Archive for the ‘Digital’ Category

Searching for Irish Folklore

Posted on August 20, 2018 in Archives, Digital

The Schools’ Folklore Scheme, carried out in 1937 and 38, asked schools all over the Irish Free State to have students collect folklore in their homes and communities. The scheme resulted in a large collection of notebooks with handwritten accounts of local customs, stories, and history. Archivist Chriostóir Mac Cárthaigh explains that over 4,000 schools participated, resulting in over a million pages of writing.

Schools’ Folklore Scheme (1937-38), filmed by Colm O’Flaherty. Cnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann/National Folklore Collection. Published on YouTube by Dú, January 2017.

Now that the Schools Folklore Collection has been digitized, it is possible to search much of the collection online. Not only can the headings of digitized essays be searched, but as the essays are transcribed, keywords in the text can be searched as well.

For example, I wondered about references to fishing, so I carried out two searches, one for “Fishing” and one for “Iascaireacht”, in order to find references in essays in both Irish and English.

This is what the results pages look like:


Search in Dúchas for Fishing


The snippet above is from the transcripts list from a search for “Fishing”.  The snippet below is from the stories list from a search for “Iascaireacht”, the Irish word which means “Fishing”.


Search in Duchas for Iascaireacht



Needless to say, the possibilities raised by this digital searching ability are very exciting. From scholarly use in folklore, anthropology or literary studies to general interest in a whole range of subjects. One of the reasons I continue to promote this database is that it might not occur to students who are working in literature, for example, that they might find useful and interesting material here.

More information on this digital collection is available on the website of Dú, including a bibliography and links to more information.


If Blogs were Catalog(u)ed*

Posted on October 30, 2017 in Digital, Journals and Magazines, Media

When Dr. Melinda Grimsley-Smith was a PhD student at Notre Dame, she convinced me that it would be a good librarianly service to open a Twitter account and to routinely re-tweet posts that might interest graduate students. She was excited about archives, and she was enthusiastic about sharing information about collections and about exciting new projects.


I followed Melinda’s lead, initially following various archives and libraries and retweeting news of collections and exhibitions, tweeting inconsistently, with short bursts of enthusiasm. With the flurry of activity around the 1916 centenary, I learned that retweeting was a way to catalogue information, and I began to apprecate the role of the hashtag for organizing the twitterworld. (Such a pity that in order to type in Irish, I lost my keyboard’s hashtag.)

And now I wonder if Twitter-cataloguing could be the answer to my question about blogs.

Librarians organize information of all kinds,helping people sort through thousands of materials to identify information, books, journals or websites.  We archive websites and catalog online publications. We find ways to make our information available online.  But blogs seem to belong to a category that people discover either by serendipity or by word of mouth. The library cataloguedoesn’t seem appropriate for the informal format of the blog, so why not see how the social media can be used?

On Twitter, I found an Irish Blogs hashtag, but this does not address my needs, which are to tag blogs interesting to those with an academic interest in Irish studies, e.g. scholarly or newsy articles on Irish history, literature, politics, music, art, theatre etc.  I aim to curate, so that blogs included in my lists are up to date and to select in the same way as I would a journal or magazine subscription for the library. So my hashtag will be #IrishStudiesBlogs.

Scéalta Ealaíne. Irish Art Blog by Eoin Mac Lochlainn


So I think I’ll start a new hashtag and call it Irish Studies Blogs. Blogs I want to catalogue include Mise Ciara, a great blog for Irish language students, Scéalta Ealaíne, shown above, the blog of artist Eoin Mac Lochlainn, Mairekennedybooks, on Irish historical bibliography, and writers’ blogs such as that of Lia Mills.

‘S Mise Ciara, Seo mo Bhlag! Scríobh / Eat / Sleep 


Though I plan to include only blogs that are current, Deirdre Ní Chonghaile’s wonderful Amhráin Árann – Aran Songs begs to be listed.  This three-year blog (2012-14) is a collection of essays on the people, music and songs of the Aran Islands. From biographies of writers and singers to an essay on the provenance of the piano in the house where Somerville and Ross stayed, the blog, written in Irish and in English, is an online publication that should be available to anyone studying Irish music, and so needs to be archived and catalogued.

The blogs I am considering for my “Twitter Catalog” are listed below, and you can also see a preview of the Twitter-Catalogue for #IrishStudiesBlogs.

Literature and Writers

Rogha Gabriel

Crime Scene. A Blog by Louise Phillips

Irish Writing Blog

Women Rule Writer. Lit Blog of Nuala O’Connor/ Nuala Ní Chonchúir

Anti-Laureate of the People’s Republic of Cork 

Mary Morrissey. A Blog about Fiction and History

James Joyce Quarterly Blog



An Ghaeilge – The Irish Language

Included here are blogs on various topics, but written in Irish and therefore good for Irish language students to have available.

Hilary NY. Meascra i nGaeilge ó Nua Eabhrach — Nó pé áit ina bhfuilim! 

Mise Áine ag Rámhaille

Uathachas in Éirinn 

S Mise Ciara, Seo mo Bhlag!

Cúrsaí Staire. Aistí Ócáídeacha ar Stair, ar Staraithe, agus ar Scríobh na Staire

Smaointe Fánach Aonghusa

Rogha Gabriel


Cúrsaí Staire. Aistí Ócáídeacha ar Stair, ar Staraithe, agus ar Scríobh na Staire

Ciara Meehan. Historian, Author, Lecturer


Books, Libraries and Archives

Books Ireland Blog

NLI Blog (blog of the National Library of Ireland)

John J. Burns Library’s Blog 

Manuscripts at Trinity

UCD Library Cultural Heritage Collections Blog



Kennys Booktalk Blog



Amhráin Árann – Aran Songs


The Irish Art Blog


Scéalta Ealaíne. Irish Art Blog by Eoin Mac Lochlainn


The Cedar Lounge Revolution. For Lefties Too Stubborn to Quit

Slugger O’Toole

Irish Politics Forum

Jason O’Mahony































I don’t know if this Twitter-catalogue idea will take, but if you come across a blog that would interest others in Irish studies, please add a tweet, or contact me at Thanks!


*Though bilingual now in the English languages of both sides of the Atlantic, I’ve never become comfortable with the u-less ‘catalog’.

Digital Projects, Digital Humanities and Digital Exhibits.

Posted on May 25, 2017 in Digital

A digital project can be as simple as a collection of texts scanned and assembled on a website or as sophisticated as a collection where digital technology is used  to examine and manipulate text, images, maps, video and data.

Having received a number of inquiries on this subject, I compiled this list, a selection of digital humanities projects and digital exhibits. I haven’t attempted to describe or categorize them — that will be a future list!

There are many large databases on the web: ongoing bibliographical and indexing projects such as ‘Irish History Online’, and large text repositories such as CELT. These will be listed in a separate blog post, and they are routinely listed in library research guides. This list focuses on smaller digital projects and on digital exhibits.

The illustration above, Women of 1916, is part of an unfinished digital exhibit based on the 2016 Hesburgh Special Collections exhibit, Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion. This points to the fact that not only are there many substantive exhibitions in libraries, archives and museums throughout the world, but the digital exhibits, which range from a series of photographs and information cards to a searchable database with text, photographs and even more sophisticated digital features, are not very easy to discover.

Digital Humanities Projects:

Classic Irish Plays –  A curated collection of digital scripts of plays by Irish playwrights.

Collection of Irish Airs, Marches and Dance Tunes…by F. Roche, Vol. I, 101-199 (Interactive Scores) – ITMA, the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

Contemporary Irish Writing – This platform currently hosts two projects: Joyce Today and 50 Irish Books.

The Dion Boucicault Collection (University of Southern Florida)

The Dublin Music Trade. Database of the music business in Dublin up to 1850.

The Dunn Family Collection: Francis O’Neill Cylinders.

Earlier Latin Manuscripts: Tools for studying the scripts of the oldest Latin manuscripts – A database of manuscripts written in Latin before the year 800.

The Foundations of Irish Culture: Irish Manuscripts on the Continent AD 600-AD 850 – A catalogue of Irish Manuscripts on the Continent AD 600 – AD 850

Irish Famine Archive – A curated collection of digitized documents containing eyewitness accounts of the Irish famine migration to Canada in 1847-1848.

Letters of 1916 – A crowd-sourced digital collection of letters written around the time of the Easter Rising.

Murals of Northern Ireland – A selection of digital images from the collection of Tony Crowley at Claremont College.

National Collection of Children’s Books – Database and catalogue of children’s books in Irish libraries.

Playography Ireland – Irish Playography and Playography na Gaeilge (Irish Theatre Institute).

Saint Patrick’s Confessio Hypertext Stack  (Royal Irish Academy).

Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music (Boston College).

Translation in 19th-Century Ireland – A database of translators and works of translation from nineteenth-century Ireland.


Digital Exhibitions.

The 1916 Rising: Personalities and Perspectives

1916: Weaving Public and Private Narratives.

Anna Haslam’s Minute Book 

Art and Revolution: The Work of Ernie O’Malley.

Building Modern Ireland

Documents Laid through the Decades

A Family At War: the Diary of Mary Martin

The Fleischmann Diaries.

Frongoch and 1916: Recreating a Lost Landscape.

A history of the Oireachtas Library.

Ireland and the Colonies.

Ireland and the Crown

Ireland and the Great War.

Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, 1916

Maps and mapping

Mental Health in 19th century Ireland

The National Library of Ireland and the RDS Library: A Shared History

The Theft of the Irish Crown Jewels.

Treaty Exhibition

Yeats: The Life


In addition to the Letters of 1916 project listed above, other projects which have used crowd-sourcing include, the Schools Collection of the National Folklore Collection, and Irish Speakers & the Empire City.

For further reading on digital humanities in Irish studies, see the Breac(2015) issue on digital humanities.


Digital Drama

Posted on April 26, 2017 in Digital, Special collections

We have not digitized anything in our Irish theatre collections. While we have a great collection of theatre programs and scripts, much of this is in copyright.

But I have been watching with great interest the digital project of the plays of Dion Boucicault at the University of Southern Florida, and the potential it holds for scholars of Irish drama.

The Dion Boucicault Collection at USF Libraries is one of the largest Boucicault collections in the world. Under Matt Knight’s careful stewardship, selected works are displayed and contextualized in a clear and easily-navigated website.  The introduction explains that Dublin-born Boucicault was wary of publishing his plays for fear of piracy, and therefore few of his scripts exist in print.

The collection website lists fourteen plays of which ten are currently available on the site. These include The Shaughraun and Robert Emmet.  Selecting a play from the menu takes you to an introductory page with brief information on the play and its performance, and links to the digital items, in most cases a promptbook which can be viewed online or downloaded, and a transcript.

The promptbook for Marriage, for example, is described in the catalog as “typed pages with extensive notes from the stenographer and minor notes from the author”.

The Shaughraun section includes the most interesting content, with multiple promptbooks and photographs from various productions of the play.

After exploring the website, I sought more information on USF’s collection and sure enough I found a library finding aid, or archival description, of the Dion Boucicault Theatre Collection 1843-1887. Here we learn that the collection was originally bequeathed by Dion Boucicault to his widow Louise Thorndyke, and was sold a couple of times before being acquired by USF.

The collection consists of 27 boxes, and the finding aid provides a detailed list of contents.

I wish the website had a link to the finding aid and a brief explanation of the scope of the collection, and that the finding aid likewise provided some indication of the digital project. That would be of great assistance to people who stumble on either one.

I hope more collections will be digitized in a similar way, and and I expect to spend much time exploring this website as we learn to use our library’s digital exhibit facility.




Two Manuscripts in the O’Neill Collection

Posted on July 10, 2015 in Digital, Old Books, Special collections

Hudson image

In 1931 Captain Francis O’Neill, one of the great collectors of Irish music, gave his library to the University of Notre Dame. O’Neill, born in County Cork in 1848, left Ireland in his teens and after some interesting years which included working as a sailor, settled into a career in the Chicago police force, becoming Chief of Police in 1901. Throughout his life his passion was Irish music, and he collected assiduously from Irish immigrants in the Chicago area. He also amassed a large collection of books on music and on Irish history, and these books, now in the Hesburgh Special Collections, show signs of his research in small pencil marks in the margins.

Many Irish dance tunes might have been lost but for the collections that O’Neill published. His collections are among the most important sources of Irish dance music.

In addition to the books, the Library received two manuscript books, each with an interesting provenance. The manuscripts were in poor condition, and have recently been taken to the Conservation Lab where conservator Sue Donovan stabilized bindings, carried out some mending and re-sewing, and returned them to the Rare Books Department in new custom-made cases.

They have also been digitally scanned, and may be viewed by clicking on the links below.

Reidy page
MSE 1435-B

P.D. Reidy Manuscript. [c1890]

Manuscript of Patrick Reidy, Professor of Dance.

The Dancing Master was popular in rural Ireland in the nineteenth century. Travelling dancing masters would stay some weeks in an area, and hold classes there. O’Neill devotes a chapter to the Dancing Master in his Irish Minstrels and Musicians (Chicago, 1913).

With the Irish peasantry dancing was a passion, hence the necessity for a teacher. On stated evenings during the winter, regardless of the condition of the roads, or the inclemency of the weather, a large company of aspirants for the skill, ranging in age from ten to forty years, would assemble in some roomy barn having a smooth hard floor of clay to be instructed in the salutatory art…
O’Neill 421

London in the 1890s had a large Irish population, and had its own branch of the Gaelic League by 1897, and when this branch eventually engaged a professional teacher for dance classes, they found Patrick Reidy, or Professor Reidy, a well-known dancing master from Kerry, living in Hackney, London.

It was Reidy who introduced and taught the group dances such as ‘The Siege of Ennis’ and ‘The Walls of Limerick’ which first became popular in London Gaelic League gatherings, then spread throughout England and into Ireland, through Gaelic League activities such as the 1901 Oireachtas in Dublin. Reidy was also one of the chief sources for the dances in A Handbook of Irish Dances (1902).

Our information on the manuscript in Captain O’Neill’s collection comes from O’Neill’s Irish Minstrels and Musicians. Apparently he and O’Neill were corresponding, and according to O’Neill, “the talented and kindly ‘Professor of Dancing, London and Castleisland,’ obligingly forwarded us a MS. book of music and a treatise from his own pen entitled: Dancing-Theory as It Should Be.”

This manuscript contains 37 pages of music, mostly dance tunes although there are some slow airs. A note on the source is often provided, with occasional additional comments such as that on the illustration above.

For more information on Patrick Reidy and the development of Irish céilí dancing, see Nicholas Carolan: The beginnings of ceili dancing: London in the 1890s. Dublin: Irish Traditional Music Archive, 2012. PDF:

MSE 1434-B
H. Hudson Manuscript [c.1841]

Manuscript of Henry Hudson of Dublin.

Henry Hudson (1798-1889) was a Dublin dentist and one of the early collectors of Irish songs and music. He collected and transcribed music and published selections, 106 melodies in all, in The Citizen or Dublin Monthly Magazine, of which he was musical editor from 1841 to 1843.

In a letter written to Charlotte Milligan Fox, dated July 28th, 1911, O’Neill explains that he purchased the Hudson manuscript volume through Nassau Massey of Cork. Of the other six manuscripts in Hudson’s collection, five are in Boston Public Library and one is in the National Library of Ireland.

O’Neill describes his volume as follows:

‘Vol. 3 – H. Hudson’ is strongly penned on the outside of the cover. On the inside of the front cover, and continued along the   fly-leaf, is an index commencing with No. 243 and ending with 370, followed by the signature, ‘H. Hudson, 24 Stephen’s Green.’ The little volume is oblong, 9 by 3¾ inches.
Of the total number of tunes and airs –128—full fifty seem to have been taken from another numbered MSS. collection made by F. M. Bell, who credits them to Mrs. Foley, Margaret Foley, Mary Parker, and Margaret Kearney.
Others to whom H. Hudson acknowledges his indebtedness are James Barton, John Barton, John McFail, besides Simon Sullivan and Jack Piggott, pipers; also ‘Dublin Ballad-singer,’ Cocks’ ‘Encyclopædia of Melody,’ Walker’s ‘Hibernian magazine,’ and ‘Ordnance Survey of Londonderry.’
Perhaps the most interesting notation in the volume is: ‘The Maid of Sweet Gurteen,’ taken down by W. E. Hudson from singing of a little girl, Trassan (?) Street, six o’clock p.m., 9th December, 1840; and ‘Erin’s Lovely Home,’ taken down by W. E. Hudson, Naas, 17th December, 1840.

C. Milligan Fox “Concerning the William Elliott Hudson Collection of Irish Folk Songs” in the Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, Vol. X (1912), pp. 5-9.

Breac – A Digital Journal of Irish Studies

Posted on August 5, 2014 in Digital, Journals and Magazines

Breac heading


The Breac Team brought out the second issue of their online journal last month.  This issue, edited by Lindsay J. Haney and Shaun Richards, is devoted to Irish drama.  The editors “hope that these essays will stimulate debate and lively conversations around the role of the theater in staging issues such as economic crisis, urban renewal, gender relations, sexual abus, and other matters that are vital to contemporary considerations in Irish Studies” (Preface, Breac, July 10, 2014)

The very first item presents a typical Breac problem for librarians.  What is “Am I Rambling”?  Is it a film?  Is it street theatre?  Is it a guided tour? I can tell that it is an experimental event, organized and presented by Veronica Dyas and Sorcha Kenny, in which a group of people walk around Dublin and encounter street art.  At least that’s what I think it is.  Beyond that, I am waiting to see commentary on the Breac site to help me interpret the video.

Brian Ó Conchubhair describes Fíbín, an Irish language theatre group, once again using the medium of the online journal to provide a video.  Other articles are more traditional scholarly articles, but they take advantage of the digital platform by providing hyperlinked references that take the reader straight to the article under discussion, if available online.

Here are the contents of the current issue:

Lindsay J. Haney and Shaun Richards

Am I Rambling?
Veronica Dyas and Sorcha Kenny

Politicizing Performance: ANU Productions and Site-Specific Theater
Brian Singleton

Theatre-as-Memory and as Witness: Active Spectatorship in The Walworth Farce, The Blue Boy, and Laundry
Emilie Pine

“Oh Jesus, I can’t take this”: Playing Witness to the Dramatization of Ballymun’s Urban Regeneration Project, Dublin, 2004-2008
Niamh Malone

Samuel Beckett, the Gate Theatre Dublin, and the Contemporary Irish Independent Theater Sector: Fragments of Performance History
Anna McMullan and Trish McTighe

Supernaturalism: Femininity and Form in Conor McPherson’s Paranormal Plays
Susan Cannon Harris

Marina Carr’s Swans and Goddesses: Contemporary Feminist Myth in Irish Drama
Jenna Lourenco

Taming Irishness: Martin McDonagh’s A Skull in Connemara on the Galician Stage
Elisa Serra Porteiro

Fíbín: Back to the Future?
Fíbín, introduced by Brian Ó Conchubhair

Music and the Library Collection

Posted on April 11, 2014 in Digital, Journals and Magazines

Working with the O’Neill Collection, I have more questions than answers.  How was music printed and sold in Ireland?  So I was very happy, browsing through the Journal of Music, to learn of a new website called The Dublin Music Trade.

DMTThis is based on a card index developed by the late Brian Boydell, of music publishers, printers, sellers and instrument makers in Dublin from 1750 to 1850.  The database has been developed by his son Barra Boydell, and later by Dr. Catherine Ferris.  It appears from the website that while Brian Boydell’s original card index covered one century, this database is expanded to include earlier years, back as far as 1515.

In addition to the search facility, it is possible to browse through lists, so for example we can see all 17 listings for Capel Street, or listings under category, e.g. Musical Instrument maker: Flute, which also has 17 names.

This database, hosted by the Research Foundation for Music in Ireland, will be of great assistance to anyone working with the Francis O’Neill Collection in our library.


New Irish Folklore Website: Dúchas

Posted on December 19, 2013 in Digital


Main page of Dúchas website.

Main page of Dúchas website.


Ireland’s National Folklore Collection has just launched the first phase of a large digital program. The website, Dú, has digital images from the Schools Collection, a nation-wide project carried out from 1937 to 1939 in which schoolchildren recorded oral history, folk tales, legends, information on games, customs, trades and crafts and more. 288,000 pages of student’s notebooks are now part of the National Folklore Collection.  (More information on Dúchas.)

While many features are under construction, we may view a list of places in counties Dublin, Donegal, Mayo and Waterford, select placenames and view the notebooks of collected folklore.  I plan to spend hours of the Christmas break reading through these notebooks and looking for treasure.

Here is an example from Mayo:

Balla co Mayo


The informant is Mrs. McGee of Balla, and the teacher is Katie M. Walker, Balla, Co. Mayo.
It is the story of a woman who became unable to produce any butter no matter how long she churned.  The priest prayed as she was churning and eventually the butter thief turned up screaming outside the door.  The story provides background for the custom where visitors to a house are expected to take a turn with the churn.
A number of the collections from Co. Donegal are in Irish.  As most students today are not familiar with the script or spellings used in the early 20th century, they will need assistance.  Perhaps some of the content will eventually be available in transcription and I wonder if that transcription would also change the spellings to the standardized spellings that we use today?  Sceal
This page is from the following:

The website provides the Archival Reference below each page image, and the name of both the collector, in this case the student, and the informant, normally an older person who shared a story or account with the student, are listed beside the page image.
It would be helpful to have precise instructions on how to cite items from this collection as I expect students will want to use them for their essays.  Information also on where to seek permission to use, especially for publication, material in the collection.  I have no doubt that this information will be forthcoming.
I will be very interested to hear how others use this collection and also comments you have on the website.
Gabhaim comhgháirdeas leis an bhfoireann a chuir an áis iontach seo ar fáil, agus beidh mé an-sásta é a thaispeáint do mhicléinn atá ag déanamh taighde sa bhéaloideas.  That is to say, congratulations to the team who made this available!

Hathi Trust Digital Library — Lists

Posted on May 31, 2013 in Digital

I’m experimenting with the Hathi Trust’s Digital Library to see how its list features might be used for teaching and research.  Apparently it is possible to make a list and then do full text searching within that collection of digital texts.  To see how it works, I’ve compiled a list of descriptions of Ireland.

Hathi Trust image

When I saw the search capability, I thought the results might all appear together, but it is still a multi-step process.  When you perform a word search, you get a list of the books where that word appears, no indication of the frequency, and you then select each book in turn and hit the “find” key.  However, the resulting information is a very nice little snippet that shows the word in context.

Hathi Trust criminal A search for “criminal” brought up a list of books; this is the result for John Carr’s A Stranger in Ireland (1806).

I think this will be a very useful tool though it would have been nice if all the “criminal” snippets from all the books in the collection were displayed together.




Information on Hathi Trust:     Hesburgh Libraries: Hathi Trust FAQ



Online Biographies

Posted on March 18, 2013 in Digital

There are excellent online sources for biographies of Irish people no longer living.   Here, for what it’s worth, are some of the sources of Irish biography:

The Dictionary of Irish Biography: This is available to the Notre Dame community through the library’s catalog.  If the link doesn’t work, go to the Library’s website, select the Databases tab, and find the Dictionary.

In addition to searching for people by name, you can search by place, dates, occupation and even by free text which means you can find any words occuring in the text.  For example “Hunger strike”, “slavery”,  “philanthropy” all yield lists of names.  Biographies are added all the time and at this point new additions include people who died in 2005 and 2006.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Also a subscription, this has been around far longer than the Irish one, and includes many biographies of Irish people. It is “the national record of men and women who have shaped British history” so while there is no entry under “Haughey”, for example, Irish people from earlier centuries such as Aogán Ó Rathaille, or born in Northern Ireland, such as Siobhán McKenna, or whose career was largely in the UK, are included.

There are also websites freely available to all.  Those I know about and use frequently are, and the Dictionary of Ulster Biography.

All kinds of people associated with the Irish language are included in, the digital version of the multi-volume Beatháisnéis.  Ricorso is mainly a bibliographic database but includes a short biographic summary of each Irish writer. Biographies from the whole province of Ulster are included in the Dictionary of Ulster Biography.

As far as I know, Ricorso is the only one of all the sources I mentioned that includes people who are still living.  It is worth remembering also that writers in this database are not only literary authors but people who have written on many subjects.

Ainm = Name

Beatháisnéis = Biography