Finding information about archives and special collections can be challenging.


RASCAL is a resource discovery tool. The RASCAL database aims to make research and special collections accessible to researchers regardless of their location.

It provides summary descriptions (collection descriptions) of collections from throughout Ireland and the United States. The collections described are multi-disciplinary and include many formats from traditional vellum manuscripts through to digital resources.

Through RASCAL it is possible to identify special collections of music, literature, politics, science and history and contact the relevant curating institution for further detail or to arrange a visit for personal consultation. New collection descriptions are added regularly and you can be notified of updated content by RSS feed based on Institution, Subject area or Material Type.

If you're new to archives and researching then our index may be a good place to start.

1) Collection Description

Collection Description is a useful supplement to the standard itemised listings of materials that researchers normally encounter. It focuses on top-level information about collections, so that they can be described as a whole and made available for use much more quickly and efficiently than they might otherwise have been with detailed itemised cataloguing.

2) Collection Level Records

Collection Level Records, defined as records which identify and describe research and special collections which have particular association with Ireland and of particular interest to researchers in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Records conform to a standardised template for collection description and provide links to on-line catalogues and digital resources where available. A range of attributes are documented which facilitates a comprehensive description of a collection. Fields included such elements as collection title, description, dates, custodial history and accrual, access conditions, institutional contacts and location information – everything and anything a researcher could wish to know about a collection in order to quickly assess whether it is worth consulting or not.

3) What will I find in RASCAL?

RASCAL was established to include collections containing rare or unique material which have particular association with Ireland, irrespective of format, or those that have attained a critical mass, which would make it attractive or perhaps essential for a researcher to visit. Although quite broad in scope, the criteria for inclusion in RASCAL allows participating institutions to surface information about a wide range of collections, whether bibliographic, archival or digital, regardless of age, format or extent. Single item collections are also represented. The focus is limited primarily to Humanities and Social Sciences collections, although this in itself is interpreted in the widest sense to include, for example, the history of science and the history of medicine.

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Content in RASCAL is based on the descriptions of collections submitted by the institutions participating in this scheme. Institutions may submit an unlimited number of collection descriptions. It is hoped that collection descriptions in RASCAL will help address the problem of “hidden collections” and ensure information for research and teaching is more accessible to a wider audience than has been the case to date.

Access to resources described in RASCAL is managed by the holding institution. Researchers should contact relevant institutions directly for further information.


Questions about specific research collections or related information should be directed to the relevant institution. Contact details for all institutions participating in RASCAL are given with each description.    


Searches are not case sensitive. Enter your search term for a quick search on any RASCAL page, only the RASCAL database is searched.

The underlying search functionality used in RASCAL is very powerful. A simple keyword search will search against information in the title, collection description, collector, biography, material type i.e. all fields associated with each collection record.

2) Ordering results

Results can be listed alphabetically by title A-Z or Z-A for your convenience.

3) Search Filters

Results of a simple keyword search can be further refined by filtering results by Subject, Language, Material Type, Geographic Coverage, Institution, or Collector by selecting options from the Refine your Search menu on the home page.

4) Names

Simply enter the name in the Search box, refine results if necessary.

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Advanced Search

This allows you to refine results or search with more specific parameters if your initial search didn’t return helpful results.

Advanced Search options include Boolean options, you can search for

  • Specific keywords (AND)
  • a range of key words some of which may be displayed in results generated (OR)
  • none of the keywords specified (NOT)

Advanced Searches may also be tailored by searching specific index terms i.e.

  • Institution
  • Language
  • People
  • Places
  • Subject


Please note that the search engine uses stemming which means that you will get a match for all words with the same stem. You will not be able to search for an exact match of a complete word but for the stem of the word. For example, when searching for "selection" results generated will also include "selected" and "selecting".


There are several options available on the Homepage for browsing the resources documented in RASCAL.

Featured Collections are accessible on RASCAL homepage. Collections with images attached are selected randomly for display on the home page. Brief metadata giving details reference details of the item featured is also displayed. Click on the image for a full description of the collection represented by the image, information about the location, contact details and access arrangements for consultation at the holding institution.

Featured Institutions are accessible on RASCAL homepage. Institutions with images attached are selected randomly for display on the home page. Click on the image for a description of the institution, a list of collections available for consultation with links through to full descriptions, location and contact details are also displayed.

1) Collections

From the home page click the Collections tab.

Options available from the menu include

  • Featured Collections
  • Subject
  • Language
  • Format /Material Type
  • Places (geographic coverage)

2) Institutions

From the home page click the Institution tab. A list of institutions will be displayed with some brief background information.

Filter the extensive list of all institutions documented on RASCAL by Institution Name or Type of Institution (Library, Archive, Museum or Web resource) or Country. Type of Institution or Country options include drop-down menus for your convenience

Only institutions participating in the RASCAL are listed.

3) Institution

Select an institution by clicking on it. A list of special collections or archives with a brief description will be displayed along with some information on the institution, location and contact details.

A more detailed description is available by clicking on a collection title, this includes links to associated information including location and contact details.

Limit you search of Collections in the institution selected by Keyword, Subject or Places.

Subject and Places options include drop-down menus for your convenience

4) Language

Languages represented in RASCAL reflect those noted in the Content of the collections described.

To browse collections by language select Collections tab and Language option from the menu displayed.

5) Geographic Coverage

Select the Collections tab from the menu bar running across the top of the RASCAL screen

Click on the 'Places' option

When you select a geographic area and click on the Place (i.e. Asia) a list of collections with brief descriptions relevant to this geographic area will be displayed, click on a collection title to see more detailed information about the collection and associated information including location of holding institution, contact details and access for consultation.  

6) Institution

Click the Institution tab. Select an institution by clicking on it. A list of special collections or archives associated with the institution selected will be displayed along with access conditions and location details.

Only institutions participating in the RASCAL are listed.

7) Institution Type (Library, Archive or Museum)

Select the Institution option from the menu bar running across the top of the RASCAL screen

Click on the type of institution option, a dropdown menu is provided for your convenience.

8) Format / Material Type

Select the Collections option from the menu bar running across the top of the RASCAL screen

Click on the 'Type of Collection' option

When you select a medium relevant descriptions will display in brief, clicking on a description title will display a more detailed collection description and associated information.  

9) Subject

Subjects represented in RASCAL have been used in association with collections in the database and indicate particular strengths in a collection. Subjects assigned to particular collections are indicative of substantial content but are not exhaustive and absolute.

Select the Collections option from the menu bar at the top of the RASCAL screen

Click on the 'Subject' option

When you select a subject heading relevant descriptions will display in brief, clicking on a description title will display a more detailed collection description and associated information namely location, contact details and access information.

10) Collector

This can also be understood as 'creator'. The Collector is the individual or organisation responsible for amassing the materials described in the Collection Description before they were deposited in a holding institution, be it a library, archive or museum. Some examples from RASCAL include the Moore Collection at Queen’s, amassed by a gentleman called Gibson and deposited with Queen’s by Massie. Details of a collection’s Provenance and custodial history are important to understanding the focus of the collection and any gaps or bias that may be inherent. The Owner of a collection may not be the Collector, for example Somerville & Ross materials are located in a number of institutions, with Somerville and Ross noted as Collectors.

11) Indexing Terms (CATEGORISATION)

Collections described in RASCAL are indexed by Subject, Material type, Language, Names and Geographic Coverage

12) Stop words

Words such as 'the' and 'of' are intelligently handled. For example, a search for archbishop of canterbury or archbishop canterbury will get the same results, as will canterbury of archbishop. A search for "archbishop of canterbury" is required to get an exact phrase match.

The search is an 'and' search by default, so antarctic and shackleton gets the same results as antarctic shackleton.

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RSS feeds

It is possible to set up an RSS feed to RASCAL so you will be notified when new descriptions are added to the database. You can subscribe to an RSS feed for individual institutions, subject areas or material types.

Set up an RSS feed instructions:

  1. Click on the RSS icon on a listing page
  2. Copy the link address into your RSS reader