‘Life under Covid-19 in Ireland’ archive acquired by National Library of Ireland

Sean Foley, a client at Oaklodge Nursing Home, Cloyne, Co Cork is visited by his wife, Betty, during Lockdown. (Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision)

The National Library of Ireland has announced the acquisition of Press Photographers Ireland (formerly PPAI) ‘Life under Covid-19 in Ireland’ collection of press photography and videography.

Taken between 2020 and 2021, the archive comprises close to 200 digital images and features the work of more than 70 press photographers across the country, including 20 from Cork. 

Documenting life in Ireland during the pandemic, it includes photos of social distancing; widespread mask-wearing; vaccination centres; sports teams playing to empty stadia (and prospective spectators watching through locked gates); deserted streets; healthcare workers in full PPE, as well as how people communicated with the elderly or medically vulnerable, and communities coming together – in a socially distanced way – to pay respect to the work of Ireland’s frontline workers.

It also captures photos of key officials, such as Taoiseach Simon Harris, then Minister for Health; former Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Houlihan, and immunologist Professor Luke O’Neill. 


Commenting, Director of the National Library of Ireland, Dr Audrey Whitty said: “The National Library of Ireland is Ireland’s memory-keeper. In the 21st century, as the world embraces digital over print, it is essential that we evolve with technology so that culturally significant ‘born digital’ collections can be collected, managed, and made available for future generations. I am thrilled that images from across the county and city of Cork are included in this project. 

“The pandemic was a very difficult time in Ireland and across the globe and we all have our own experiences and memories of it. The ‘Life under Covid-19 in Ireland’ digital archive is an incredibly valuable visual historical record of this time. It will possibly be even more valuable in the coming decades as that period begins to fade from living memory. In an era when digital photos can so easily be deleted to make space for other content, it is important that such digital photographic records are collected, preserved, and made available for researchers – professional or amateur – for years to come. 

“We are honoured that PPI has chosen to donate this archive to the National Library of Ireland. It will now become part of the national collections, alongside the books, manuscripts, newspapers, prints and drawings, music, and other physical items the NLI has been collecting since 1877.”


President of Press Photographers Ireland, David Branigan said: “It is said that journalism is the first draft of history, and press photography has an important place in documenting our nation’s story. We are dedicated to showcasing the extraordinary work of our members and promoting the role of the press photographer, which has provided this unique view of Ireland during the pandemic.

“On behalf of our members, we are delighted to donate the ‘Life under Covid-19 in Ireland’ archive to the National Library of Ireland, which will preserve it and make it publicly available for generations to come.”

The ‘Life under Covid-19′ digital archive will be made available to the public later this year, when it has been catalogued.