Dusty Bluebells

ITMA's latest online exhibition Dusty Bluebells was launched on the 17 October 2019 in Holy Cross School, Dundrum, Dublin. It caught the imagination of a number of media outlet and news about the launch and exhibition featured on a number of programmes.  

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Josepha Madigan TD, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Lisa Shields at the launch of Dusty Bluebells.
Dusty Bluebells

Among the many wonderful sound collections in ITMA’s care, is a set of reel-to-reel recordings of children’s songs and rhymes in English and Irish, made by the renowned collector and researcher Hugh Shields (1929–2008). Capturing the voices and sounds of street and home during the 1960s and 1970s in Ireland, they are a unique insight into pastimes and traditional song in that period.

Aided by his wife Lisa, Hugh Shields noted in handwriting, in a large hardback book, the rhymes and songs he had collected in Ireland. He indexed and documented them, and provided rough musical notations for many of the tunes. Hugh planned to publish the songs and music, and the project was re-imagined on several occasions. New recordings were added along the way, publishers ceased trading, and, in the end, the project was put aside.

On 17 October 2019, in association with Lisa Shields, ITMA launched a new digital platform for Hugh and Lisa's work. The online exhibition Dusty Bluebells features over 170 sound recordings, Hugh's intended publication and research notes, and Lisa Shields's original pen-and-ink drawings. The material has been grouped to tell the story of how the collection was made, and to share the voices and songs of a past generation. 

Dusty Bluebells Project

Morning Ireland, RTÉ Radio 1. Interview with Grace Toland ITMA Project Manager

News2Day, RTÉ Television. The Irish children's TV news programme interviews children from Holy Cross School to get their learning songs from the Dusty Bluebells collection

Six One News, RTÉ Television. Arts and Media Correspondent Sinéad Crowley interviews Lisa Shields and Grace Toland about the Dusty Bluebells project and visits Holy Cross School for the official launch by Josepha Madigan TD, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

The singers and performers in the Dusty Bluebells Exhibition were recorded by Hugh Shields during the 1960s and 1970s. We have unfortunately not yet been able to make contact with everyone featured in the exhibition. 

If you recognise your own name, or the name of a friend or relative, we would be really delighted if you would contact us. We would be happy to make recordings available to performers and family members, and also to have more information to add to the exhibition. 

Please ring, write or email. We would be delighted to hear from you.

[email protected]