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Archiving Irish America: Music, Dance, and Culture Conference

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Archiving Irish America: Music, Dance, and Culture

April 11-13, 2024

In Irish America, archives have been essential in allowing recent generations to tap into the long history of music, language, oral traditions, dance and folklore essential to a vibrant and living culture. Archiving Irish America: Music, Dance & Culture will bring together those who engage with archival materials in their research or creative practice, those who have collected and curated cultural treasures for these archives, and those who wish to contribute to documenting and creating Irish American culture through these important institutions.

CelticMKE Center
1532 N. Wauwatosa Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53213

Online via Zoom

Keynote Speakers

Liz Carroll

Liz Carroll credit Marianne Mangan

Liz Carroll was born in Chicago of Irish parents. She's a junior and senior All-Ireland Fiddle Champion, and has toured as a solo artist and with the Green Fields of America, Trian, String Sisters, and as part of the duo Liz Carroll & John Doyle. She's featured on eleven albums and has appeared on many more. Liz is a recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship Award (1994). In 2010 she became the first Irish-American musician nominated for a Grammy. In 2011 she became the first American-born composer honored with the Cumadóir TG4, Ireland's most significant traditional music prize.

Photo credit: Marianne Mangan

Jean Butler

Keynote speaker: Jean Butler, photo by Mark Mann

Dancer, choreographer, and Our Steps Artistic Director Jean Butler is a leading figure in the world of contemporary Irish dance performance. Her most recent production, a site -specific promenade piece entitled ‘What We Hold’ premiered at the Dublin Theatre Festival in October 2022 to critical acclaim. Past works has been supported and presented by The Arts Council (Ireland), Abbey Theatre (Dublin), Baryshnikov Arts Center (N.Y.), Danspace Project (N.Y.), Dublin Dance Festival, Dublin Theatre Festival, Irish Arts Center (N.Y.), Jacobs Pillow (MA), The Joyce (N.Y.), Kennedy Center (D.C.), Project Arts Centre (Dublin), and Seamus Heaney Homeplace (Northern Ireland).

In 2018 Butler founded Our Steps, a not- for-profit organization committed to expanding the way we think about history, practice, and performance of Irish dance. Partnering with the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library, Our Steps initiated the first living Irish dance archive, entitled Our Steps, Our Story: An Irish Dance Legacy Archive. To date, this ever -expanding archive has created over 200 hours of video and audio resource materials never previously documented.

Butler has taught at Princeton University, University College Dublin, University of Notre Dame Global Center, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick and Glucksman Ireland House, NYU. She choreographed and starred in the original Irish dance productions, Riverdance and Dancing on Dangerous Ground and is the recipient of many prestigious awards and honors.

Photo credit: Mark Mann


Or, click here if you prefer to register directly on the Eventbrite ticketing web page.

Presenter Bios and Abstracts

We're excited to welcome these musicians and scholars to present at Archiving Irish America. Click below for presenter bios and presentation abstracts.

Click here for presenter bios and abstracts!


Updated: April 2, 2024. Schedule is subject to change. Be sure to check here for updates. All times listed in Central Time zone.


6:00 PM Welcome & Reception

6:30 PM: Chuck Ward Lecture: Harry Bradshaw, “Bill Stapleton and the Irish Recording Company”

7:30 PM: Tour of the Ward Irish Music Archives


8:30–9:00 AM: Registration and coffee/tea

9:00–10:30 AM: Panel 1: Foundations

Chair: Dan Neely

9:00 AM: Richie Piggott, "Chicago Archive of Irish Traditional Musicians & Storytellers"

9:30 AM: Caitlin Finley & Will Woodson, "The Phonograph Project: Learning and Performing Music from Early Irish American Recordings"

10:00 AM: Seán Doherty, "Annotations in the Francis O'Neill Collection at the University of Notre Dame"

10:30–10:45 AM: Break

10:45–11:00 AM: WIMA Spotlight

11:00 AM –12:30 PM: Panel 2: Unearthing

Chair: Samantha Jones

11:00 AM: Siobhan Butler, "Bridging the Gap: Uncovering the Bond Between Traditional Irish Dance and Music"

11:30 AM: Katherine Holt, "Dancing with the Archive"

12:00 PM: Brian Ó hAirt, "Soiléir I bhFolach: A Dancer Hidden in Plain Sight"

12:30–1:00 PM: Project Launch: Capturing O’Neill - a WIMA and ITMA digital humanities project, spanning dozens of archives and personal collections. Scott Spencer, Daniel Neely, Aileen Dillane, Michael O’Malley

1:00–2:00 PM: Lunch

2:00–3:00 PM: Brian Miller, "Songs of an Irish Lumberman-Saloonkeeper"

3:00–3:10 PM: Break

3:10-3:15 PM: Video Presentation: Patrick Egan, "Key Factors for Interacting with Irish Traditional Music in North American Archives: Some Survey Results"

3:15–4:45 PM: Panel 3: Approaches

Chair: Sean Williams

3:15 PM: Sarah Gerk, "Reading Irish American Archives Against the Grain"

3:45 PM: John Waters, "Cross-Cultural Experiments in the Mick Moloney Archives"

4:15 PM: Emily Paulson, "'How do I find Irish Music?'—Creating Resources for Celtic Music at the Archives of Traditional Music"

4:45–5:00 PM: Break

5:00–6:30 PM: Keynote: Jean Butler
“Our Steps, Our Story: An Irish Dance Legacy Archive”

Friday Night Session at the County Clare, 9–11 PM


9:00-10:00 AM: Registration and coffee/tea

10:00 AM–12:00 PM: Panel 4: Techniques

Chair: Sean Williams

10:00 AM: Elizabeth Sweeney, "An Archival Partnership to Document Boston's Irish Music"

10:30 AM: Nick Brown, "Tracing the Music Used in Oscar & Malvina"

11:00 AM: Dan Isaacson, "Craft: Oral History Interviews from the Workshops of Benedict Koehler and Patrick and Aaron Olwell"

11:30 AM: Helen Lawlor, "‘Hear the Harp of Tara’: Research-Led Performance of the Princess Grace Song Sheet Collection"

12:00–1:00 PM: Lunch

1:00–1:30 PM: WIMA Spotlight

1:30–2:30 PM: Panel 5: Practice

Chair: Scott Spencer

1:30 PM: Marta Cook, "Jenny Picking Cockles: Performance-Based Research on the Irish Harp"

2:00 PM: Jimmy Keane, "Horse: A Personal Archive"

2:30–2:45 PM: Break

2:45–4:15 PM: Roundtable: "Living Clay: The Archive in Cultural Practice"

Moderator: Jimmy Keane

Roundtable: Marta Cook, Brian Ó hAirt, Emmanuel-Sathya Gray, Erick Boustead

4:15–4:30 PM: Break

4:30–6:00 PM: Keynote: Liz Carroll

6:00–6:15 PM: Summative Remarks

7:00 PM: CelticMKE Céilí featuring Jimmy Keane and friends

Conference Committee

Scott Spencer, University of Southern California (co-chair)
Aileen Dillane, University of Limerick (co-chair)
Samantha Jones, Harvard University
Sean Williams, Evergreen State College
Dan Neely, Irish Echo
Jeff Ksiazek, Ward Irish Music Archives, Milwaukee

About the Ward Irish Music Archives

The Ward Irish Music Archives (WIMA) collects, promotes, preserves, and disseminates Irish and Irish-American musics in all their forms.  WIMA makes these cultural resources available to researchers, artists, and the general public now and into the future for the purposes of teaching, scholarship, and practice.

Established in 1992, WIMA houses one of the largest public collections of Irish music in America. The pieces in the Archives, as well as events, traveling exhibits, CD projects and our online digital collections ensure this important part of Irish American history is preserved and accessible to collectors, enthusiasts, students and lovers of music in any form.



Radisson Milwaukee West: 2303 North Mayfair Road, Milwaukee, WI 53226

Room rate: $145/night. 

Call the hotel or click on the link to make reservations:


Access Code: G9667757

Deadline: reserve by March 11, 2024.

This conference is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

This conference is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Emigrant Support Programme

With support from the Emigrant Support Programme

Milwaukee Irish Fest Foundation

With support from the Milwaukee Irish Fest Foundation

Related Posts

Mick Moloney and Jimmy Keane Concert Oct 21, 2017

An Irish Delight: The Story of the Flanagan Brothers

WIMA 25th Anniversary Celebration, Sat. Oct 21, 2017

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