The Eoin McKiernan Library
The Celtic Junction Arts Center’s Eoin McKiernan Library (EML) celebrates the legacy of Irish Studies pioneer and prolific promoter of Irish culture Eoin McKiernan. Founded on the McKiernan family’s gift of 3000 items from Dr. McKiernan's personal library, our collection reflects his deep passion for Irish history and politics, the Irish language, folklore, literature and Irish arts.
The McKiernan Library works to serve and enrich the Irish cultural community of Minnesota with resources on the shelves of our reading room (our Library Collection) and online via our website and digital collection (our Online Archives).
In addition to being a beautiful space for quiet study and home to our Library Collection, our reading room also hosts the classes, colloquia, and seminars offered by the Irish College of Minnesota / Coláiste na nGaedheal. (Currently, all Irish College classes are offered online)
Our collections, both physical and digital, cover a broad range of topics relating to Ireland and the other Celtic Nations but our special focus areas are Irish arts (music, dance, theater, poetry, visual art), the Irish language and the Irish in Minnesota.
Our reading room holds a collection of 4800 books and 1200 commercial audio recordings available for check out or for reading/listening on site. We also have a small (but growing) number of films on DVD.
Books include rare treasures such as our first edition copies of Douglas Hyde's Mo Thurus go hAmerice and P. W. Joyce's Old Irish Folk Music. Our Irish Language Collection at the north end of the reading room includes over 400 books that are either in Irish, translated from Irish or about the Irish language. We have another 400 books on Irish music including tunebooks, song collections, biographies and histories.
Our collection of 1200 commercial audio recordings is primarily Irish traditional music including many hard-to-find recordings published in Ireland. Thanks to CJAC's partnership with Aonach Mhacha in Armagh City, we have extensive holdings of CDs (and records) from the Gael Linn label.
Our website is home to our Digital Archive of photos, audio recordings, posters, videos and other digital materials documenting the history of the Irish cultural community of Minnesota.
The EML collects digital materials documenting the history of Minnesota’s Irish community with a focus on Irish arts (music, dance, theater, etc.). Our Online Archives include hundreds of items documenting the past 100 years of Irish cultural activity in Minnesota.
You can hear fiddler Tony Doherty play the tune "Devil's Dream" with which he won a 1928 fiddle contest in Jordan, Minnesota. You can hear musician Martin McHugh talk about the warm welcome he received from a tight-knit group of Irish immigrants when he arrived in St. Paul in the 1950s. You can see a photo of Brian Boru Irish Pipe Band marching in a parade in the 1960s. You can also see our digitized version of the poster for the second Minnesota Irish Festival in 1981 or watch video of the Mooncoin Ceili Dancers being interviewed for Irish television during their 1986 visit to the Fleadh Nua in Ennis, County Clare.
Research at EML
As stated above, our collections (physical and digital) have three subject areas of focus: Irish arts, Irish language and the Irish in Minnesota (including Eoin McKiernan himself).
Researchers interested in the history of the Connemara Irish who came to Minnesota in the 1880s will be interested in our binder of photocopied contemporary newspaper clippings documenting that story as well as our copy of the 1997 Irish language television program about the "Connemaras" of Graceville, MN. Researcher Jane Kennedy used these materials for her chapter "The Connemara Irish: Despair in the Heartland" in the 2020 book Irish Famines before and after the Great Hunger as well as for an article in CJAC's Arts Review.
Library Director Brian Miller is an authority on the history of Irish music in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest and has written about the singing and song gathering of Irish-Minnesotan Michael C. Dean (1858-1931) Our digital archives are especially rich in documentation of Irish music making in Minnesota over the past century.
For those interested in expanding their general knowledge of Ireland and Irish authors, our book collection has good coverage of Irish history and literature. For genealogists, our reading room computers are all outfitted with a subscription to ancestry.com and we have many books on Irish genealogy.
In addition to all our library and archival holdings, the McKiernan Library also produces multi-media exhibitions celebrating aspects of local Irish cultural community history. These have included Irish Music and Musicians in the Twin Cities Community (2018), Forty Years of Irish Fair Posters (2019), Leaders in the Twin Cities Irish Dance Community (2019) and the Twin Cities Irish American Club (2022). Exhibitions are displayed in our "exhibition hall" just outside the EML reading room as well as at local events including the Irish Fair of Minnesota.
We also create digital exhibitions, including our popular web-based offering Twin Cities Irish Music Community: 20th-Century Tradition Bearers and the Revival of the 1970s and ’80s. This all-online audio-visual production includes photos and audio excerpts
Events and Outreach
Finally, the EML works with our parent organization, Celtic Junction Arts Center, as well as other community groups including the Irish Music and Dance Association and the Traditional Singers Club to present special events. In 2018, we celebrated the completion of our first oral history project with a launch party including on stage interviews and musical performances. In 2018 and 2019 we worked with the Traditional Singers Club to bring Irish traditional singers Máirín Uí Chéide and Dan Milner to town to perform and to contribute to our archive of unaccompanied traditional song recordings.
The McKiernan Library is also part of CJAC's Irish Outreach Coalition. As part of the group's school programs, EML director Brian Miller talks about the history of Irish music in Minnesota with musical illustrations (one of the benefits of a singing librarian!)
The McKiernan Library relies on generous donors and volunteers to keep these enriching activities happening. Click here to learn more about joining our team!