so that they are described as a whole and information about them is made available to researchers more quickly and efficiently than might otherwise be possible with more detailed and itemised cataloguing. This top level information about a collection is documented in a Collection Level Record.

Find out more information on Collection Level Records here.

How Materials are described

Our index of terms used in RASCAL may be a useful aid to understanding