Old photos of Ireland have been recolored using artificial intelligence, shedding new light on life in the country in the 1800s and 1900s.
The photos are part of a project called ‘Old Ireland in Color’ which has social media accounts and a book due out in North America in the next week.
The photos cover more than a century of life in Ireland, from the 1840s to the 1960s.
Éamon de Valera addresses Sinn Féin supporters of Ennis Courthouse in East Clare midterm elections in July 1917
Irish suffragette and nationalist Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington (right) are court-martialled in 1916
A group of workers knitting wool in Ireland in one of the country’s many colored pictures of the country’s working class
On June 30, 1922, an explosion occurred in the Four Courts, which could be seen from the bridge over the Liffey.
“We are bombarded with so much information, knowledge, bite-sized media and content, so especially for the younger generation, it can be difficult for history to compete,” said Professor John Breslin at the National University of Ireland. CNN of the colored photos.
‘It is important to be able to relate more to our history, and coloring certainly makes things more recognizable.’
The black and white photos were colored using an AI tool called DeOldify, an open-source model that can use deep learning to color in photos that were once grayscale.
The photos are colored using DeOldify, an artificial intelligence tool that can add color to grayscale images
Mary Barlow is working on the spinning wheel, which was often used for spinning flax before it was woven into linen
Pictured: George’s Street in Limerick, circa 1900. The street is now known as O’Connell Street in today’s Ireland
The software tool is trained in coloring different images by learning from color photos and black and white photos of the same image.
It can then be used to color other black and white photos, using the knowledge of how objects and people should look in color based on the previous photos the tool has seen.
But because the software was developed in the United States – and therefore likely used mostly American images – more nuance was needed to apply it to the old Irish photos.
Silence was called for in the National Library of Ireland, where the Reading Room is depicted in the late 1800s
Politics was alive and well in Ireland in 1937, with citizens working in the country for various causes
Pictured: Kathleen Lynn, a politician, activist and the first female physician at Royal Victoria Hospital (photo 1919)
The photos are part of a project called ‘Old Ireland in Color’ which has social media accounts and a new book
Breslin’s fellow professor, Sarah-Anne Buckley, helped with this by researching social history with Breslin and then manually adjusting hues and colors at their own discretion.
The end result was dazzling colors added to photographs of history, as well as photographs of the everyday life of the Irish people.
These photos show the working class herding pigs, spinning wool or driving around on the backs of horse-drawn carts.
The Burning of Cork during the RTE War of Independence left 40 businesses and 300 residential houses in ruins
A unit of anti-treaty IRA men patrols Grafton Street in Dublin in 1922 as Ireland is on the brink of civil war.
This Revolutionary War photo shows the Cairo Gang, a group of British intelligence agents
Workers build a swamp road in Seeoran in 1935. Life was not easy for the Irish working class at the time
The photos also show the depths of poverty in Ireland at the time, such as tenements in Dublin and barefoot villagers.
“There were a lot of different social classes in Ireland, as in many countries, so I think it’s important to show the full range,” Breslin sold the photos, which also include photos of the wealthier class in Ireland.
‘We have a mix of the richer classes and the nobility, and then you have people just trying to survive and collect water and grass [peat] to burn on their fire. ‘
Members of the armed Royal Irish Constabulary stand outside a shoe store in Cork City in 1921
This 1946 photo shows a family living in a one-bedroom cottage, showing the depths of poverty at the time
A nurse visits a family on Arranmore Island, County Donegall, sometime in the early 20th century
Breslin also opposed criticism of the coloring in the photos, saying they “don’t destroy the negatives.”
“You can always go back and find the original photo, and throughout the book we’ll give references to the original collection,” added Breslin.
Breslin and Buckley’s book, which was the 2020 winner of the Best Irish Published Book of the Year at the Post Irish Book Awards, was published in Ireland in October 2020.
The book will be released in the United States on April 5.
Pictured is Patrick Byrne, often considered one of the last great harp players in Ireland