Sounds of mid-20thc Irish-American culture: digitizing the James W. Smith Irish Music Collection recordings for preservation and access

Material Description

The James W. Smith Irish Music Collection contains 90 reel-to-reel tapes of informal Irish music house sessions. These recordings were made in Smith’s home during the 1950s and 1960s and represent some of Boston's most prominent Irish traditional musicians. In terms of provenance, the tapes were created by and belonged to James W. Smith; they were donated to the Libraries by his sister Mary Smith Duffy in his name in 1992. The gift agreement is attached in this application. The tape contents – with names of performers; song/tune types, eg air, hornpipe, jig, fling; titles of tunes; and assigned numeric shelfmark - were described in a typescript document. This was updated and annotated in 1994/5 by Séamus Connolly, master traditional Irish musician and NEA National Heritage Fellow, recognized worldwide for his lifelong contributions to Irish traditional music. His expert notes were based on listening to each and every reel in the collection. In 2002, he went through the tapes again with a view to prioritizing the content, indicating commercial, non-commercial, or not worth preserving (blank). These digital documents are being batch converted to Encoded Archival Description (EAD), an XML standard for encoding archival finding aids, to be made available if the project goes forward. The obsolete format, combined with a fragile physical state, have put the tapes at a high risk of loss; they have been inaccessible for the duration of our ownership. If reformatted, they would be available for public use for the first time.

Year Added:



Boston College


Ms Kimberly C. Kowal
Boston College

Ms Elizabeth Sweeney
Boston College


    90 items