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Irish Music


Archival Collections at BC

Library Research Guide

Irish Music Archives

The Irish Music Archives of John J. Burns Library documents the history of Irish music in America. Alongside published items such as books and commercial recordings, the collections include unpublished (archival) materials such as photographs, letters, and private recordings. A particular focus is traditional Irish music from the East Coast of the United States.

The Irish and Irish American collections of Burns Library are internationally recognized, and the library welcomes researchers from around the world by appointment. To schedule an appointment, please use our contact form

Search the library catalog to find both archival and published materials. We invite you to contact library staff with any questions.  

Finding archival materials

At Burns Library, the term "archival" generally refers to unpublished items such as manuscripts, correspondence, private recordings, etc. To search the catalog for archival materials pertaining to Irish music, use this catalog link.

When the library receives group of archival items--e.g., a collection of unpublished items donated by one individual--the items are listed and described in a detailed finding aid. Finding aids are guides that can be viewed and downloaded from the library catalog. See below for a list of Irish music finding aids.

Once downloaded, use the [ctrl] F command to search within the finding aid document. If you would like to search for a specific topic or name across multiple finding aids, you can add search terms to this Google advanced search or contact the library. 

List of archival finding aids

Archival content online

Online content from the Irish Music Archives includes:

Books, CDs, videos, journals, etc.

Most published items, such as books, sheet music, and recordings, are listed individually in the library catalog. For search tips, or to find something specific, please contact the library.

Featured collections of published material:


The Irish Music Archives were established at Burns Library with recordings from the 1990 Boston College Irish Fiddle Festival. The festival's organizer, visiting ethnomusicology professor Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, deposited these materials at Burns Library to encourage creation of an archives of Irish traditional music in the U.S. 

Today, the Irish Music Archives seeks to document achievements and values that have helped sustain communities, recognizing individuals and groups that have provided inspiration outside of mainstream commercial culture. Although documenting such contributions can be elusive, the effort to capture the music of ordinary life across decades will enable listeners and scholars to better understand today’s repertoire and style, and to better understand social developments in the Irish diaspora. 

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