The brief of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is to record and preserve the way of life, past and present, of the people of Northern Ireland. The contents of the Museum’s Sound Archive reflects this brief, comprising mainly oral history recordings made by curatorial members of staff and other interested persons, traditional Irish music, folk tunes and songs, recitals recorded by and at UFTM, commercial 78's, LPs, and both commercial and in-house CDs. Of the oral history interviews, informants are drawn from a wide cross-section of the local community and give detailed accounts of life in Northern Ireland and work in their chosen fields. This brings a personal feel to events that were, until now, cold and historical, adding details that the history books fail to cover.
Prominent topics featured in the collection relate to the Linen Industry, local history, religion, folklore, social customs and music, etc. The majority of these have been deposited by a range of local people, institutions and special projects. These include material by the BBC relating accounts of the sinking of the Titanic; Clodagh Harvey’s work on story telling and story tellers in Ulster; Desmond Batley’s motor sport collection; recordings by Joan Duffy and Sandra Matchett on behalf of Enniskillen Museum; songs and music recorded by Fionnuala Carson Williams; Frank Downey’s material on Banbridge shops, fairs and cures etc; Gerald Crean’s work on the Northern Ireland Hospice; the Heritage Library and the North West Archives collections on life in Derry; Joe Bradley’s collection on the Forkhill Singing Club; recordings deposited by the Linen Hall Library relating to the Ulster Workers’ Party Strike, 1974 and Niall Cusack’s work on the Ulster Trade Unionist, Betty Sinclair (1910-81); Margaret Gleean’s collection on the history of the “Women Together for Peace” movement; Matt Meharg’s collection of local songs, some of which are in Ulster Scots; May Blair’s collection on the history of the Lagan Canal; R. Wathen’s collection of music by Seamus Ennis, Willie Clancey and James Byrne, etc; Sam Gault’s collection on Carrickfergus Gas Works; Terence Duffy’s collection concerning religious matters of 1900-1920; and material recorded by the Ulster Society on the first World War.
Donations by a range of local history interest groups are also to be found and include work by the Donaghadee Community Workforce, the Dungannon Development Association; the Belcoo Historical Society, Farcet Youth & Community Development Ltd, Living Linen; the Shantullow Local History Society and Tempo History Society. In addition, the collection also features work by the Ulster writer and dialect specialist, Richard Hayward (1892-1984) and local singer, James Simmons (1933-2001) and the deposited results of the Northern Ireland Place-Name Project conducted by Queen’s University from 1987, and the tape recorded survey of Hiberno-English in Ireland, also conducted by Queen’s in partnership with the University of Ulster, University College Dublin and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. This last element comprises approx. 761 reels of material.
The strength of this collection lies in its adherence to the aims and objectives of the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, and, in particular, its collection of oral history recordings, detailing personal reminiscences of the events, industries and characters that have helped shape the Ulster way of life. This collection would be of interest to students of local history, Celtic/Irish studies, folklore and tradition, language, music, industry, transport, buildings, peacework, lambeg drumming and construction.
The Sound Archive contains approx. 6,500 items including some 2,976 reels, 1,059 cassettes, 2, 132 records, and 173 CDs in addition to a number of minidiscs and VHS recordings comprising a total duration of approx. 7053 hours of material.
The Sound Archive Collection of the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum can be accessed through a series of catalogued Tape Registers held in the Sound Archive office. Each collection is listed and referenced by tape number throughout. The catalogue is also in the process of automation with reels deposited from 1962-1980 recorded onto a computerised Microbird Free Text Retrieval System. Ask staff for details.
The collection is stored in temperature and humidity controlled conditions. The store is also protected with an early warning fire alarm system and automatic fire extinguishing system.