John J. Burns Library, Boston College

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The John J. Burns Library

The John J. Burns Library is located in the English collegiate style Bapst Library Building at Boston College

Role: Writer/Production Director

The Burns Library is home to more than 250,000 volumes, some 16,000,000 manuscripts and important collections of architectural records, maps, art works, newspapers, photographs, films, prints, artifacts and ephemera.

In recent years, the Burns Library has arranged for a number of major acquisitions, including several important collections relating to Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett; the papers of Irish poets Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Gerald Dawe and John Deane; the Samuel Freedman Collection of George Bernard Shaw; the papers of Thomas Clarke, the first signer of the 1916 Proclamationm and of his wife Kathleen, the first woman Lord Mayor of Dublin; the 5,000-volume library of Trinity College Professor T.W. Moody; the Bobbie Hanvey Photographic Archive of Northern Ireland; the Frederick M. Manning Collection of John McCormack; the Graham Greene Library and Archive; and the papers of British writers Anthony Rhodes and Alfred Noyes, to name but a few.

In addition to documenting the history and literature of Ireland, the Burns Library has developed one of the foremost Irish music archives in an American university setting. The archive was founded in 1990 by the Music Department, the Irish Studies Program, and the John J. Burns Library, in collaboration with visiting ethnomusicology professor Dr. Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin. Inspired by the work of the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin, the Irish Music Arhives of the John J. Nurns Library seeks to preserve and promote Irish traditional music in America. The Irish Music Center works closely with Séamus Connolly, Sullivan Artist in Residence in Irish Music, and the Center for Irish Programs to document the cultural contributions of Irish and Scottish traditional musicians in America. The Center’s archives include commercial and field recordings, video recordings, sheet music, manuscripts, photographs, memorabilia and books about music. Among its holdings is one of the world’s largest collections pertaining to Irish tenor John McCormack.

The close ties between the Irish Studies Program and the Burns Library Irish Collection came to full expression with the establishment of the Burns Library Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies, a visiting faculty position endowed by a gift of the Burns Foundation. Each academic year, the Burns Library welcomes a distinguished scholar, writer or artist who has made significant contributions to Irish cultural and intellectual life. Since its inauguration in Academic Year 1991-92, eighteen distinguished Irish and British scholars have held the Burns Chair, including two former directors of the National Library of Ireland, Alf MacLochlainn and Patricia Donlon; historians Margaret MacCurtain, Kevin Whelan, T. Alvin Jackson, Peter Gray and Maria Luddy; political scientists Paul Bew and Thomas Garvin; medievalists Timothy O’Neill and Bernard Meehan; literary critics and editors Maurice Harmon and Margaret Kelleher; Irish language specialists and poets Sean O’Tuama, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Brendán Ó Buachalla, and Gerald Dawe; and musician and musicologist Mick Moloney.

Jack B. Yeats, "Misty Morning", (Irish, 1871-1957) oil on canvas.

In March-April 2007, the Burns Library lent an impressive array of its Irish treasures to the Phoenix Art Museum in support of an exhibition of Irish paintings from the Brian P. Burns Collection. This exhibit marks the third time that the Burns Library has lent treasures to institutions outside Boston to complement the exhibit of Irish paintings from the private collection of the Library’s founder. Previous collaborative exhibits were organized in 1997 at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, and in 2000 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. These outreach efforts underscore the Library’s and the University’s efforts to heighten awareness across America of Ireland’s rich cultural heritage and the role that Boston College plays as “guardian of Irish culture.”

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