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Documents of Ireland began in late 1999 with funding from the Higher Education Authority through the funding programme called Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions, round 1.

Several of the component projects had already begun their work prior to this starting point, but the impetus of PRTLI brought projects using similar technology together.

By making data more accessible, University College Cork will be in a position to promote new and innovative research. Moreover, the digitised data will itself be subjected to powerful new methods of enquiry, as well as being used subsequently in an open and distance learning environment. So far relatively little has been done to prepare the Irish university sector to become content providers, rather than information consumers. The Documents of Ireland is a grouping of six departments that will provide a comprehensive integrated approach to the digitisation and dissemination of primary text, image and other sources.

A Humanities-based approach offers a way forward in the safeguarding and study of our cultural heritage, in all its diversity, through the preservation and dissemination of this heritage using the latest technologies and the power and accessibility of CD-ROM, Internet and other new media.