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Irish Eyes Are Smiling: NYU’s Division of Libraries Acquires Irish Musician/Folklorist Mick Moloney Collection

October 15, 2007
N-109, 2007-08

The Mick Moloney Collection, which documents nearly two centuries of Irish- American popular culture and music, particularly between the years of 1860 and 1940, has been acquired by New York University’s Division of Libraries, as part of the Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media and the Tamiment Library. Moloney, Irish traditional musician, folklorist, and Global Distinguished Professor of Irish Studies and music at NYU, assembled his popular culture collection through years of making purchases at ephemera shows and auctions, and his collection of recorded Irish music is unparalleled.

The Moloney Collection is a very deep resource for scholars investigating the musical and historical heritage of the Irish in America.

The Collection is in two parts. The Music Collection contains music recorded on commercial labels as well as field recordings of performances and interviews with musicians. NYU recently received a $40,000 grant from The GRAMMY Foundation to help preserve the oldest recordings and make them accessible, and NYU Libraries’ Department of Preservation and Conservation will oversee that project.

Although some of the music tapes feature widely recognized artists such as the Clancy Brothers, the large majority documents the work of musicians who did not record widely, but who from the 1920s on helped shape the style and repertoire of the Irish folk tradition in America. These include the pianist Eleanor Neary, famed composer and fiddler Ed Reavy, and legendary banjo player Mike Flanagan, among many others. The Music Collection will reside in NYU’s Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media. Both this Center and the Tamiment Library are located in the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, NYU’s flagship library on Washington Square South.

The Popular Culture collection ranges from 19th-century cartoons, joke books, and playbills, to cigar and fruit box labels and print advertisements. Its strength lies in its 400 cubic feet of sheet music, spanning the period between the Civil War and World War I; and approximately 700 postcards - mostly St. Patrick’s Day greetings produced between 1900 and 1915. This material concerns the popular perceptions of the Irish, including both positive and negative stereotypes. This Collection will reside in the Tamiment Library at NYU as part of the Archives of Irish America.

“I am delighted to have this collection housed in New York University’s Bobst Library. The library combines a commitment to the highest standards of archival preservation with a wonderfully evolved policy of public access and outreach. It is also a natural home for the collection because much of the material is historically connected with the New York City area,” said Moloney.

According to Marion Casey, professor of Irish Studies at NYU and the head of the Archives of Irish America, “The archival significance of Mick Moloney’s collection lies in its whole rather than its component parts. The Collection has rich research potential because broad connections can be made across a variety of media. For example, it is now possible, within this Collection, to study a popular song like ‘Irish Eyes Are Smiling’ through sheet music, commercial recordings, performances, and the use of the phrase on St. Patrick’s Day postcards.”

Moloney, who sings and plays the tenor banjo and mandolin, has produced more than 60 albums and hosted three American public television series. In 1978, he founded The Green Fields of America, an Irish American touring ensemble that was the first group on either side of the Atlantic to present Irish traditional song, music, and dance together on the concert and festival stage. He received a 1999 National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the country’s highest honor for traditional artists. He is the author of Far From the Shamrock Shore: The Story of Irish America Through Song. His newest CD is “McNally’s Row of Flats: Irish American Songs of Old New York.”

The Avery Fisher Collection at NYU is one of the world’s largest academic media centers, with 70,000 recordings in such genres as avant-garde and classical music, musical theatre, non-Western traditions, jazz and popular music, and 23,000 video titles, including cinema and television history, operas, plays, and other works.

The Archives of Irish America in the Tamiment Library is a repository of primary research materials on the Irish immigration experience and the distillation of American Irish ethnicity over the past century.

Type: Press Release

TOP: Mick Moloney, Irish traditional musician and professor of Irish studies and music; MIDDLE AND BOTTOM: Images from Moloney's Irish pop-culture collection

TOP: Mick Moloney, Irish traditional musician and professor of Irish studies and music; MIDDLE AND BOTTOM: Images from Moloney's Irish pop-culture collection

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