Celtic Junction Arts Review

Eoin McKiernan Library during Covid-19

Brian Miller, Library Director

This year began with plans for an exciting array of projects and initiatives for the McKiernan Library. While the covid-19 pandemic has since brought drastic changes of plans all of us, the McKiernan Library has been able to adapt and move forward on many fronts – including some unique online content that seems especially suited to our current context. 

We want to extend a huge thank you to our generous donors and volunteers as well as the Celtic Junction Arts Center itself for the continued support during this difficult time. Healthy arts and cultural resources help bring meaning and connection to our lives in these days of isolation.

Here is a rundown of what we have been working on:

Special Online Covid-19 Content: Story Hour and Water from the Well

With so many people at home, the McKiernan Library is working hard to provide online content to help you stay connected to Irish culture and arts through the world wide web. 

Eoin McKiernan Library during Covid-19: Story hour.

Story Hour is a fun online offering we have created with young people in mind. Celtic Junction Arts Center’s Executive Director Natalie O’Shea and other community members are shooting videos of themselves reading children’s books and fairy tales from our collection. We are posting them (and sometimes reading live) at noon weekdays via the Celtic Junction Arts Center Facebook page and/or the Eoin McKiernan Library’s YouTube channel.

"Water from the Well"

Water from the Well is a series of videos featuring Library Director (and musician) Brian Miller performing Irish tunes sourced from the unique Irish music recordings and manuscripts available in the McKiernan Library’s collection. Every two weeks (or so) Brian posts a video to the McKiernan Library’s Facebook page of himself playing a tune or singing a song from the collection.

Spring 2020 Exhibition: Athbheochan / Revival 1893-2018

Cover image for Irish Language Exhibition.

In 2018, the Gaelic League/Conradh na Gaeilge marked 125 years of Irish language revival with a yearlong celebration titled Bliain na Gaeilge 2018. The bilingual travelling exhibition “Éire: Athbheochan/Revival 1893-2018,” created for this occasion, documents aspects of language revival during this 125 year period including teaching, culture, community participation, Gaeltachts, industry and American influence/support.

The Consulate General of Ireland in Chicago generously loaned the physical exhibition to the Celtic Junction Arts Center to display in our building. Under the current coronavirus safety restrictions, we have obtained permission to share it with you digitally until we can all come together to experience this exhibition in person. 

See this exhibition on our website.


New Additions to our Catalog: CDs and LPs

Michael Coleman album cover

The Eoin McKiernan Library is delighted to announce the arrival of over 100 CDs, DVDs and books donated by Gael Linn as part of the Celtic Junction’s partnership with Armagh City’s new cultural center (and Gael Linn’s new home) Aonach Mhacha. Gael Linn, as one of Ireland’s chief Irish language promoting organizations and as a record label, has a great resonance with our existing catalog and the library’s broader goals. 

These materials come at a perfect time for our library’s growing music collection. We had just begun work on cataloging Eoin McKiernan’s own record collection, which includes many Gael Linn LPs as well as 45- and 78-rpm records stretching back to the label’s first Irish music 78 issued in 1957. Since covid-19 sent us all home, volunteers Jim Tarbox and Tim Scanlan have continued working with Director Brian Miller to complete this cataloging. Combined with the Gael Linn donation, our music collection has grown to over 1000 titles representing the very best of Irish traditional music of the past century!


New Video Archiving Initiatives: Eoin McKiernan’s 1960s TV Programs

McKiernan "bicycle" tapes

In March, we received word that the Minnesota Historical Society approved our grant proposal to digitize 43 television programs written and narrated by Dr. Eoin McKiernan soon after his arrival in Minnesota in the early 1960s. “Ireland Rediscovered” and “Irish Diary” ran from 1963-1965 on KCTA-TV in St. Paul, were rebroadcast nationally and became a catalyst for Dr. McKiernan’s groundbreaking work that followed. Thanks to the MNHS grant, we are in the process of packaging up the master tapes to be sent to a digitization facility. Digitizing, securing rights and providing access to these 57-year-old tapes will take some time but we are delighted to announce these developments!


Mooncoin dancers in Ireland

The McKiernan Library is also working on some other video archives that are already coming online. In 2019, we received several VHS tapes relating to Twin Cities Irish dance group the Mooncoin Ceili Dancers and we are digitizing and cataloging these. See the Eoin McKiernan Library’s YouTube channel for the first few videos from this group.