The Aidan O’Hara Collection at ITMA

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Aidan O’Hara in his role as the Director of the 1978 NL Folk Festival (photo courtesy of Aidan O’Hara; used with permission).

In 1993, Aidan O’Hara presented ITMA with a generous gift: a collection of recordings and related papers. With additions to his original donation, the Aidan O’Hara Collection at ITMA now includes recordings, images, and related documentation:

  • 132 recordings (39 7-inch reel-to-reels, 62 5-inch reel-to-reels, and 31 cassette tapes)
  • Manuscript transcriptions of the songs and interviews featured in the reel-to-reel recordings
  • 102 digital images
  • 2 broadsheets

This collection is unique to ITMA, though some items are duplicated in other archives and special collections in Ireland and North America. The focus of the Aidan O’Hara Collection at ITMA are the recordings, which roughly divide into four categories.

Field recordings from Newfoundland

Recorded between 1974 and 1978 during Aidan O’Hara’s residency in Newfoundland. These recordings focus on the singers, dancers, musicians, and storytellers from the isolated communities of the Cape Shore region of the Avalon Penninsula—the outports scattered along St. Mary’s and Placentia Bays. There also are a small number of recordings from other parts of the Avalon Penninsula, especially Colinet and the Southern Shore. A Grand Time features a number of these recordings.

Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society recordings

This collecting initiative involved sending students from Memorial University’s Folklore department and volunteers to remote outport communities throughout Newfoundland to collect songs, stories, and oral traditions. The project was coordinated by the NL Folk Arts Society. The full collection, along with detailed written reports from the individual collectors, is housed in the Memorial University Folklore & Language Archive.

Selections from the Kenneth Goldstein Collection

In 1978, Aidan O’Hara embarked on a joint song collecting project with folklorist Kenneth S Goldstein and student Hugh Rowlings. Their efforts were funded by the Canada Council. The original reels from this collecting trip are house in the RTÉ Archives. ITMA holds duplicate analogue and digital copies of these reels.

This joint collecting initiative was just one part of Kenneth Goldstein’s lifelong work as a song collector. Copies of his collection (including the recordings made in partnership with Aidan O’Hara) are available from:

Miscellaneous interviews, broadcasts, and radio dubs from Ireland

Recordings of interviews, recitations, songs, and music, featuring a variety of collectors, broadcasters, musicians, singers, and other professionals. Though recordings were made in a variety of locations throughout Ireland, there’s particular emphasis on the oral traditions of Inishowen and the Irish music scene in London. After returning to Ireland in the late 1970s, Aidan was active as a presenter and producer with RTÉ. Many of the recordings included in the part of the collection appear to relate to his broadcasting work.