August 18-21, 2016

August 18-21, 2016

Ward Irish Music Archives

Ward Irish Music Archives

Established in 1992 and named after John J. Ward, father of Irish Fest's founder Ed Ward, the Ward Irish Music Archives houses one of the largest public collection of Irish music in America. The entire collection ranges from the early 19th century to modern singers and bands including Bing Crosby and U2. The archives consists of more than 50,000 pieces, including Irish recordings; paper ephemera such as postcards, sheet music and song books; instruments,; photos; concert memorabilia; rare 78s, 45s and LPs; and even music recorded on wax cylinders! 

The Dunn Family Colletion includes 32 rare cylinder recordings of uilleann pipers and fiddlers. Francis O'Neill of Chicago collected the delicate materials in the early 20th century. In addition to the physical artifacts in the collection, our online Irish Sheet Music Archives gives music lovers the opportunity to explore thousands of pieces of music created between 1750 and the present. 

The pieces in the Ward Irish Music Archives, as well as events, special exhibits, CD projects and our online digital collection, ensure this important part of Irish American history is preserved and accessible to collectors, enthusiasts, students and lovers of music in any form. See it for yourself! Visit and explore the ever-expanding archives at the Milwaukee Irish Fest Center. We also have several traveling exhibits that bring fantastic pieces from the collection to events and festivals across the United States.

Irish Fest Scrapbook Digital Collection


Milwaukee Irish Fest Scrapbook

We're excited to launch, a digital collection that looks at the history of Milwaukee Irish Fest through photos, video, and audio that we've collected through 35 years. Take a stroll down memory lane and relive some of your favorite moments at Milwaukee Irish Fest!

American Library Association Choice Review

We were happy to discover that the Irish Sheet Music Archvies website was reviewed in the recent issue of the American Library Association's Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries. Here's a snippet of J. G. Matthews' of Washington State University Libraries assessment:

"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... 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."

Read the full review here!

Ward Irish Music Archives Wins 2014 AASLH Award of Merit


The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) proudly announces that the Ward Irish Music Archives is the recipient of an Award of Merit from the AASLH Leadership in History Awards for the Irish Sheet Music Archives website ( The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 69th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.


Irish Sheet Music Archives Website Online now!

Irish Sheet Music Archives website

The Irish Sheet Music Archives website,, will be the home of the online sheet music collections found in the Ward Irish Music Archives. Original published sheet music, a frequently overlooked and neglected primary historical source, actually affords us a unique, fresh, and fascinating window into the thoughts and feelings of past generations. This new website will give people access to thousands of pieces of sheet music created between 1750 and the present. Read more... or visit the site now!

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Dunn Family Collection

Explore the Dunn Family Collection microsite, which contains audio from the Francis O'Neill cylinders, historic recordings of Irish traditional music made c. 1904. Also browse manuscripts, photos, and other items from the collection!

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