Irish folklore collection joins Book of Kells in Unesco archive

A treasure trove of material on Irish folklore and culture has joined the ranks of the Magna Carta and the Bayeux Tapestry in a special United Nations archive.

The Irish Folklore Commission Collection, held at University College Dublin and regarded as one of the richest and most diverse tradition archives anywhere in the world, is being added to the Unesco Memory of the World Register.

Set up in 1935, it ran until 1970 gathering more than 10,000 hours of recordings of Irish speakers, songs and music, 90,000 photographs, film footage of the likes of Peig Sayers and thousands of manuscripts of interviews and storytelling.

After the Book of Kells the collection is only the second Irish entry into the Unesco archive.

Other world renowned entries include the Diary of Anne Frank.

Joe McHugh, Government chief whip and Minister for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht and the Islands, said the award was due recognition, at home and abroad, of the importance of the collection.

"All of this work was carried out during a period in our history when profound language, social and cultural change was taking place," he said.

"The collection therefore forms a unique record of Irish cultural life, society, the verbal arts and music."

The archive is described as having "world significance" and "outstanding universal value to culture" and it joins 427 other collections and documents from around the world on materials from stone to celluloid and from parchment to sound recordings.

As well as interviews the material also includes hero tales and sagas, local legends, poetry, historical tradition and place-name lore, in both Irish and English, and performances of folk drama such as Wren Boys and Mummers.

There are also several thousand acetate disk records of native Irish speakers in the 1940s and 50s and high quality magnetic tape recordings.

Unesco set up the Memory of the World Programme in 1992 amid concerns of heritage being lost through war, looting, illegal trading and social upheaval.


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