Students from the University of Galway are playing a key role in an innovative new digital project that brings County Galway’s unique heritage to life.
Spearheaded by Galway County Council in conjunction with Galway County Heritage Forum, The Heritage Council and local community and heritage groups, ‘Galway County Heritage Trails’ showcases the cultural and historical significance of almost half of County Galway’s 4,556 townlands through meticulous research and the application of cutting-edge technologies.
One of the standout features of the project is the creation of StoryMaps, a series of interactive maps combining geographical data with multimedia elements to guide users through the historical landscapes of County Galway’s townlands, towns and villages. 

In recent months, University of Galway students Dylan Reilly, Joseph Ennis and Natalie Cyrkle have been working with the Heritage and GIS teams of Galway County Council to convert historical data from sources, including O’Donovan’s Ordnance Survey Letters, Griffiths Valuation, the Down Survey, and the 1901 and 1911 censuses, into digital formats.
161 townlands in the civil parishes of Kiltartan, Kinvaradooras, Kilcolgan, Kilthomas and Killinny have recently been digitised while online StoryMaps also have been created for Oranmore, Mountbellew, Monivea and Ballyglunin, bringing to 2,000 the number of townlands now digitised through the project.
Cllr Liam Carroll, Cathaoirleach of the County of Galway said, “StoryMaps is a simple yet powerful way to share information and enlighten, engage, and inspire people with stories that relate to locations of interest around us.  Incorporating location and mapping into the context of a story, each StoryMaps is designed to provide an immersive experience, shedding light on the cultural and historical significance of various locations.”
“Placements such as those with the Heritage Office allow students from the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies to develop important skills and broaden their horizons in terms of longer-term career options open to them. The positivity shown by students in their presentations in Áras an Chontae only serves to demonstrate the value of their experience in this project,” added the Cathaoirleach.
Liam Hanrahan, Director of Services, Director of Services for Economic Development & Planning added, “By combining academic rigor with local authority and community collaboration, this project underscores the power of digital technology in preserving and sharing local history. The digitised sources and StoryMaps not only honour the past but also pave the way for dynamic, future-oriented research and learning and are an invaluable resource for researchers, educators, the diaspora and history enthusiasts.”
Marc Mellotte, Head of Engagement at the University of Galway commented, “Our engagement with organisations and businesses is a very important part of our students’ development and our own commitments as a university. Our B.Sc. (Social Sciences) graduates see their careers and futures in many different areas of work and the placements and internships offered by Galway County Council really help to broaden their perspective and allow them to see new opportunities for their future.”
Meanwhile, Galway County Council is inviting members of the public to contribute to ‘Galway County Heritage Trails’ with the objective of digitising heritage information relating to all 4,556 County Galway townlands. To date, the Heritage Office has worked with community heritage groups, active retirement groups, Forum Connemara, Galway Rural Development, schools, University of Galway students, and The Heritage Council in digitising 2,000 of the County’s townlands.
“Making heritage more accessible to everyone is one of our main goals,” explained Marie Mannion, Heritage Officer with Galway County Council.
She added, “There are over 64,000 townlands in Ireland of which there are in the region of 4,556 in County Galway, Ireland’s second largest county. The townland is a uniquely Irish division and one of the oldest in existence. The boundaries of the townland have often been redefined to match borders with other divisions. It is the smallest notable division and is often the one with which people identify themselves.”
“In addition to the academic aspect of the project, there is a strong emphasis on community engagement. Galway County Council and the students have worked closely with local heritage and community groups to collect and present local heritage information that enriches the content of the StoryMaps. This collaborative approach ensures that the digital heritage trails reflect the authentic voices and experiences of the community,” Ms. Mannion concluded. 
Michael Mulkerrins, Principal of Peterswell NS, whose 5th and 6th class students collaborated with the Heritage Office of Galway County Council on mapping the townlands of the civil parish of Kilthomas, said, “The children spent time studying our school maps to decide on what townlands they could visit and then it was decided that each student would photograph a small number of townlands. Students worked hard to find suitable points of interest to photograph in each townland and were thrilled to get the opportunity to visit every corner of our homeplace. Seeing their photographs now on the completed storyboards is fantastic recognition for our students.”
Meanwhile, Eilish Kavanagh of Kinvara Heritage Group said the new digital heritage resources have opened access to the rich heritage of Galway’s townlands and places for the ordinary person.
“This project not only aids in preserving local history but also serves as a model for other communities interested in digitising their historical records,” she added.
To view the StoryMaps and Townland research, visit
Storymaps_1 - **No repro fee** Cllr Liam Carroll, Cathaoirleach of the County of Galway and University of Galway students Dylan Reilly, Joseph Ennis and Natalie Cyrkle pictured with ‘Opening The Door To Ireland’s Heritage’, a Heritage Council publication which features their work on the ‘Galway County Heritage Trails’ project with Galway County Council. Photo Sean Lydon
Storymaps_2 - **No repro fee** Pictured at an event in Áras an Chontae celebrating the involvement of University of Galway students in the ‘Galway County Heritage Trails’ project is Cllr Liam Carroll, Cathaoirleach of the County of Galway (back, 5th from right), students Joseph Ennis, Natalie Cyrkle and Dylan Reilly (front), and officials from the Heritage and GIS sections of Galway County Council and University of Galway. Photo Sean Lydon.
For further information please contact Marie Mannion, Heritage Officer, Galway County Council on 
087 9088387 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  
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Liam Conneally, Chief Executive of Galway County Council said, “This digital resource brings the richness of our heritage to new and wider audiences. It is great to see community groups, the University of Galway and Galway County Council working together to deliver this project and we hope it will develop and grow.”
Dr. Mike Hynes, the B.Sc. (Social Sciences) Programme Director for University of Galway expressed his delight at the ongoing success of student placement with Galway County Council and “the very important experience it offers students.”
Emma Marron, Placement Officer for the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies, University of Galway commented, “The Heritage Office at Galway County Council has generously offered placement opportunities to students from various programmes at the University of Galway, including our BSc Social Sciences, BA History and BA Digital Arts & Technology. These internships have provided invaluable learning experiences and have greatly enhanced the students' employability skills.” 
Maura Hannon, Manager of Galway Telework Co-Operative Society Limited and Galway’s Living Bog Project in Mountbellew said, “I was delighted to attend the launch of the "Book" with The Heritage Office, Galway County Council. This is a fantastic resource for Mountbellew to showcase places of interest and historical importance. An online user-friendly interactive guide for anybody to gain information and visit East Galway. Thank you to Heritage Officer, Marie Mannion working with students from University College, Galway for this initiative.”