Preserving Ireland on Film – The Irish Film Institute’s Archive Tour on Culture Night

Due to two of my friend’s birthday celebrations coinciding on Culture Night in Dublin I was only able to make one event and appropriately it was Film related.

The tour of the usually-not-open-to-the-public Archives of the Irish Film Institute begins in the foyer where we are met by the head of the Archive Kassandra O’Connell who leads us to the Tiernan McBride reference Library in the Archive while being in the Irish Film Institute complex it is a separate building.


We are given a talk about the history of the Archive and how it was aligned with the Catholic Church in the 1940s, who saw the potential of film as a means of communication, the first organisation in the country to have the required facilities. She explains about the move away from the church in the 1970s.

Kassandra tells us about the Horgan Brothers in Cork from 1910s whose interest in the young industry was not matched by the contents of their wallets. So they built this and this camera


this projector and opened their own cinema in 1917. They went around the country making recordings and even the first Irish animated feet of reel.

The reference library contains the documentation, articles and production notes for the Irish related Films they have already collected (e.g. Neil Jordan provides them with the production notes of the films he makes).


We are then led down stairs to meet two of the Archive’s Collections Officers, Columb Gilna McManus and Anja Mahler, who show us the pain-staking work they do: their enthusiasm is infectious.


Film donated to the Archive can be anything from features, documentaries to home movies; some in need of repair before being viewed frame by frame. They explain that the great value of private collections; any documentation of Ireland on film provides a new insight into our countries history and sometimes they uncover new angles on a historical events. The receive reels of film in all sorts of conditions.


The Archive’s storage rooms (six in all) are especially air conditioned and packed with reels of their collection.


This Archive is a must for any film or film preservation enthusiasts and an important resource for students of Irish film.


If you have any old reels or footage at home please get in touch with them and assist in filling the archive gap between 1897 and the 1940s when there was no film archiving taking place in Ireland.

Get in touch and find out more about the Archive here.


2 responses to “Preserving Ireland on Film – The Irish Film Institute’s Archive Tour on Culture Night

  1. Reminds me of that wonderful old film Cinema Paradiso, still a favourite.

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