Want to watch Dublin in 1952? New IFI film archive is packed with gems

16 Sep 2016

The Irish Film Institute (IFI) has released 1,200 minutes of archive footage dating as far back as 1897, featuring everything from 1950s tours of Dublin, Bob Geldof starring in odd adverts and some cool, old animations.

Calling it a “significant step”, the IFI announced one of the more intriguing historical releases in recent years. Called the IFI Player, the online video repository has documentaries, advertisements, films and more from the past 120 years.

Featuring “the most important social, political and historical events of the past century”, according to IFI, there are gems galore once you go searching.

Future Human

The 1952 16-minute Portrait of Dublin stands out as one of the more remarkable pieces of content, though there’s enough in there to satisfy most meandering minds.

Archive footage Ireland

Archive footage

Originally made by the Department of External Affairs’ Cultural Relations Committee, Liam O Laoghaire was the filmmaker behind Portrait of Dublin.

Elsewhere, there’s a 2008 documentary on the fascinating career of Jimmy ‘Babyface’ McLarnin and his storied success in the US. There is also a short 1950s animation from Tourism Ireland that might not prove effective today.

Fr Jack Delaney’s amateur footage of a sports day at Dalymount Park, all the way back in 1934, is just one of many contributions from the then parish priest. His footage from Killiney Hill, and that of a card game in someone’s back garden are two more we unearthed.

What about the Tidy Towns competition of 1962? Glenties in Donegal won the first three iterations of the competition from 1958 to 1960. It lost its crown in 1961 to Rathvilly in Carlow, before winning again in 1962. Here’s how the town did it.

Many parties converged

The IFI Player was backed by The Arts Council and The Ireland Funds, all part of an extensive digital preservation and access strategy which IFI says has been running for several years now.

Selecting what videos to include in the archive came down to both technical and practical considerations, with as broad an offering as possible limited by how copyright over certain material was handled.

“The material in our collections goes through a long process of management, preservation and digitisation before we are able to share it with the public,” said IFI.

The final footage we get to enjoy comes on the back of months, or even years of negotiations and discussions with relevant parties.

Virtual viewing room

“The IFI Player is a virtual viewing room for these remarkable collections, giving audiences across the globe instant access to this rich heritage,” said IFI.

“The material on the IFI Player has been selected to give audiences a taste of the breadth and depth of the collections preserved by the archive.

“Home movies, newsreels, travelogues, animations, feature films, public information films and documentaries have been included as we have tried to reflect all aspects of indigenous amateur and professional production.”

Main image of Dublin via GagliardiImages/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic