Following the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History, the Ward Irish Music Archives, the largest public collection of Irish music in America, is receiving national attention again this year. The Association of College Research Libraries posted a positive review of the archives in the organization’s December 2014 issue. J. G. Matthews, of Washington State University Library, wrote:
“Online since October 2013, this incredible archive of Irish sheet music makes freely available high-quality digitized images of public domain print music held by the Ward Irish Music Archives in Milwaukee, WI. The collection includes music published from approximately 1750 to the present. Irish American content is particularly strong. The browsing interface is remarkably easy to use and allows one to search by a number of facets, including instrumentation, music in the public domain, subject, and place of publication, to name a few. In addition, the archive provides a growing selection of “galleries” focusing on thematic groupings of sheet music; these galleries feature brilliantly designed landing pages containing useful contextual information about the topic as well as links to relevant sheet music. Users have access to information about approximately 5,000 pieces of Irish music, but they have full access only to those items published before 1923. Music published since that year remains under copyright. Even so, the archive provides invaluable metadata about copyrighted material, along with information about how to procure high-resolution copies of these currently undigitized items for a fee.
“This archive’s design is consistently elegant, uncluttered, and richly illustrated. The potential for such a resource is enormous: scholars of 19th century visual culture, printing, publishing, illustration, design, technology, and history – as well as music performers, composers, and historians – are richly served by this archive. Whereas online resources such as Comhaltas provide free access to Irish sheet music, no other site offers the visual and historical scope of the Ward archive. This resource possesses value and relevance far beyond its scope, because in addition to being an invaluable source for Irish music, the site sets a precedent for online archive design and functionality.”