The Archive holds and preserves for public reference the largest multimedia collection in existence of the materials of Irish traditional music: song, instrumental music, and dance, in its premises at 73 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.
The ITMA collection is constantly growing. It currently holds over 30,000 commercial and non-commercial sound recordings, 23,000 books and serials, 12,000 photographs and negatives, 10,000 computer music engravings of melodies, 7,000 ballad sheets and items of sheet music, 2,500 programmes, 1,500 videotapes and DVDs, 400 music manuscripts, and a mass of other materials such as posters and flyers.
The ITMA collection also holds the largest body in existence of information about Irish traditional music, contemporary and historic, organised on unique computer catalogues, databases, indexes and stocklists. More than half a million content items have been catalogued.
The collection has grown to its present size as the result of widespread public support from many individuals and many institutions. The materials in the Archive collection, which exist in original or copied forms, are:
Sound recordings: Phonograph cylinders, 78rpm gramophone discs, acetate discs, vinyl recordings (SP, EP, LP), ¼" reel-to-reel tapes, standard and DAT audio cassettes, CDs, as well as digital audio files in various formats
Printed items: Ballad sheets, chapbooks, sheet music, song collections, instrumental music collections, dance collections, music studies, background studies, reference works, periodicals, and ephemera such as programmes, catalogues, postcards, leaflets, flyers, posters, and newspaper clippings
Manuscripts Music manuscripts, card indexes, research notes, letters, lecture scripts, typescript theses
Visual items: Drawings, prints, photographs, negatives, slides, microfilms, video cassettes, DVDs, digital video files in various formats
Artefacts: Musical instruments, statues, badges, coins, trinkets
The foundation of the Archive was the Breandán Breathnach Collection, made by the great expert in Irish traditional music who died in 1985, and donated by his family. It now also owns a large number of special collections initially made by private collectors, which they have entrusted to the Archive. Copies of material have also been acquired from major institutional collections such as those of RTÉ radio and television, BBC radio, TG4 television, the National Library of Ireland, the Bodleian Library, the Library of Congress, the British Library, the Boston Public Library, etc.