Minister of State McHugh – National Folklore Collection UCD Awarded Prestigious UNESCO Status

Funding of €100,893 announced to continue Dúchas.ie project in 2018

Joe McHugh T.D., Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, today announced that the National Folklore Collection UCD, one of Europe’s largest archives of oral tradition and cultural history, has received recognition from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for its foundational collection—The Irish Folklore Commission Collection 1935-1970—which has been inscribed on the prestigious UNESCO Memory of the World International Register.

The recognition offered by UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme acknowledges the unique and valuable documentation of Irish culture captured by the Irish Folklore Commission, which is held by the National Folklore Collection UCD. It also, however, highlights UCD’s commitment to the preservation and promulgation of Irish culture through its extraordinary heritage repositories as well as its world-class education and research activities.

Established in 1992 to recognise documentary heritage deemed by experts to be of “outstanding significance” to world culture, the Register has recognized only one other Irish entry to date, the Book of Kells which was inscribed in 2011. The Register comprises a total of 427 documents and collections worldwide, including the Magna Carta, the Diary of Anne Frank, and the Bayeux Tapestry.

Minister of State McHugh also announced that his Department would be allocating funding of €100,893 to the Dúchas.ie project for 2018.  The Dúchas project is the result of a partnership, beginning in 2012, between the National Folklore Collection in UCD, UCD Digital Library and Fiontar & Scoil na Gaeilge, the Irish-medium teaching and research unit in DCU.  The objective of the project is to digitize the National Folklore Collection and make it available to the public online.  Two of the most significant parts of the collections have already been digitised – ‘The Photographic Collection’ and ‘The Schools Collection’, for which more than 50,000 schoolchildren from 5,000 schools in the 26 counties of the Irish Free State were enlisted to collect folklore in their home districts in the 1930’s. The children recorded this material from their parents, grandparents, and neighbours.

Speaking today, Minister of State McHugh said: “I am delighted that the National Folklore Collection has been awarded UNESCO Memory of the World status.  This award provides due recognition of the importance of the collection, not just here in Ireland, but internationally as well.  The archive which was assembled assiduously by the Irish Folklore Commission is one of the largest of its kind, comprising several thousand manuscript volumes of transcriptions, some 80,000 photographs and more than 10,000 hours of audio recordings. All of this work was carried out during a period in our history when profound language, social and cultural change was taking place. The collection therefore forms a unique record of Irish cultural life, society, the verbal arts and music.  Many significant elements of the collection have been digitized and published on the Dúchas.ie website in recent years.

I recently had the pleasure of launching the new dúchas.ie website, along with the most recent collection, the Photographic Collection. I know that the Photographic Collection, which provides a new perspective on Ireland’s rich and varied heritage with thousands of photographs from across the country, has been immensely popular, with many users coming from Britain, the USA, Australia and Canada, as well as many other countries.  I am delighted that my Department will be able to provide funding of €100,893 to continue this project next year.”


Notes to editors:

About The National Folklore Collection

One of Europe’s largest archives of oral tradition and cultural history, much of the archival material housed in the National Folklore Collection was amassed by its forerunners, the Irish Folklore Institute (1930-1935), the Irish Folklore Commission (1935-1970), and the Department of Irish Folklore UCD (1972-2005). Also included are archive materials collected by the Folklore of Ireland Society (1926- ), a group closely associated with the National Folklore Collection. Since 2015 the Collection resides administratively within UCD Library.

The audio and film recordings, manuscripts and rare printed materials in the Collection span many aspects of human endeavour, from material culture to oral literature, language and artistic expression. A range of finding aids will assist researchers in locating information about a particular district, subject, or material contributed by any of the many thousands of informants, collectors and correspondents over the years. A range of archive material from the Collection can be viewed at www.duchas.ie and at digital.ucd.ie.

Inspired and guided by Scandinavian folklore scholars, who had earlier begun the process of recording their own native traditions, the Irish Folklore Commission, through its network of full-time and part-time collectors, worked carefully and systematically to document Irish folklore and cultural history at a critical time of social and economic change.

All 32 counties are represented in the Collection, as well as certain of the Western Isles of Scotland. In 1948 the Commission sent a team of field workers to the Isle of Man to record some of the last surviving native speakers of Manx.

UNESCO’s Memory of the World (MoW) Programme

Following a four-day meeting at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, from 24-27 October 2017, the International Advisory Committee (IAC) of UNESCO’s Memory of the World (MoW) Programme recommended 78 new nominations to the Memory of the World International Register.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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