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Published: 2010


The National Library of Ireland is home to some of Ireland's greatest treasures and among its eight million items are very rare and delicate documents. The NLI has a global reputation, has works of historical relevance that are known the world over but could only be examined by visitors who came to the library. The Library faces a number of challenges when organising exhibits and displays:
  • Exhibition space tends to be limited and that means that only 26 artefacts can be displayed in its current exhibition.
  • At times, artefacts can be too fragile or too large be placed on public display in exhibition cases.
  • It also was aware of the important role that Irish history and culture plays in building and maintaining Ireland's reputation globally and attracting cultural tourism. The library has a large number of international visitors each year and growing numbers of queries from international students and people from both within and outside Ireland who are interested in Irish culture and history. The library wanted to increase access to the documents, manuscripts and materials without compromising their quality while attracting new audiences.


The Library looked at how it could use new and emerging channels and technology to increase access to the library's eight million items and started a project that embraced the web and new types of display solutions, such as surface technology.

The Library used a number of technological advances to design a unique Exhibition, Discover Your National Library: Explore, Reflect, Connect. For example, it used the Microsoft Surface 'discovery table', a computer which responds to natural hand gestures, and which holds every object in the exhibition (and many which are not currently in the exhibition but will be in the future through a series of revolving temporary exhibits) as the exhibition's central repository. The images are tagged in such a way that if the visitor finds an item they are particularly interested in, the technology automatically links them to other similar items likely to be of interest.

In addition, the library, who wanted to broaden the reach of its exhibits to visitors who are unable to go to the Library, has also made the interactive tables available online on Any consumers who have a touch screen computer can enjoy the same interactive experience that visitors to the library do. Those without touch screen capability, can also view the images in detail online at


As a result of the project, the library has now completely transformed how it shares its collection with people and its target audiences have expanded significantly as it is now actively seeking to engage with a wide variety of virtual visitors across the globe.

Currently, the Microsoft Surface tables contain more than seven hundred rare documents, some of which are either too fragile and large to be placed on public display in exhibition cases. Visitors can now view images of objects from the collections in amazing detail that has hitherto been possible for only a limited number of researchers, academics and other specialists.

During its first six weeks alone, the Discover website received 1,000 unique visits.

Reviews of the exhibition have acknowledged that the NLI has managed to introduce its collection to a wider public, and that fragile and delicate documents can be easily found, examined, magnified and manipulated as never before.


  • Look at what tools are at your disposal today to help you overcome your challenges - advances are being made so quickly it pays to look at what is available to you that might not have existed a few years ago.
  • Look at alternative channels and new ways to communicate with your audience or customers.
  • Test your solution from an end user perspective - ensure that whatever solution you identify is one that your end users will find useful, informative and enhances their experience.

Solution Overview



For More Information

About Microsoft in Ireland:
The Irish Sales, Services and Marketing Operation of Microsoft was established in 1991. The full-time team market all Microsoft products and services in the island of Ireland, targeting customers both North and South. The team services customers across all segments including enterprise, small and medium sized businesses and home computer users. In addition to developing desktop products, Microsoft provides tailored consultancy services and solutions to suit enterprise businesses. Microsoft is continuing to concentrate on its relationship with the Irish enterprise market - the top 100 companies in the island of Ireland. Enterprise customers of Microsoft include the Department of Education in Northern Ireland and the Civil Service Commission, Dublin.
For more information on Microsoft’s products and solutions, please visit

About Microsoft:
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.


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