Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Greetings from the Archives

It's that festive time of year again and rounding off this semester it really has been an exceptional time of late here in Archives and Special Collections. Over the past semester, we have settled into our new home and premises here at the Hardiman Building; wonderful new collections have arrived into our strong-rooms, more have been catalogued and made accessible; it has been our pleasure to have you with us for Open Days, tours, Culture Night, exhibitions and launches, guest talks and more. We have been delighted to welcome so many new users to our Reading Room and indeed to welcome back all our regular users and friends! 
We hope all research and projects have gone well and not too many sleepless nights were had ahead of ahead of exams.

Our semester is winding to a close this week and already a new start is on the horizon so to all friends of the Archives and Special Collections, to users new and not so new, to all University staff and students and to those who visit us from afar, we wish you a very festive, enjoyable and safe Christmas and look forward to seeing you all here at the Hardiman Building in 2014.

As a final piece from our collections for this year here is an image from the Lyric Theatre Belfast production of 'The Nativity'. The production was a staging of the version written by Lady Augusta Gregory, organised and directed by Mary O'Malley prior to the formation of the Lyric Players Theatre.

T4/1 - the Nativity written by Lady Gregory, staged in 1950

Le gach dea-ghuí don Nollaig agus don bhliain nua.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Opening the Digitised History of Ireland's National Theatre

A new era of theatre scholarship is now accessible at the James Hardiman Library. 'A Digital Journey Through Irish Theatre', which was launched in October 2012 by President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, records the digitised archive of the Abbey Theatre, the national theatre of Ireland.

Containing over 1.8 million items in total, it is the largest theatre archive digitisation project ever undertaken in the world. The archive pre-dates the foundation of the Abbey Theatre itself, including material relating to productions by W.B. Yeats in 1894.

The rolling 3-year project has now successfully completed phase 1 and the first tranche of material is now released to users of the archive. Material included in this first release includes historic programmes of productions, set designs and related assorted production records including scripts and correspondence.
The digitisation project will allow for pioneering advances in the study of theatre, drama and society. As well as providing a documented record of a play, the Abbey Theatre Digital Archive will include a vast range of multi-media records, including nearly 1,500 hours of recordings of productions from over 430 productions.

The archive material will be exclusively available on designated computer terminals in the new Archives and Special Collections reading room of the Hardiman Building, located on the ground floor of the new extension, at the heart of campus at NUI Galway.

The archive compliments a leading research strength in theatre, performing arts and humanities scholarship within the University, with allied catalogued archival collections at the Hardiman Library including the papers of Druid Theatre Company, Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, The Lyric Players Theatre/O'Malley family, Belfast, The Galway Arts Festival archive and papers of individuals such as playwright Thomas Kilroy and actors Siobhan McKenna and Arthur Shields.

Dr Jim Browne, President, NUI Galway, Fiach MacConghail, Artistic Director, Abbey Theatre, President Michael D. Higgins, his wife Sabina.
The project will ensure that over 130 years of Irish theatre, history, culture and society will remain preserved and accessible for future generations.

The Abbey Theatre Digital Archive is accessible to all students and staff of the University and to external scholars and students. Stay tuned for updates for additions of new material to the archive throughout the course of the project. For more on access and conditions of the use of the Abbey Theatre Digital Archive please contact the Archives and Special Collections team by email:

RTE News coverage of the launch of the Abbey Theatre Digitisation Project, October 2012, can also be viewed by clicking here.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Druid and the Colleen Bawn - from 1978 to present

Druid cast of the Colleen Bawn, 1978
It's been thirty-five years since Druid Theatre staged Dion Boucicault's the Colleen Bawn. Looking back through the archive of such a body of work, it highlights much about the variances in the early Druid repertoire. Then, the young Druid Theatre company was hardly three years old and developments were well in motion that were making all involved with the Galway group stand out for recognition. People might not be aware of the range of work which Druid was producing at that time, and so much of it being recent non-Irish work also.

The 1978 season saw Druid produce the Colleen Bawn along with Tom Stoppard's After Margritte, Anton Checkov's the Proposal, The Glass Menagerie by Tennesse Williams and Woyzeck by George Buchner. Along with Boucicault's frantic and wild action, characters and language it is interesting to see Druid programming work by Boucicault, which would not have been too commonly familiar to many Irish audiences.

[Paul O'Neill] and Marie Mullen
This revival by Druid is a timely chance to dip into the archive and see some of the items and resources available for study of past productions of this play and one from Druid's early and formative years. The initial cast featured Marie Mullen, Sean McGinley, Pat Connaghton, Paul O'Neill and the play was designed and directed by Garry Hynes. Included in the archives are numerous production shots of the cast in costume and in production, original scripts used by Marie Mullen and Sean McGinley, with annotation and notes by both, lighting and cue sheets, programmes, posters and other such documents, each telling their own story of the history of this play.
Programme from the 1978 production

It is really exciting to see a new staging of the Colleen Bawn coming to the Galway stage. If you have any friends or family who may have seen this original production in in 1978 we would love to hear from you! Do leave a comment.

For more records about The Colleen Bawn or other productions from Druid's archive, please click here for the full archive catalogue. 

For more on the current production of the Colleen Bawn, see for details.

Sean McGinley's script, with handwritten annotation