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 Ward Irish Music Archives, part of Irish Festivals Inc., is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization and is dedicated to the preservation of Irish and Irish-American music in all its forms. It is a year-round educational arm of CelticMKE, home of Milwaukee Irish Fest.
All music items donated to the Archives are catalogued and entered into a comprehensive computer database. The collection will be open to the general public, but items will not be removed from the archives.
Along with the Ward family we’d like to congratulate Barry Stapleton, long time Director of the Ward Irish Music Archives, for his outstanding work at the Archives.
Fulfilling its role as a year-round educational arm of CelticMKE, the Ward Irish Music Archives has developed several physical and online exhibits that explore a number of Irish music topics. These exhibits are featured at festivals and events across the United States each season. Here is a sampling.
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Milwaukee Irish Fest
Ed Ward had been the President of the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin. He later worked at Summer Fest and saw its success. Ed founded Milwaukee Irish Fest in 1981, and the first year they drew over 40,000 people.
It takes great volunteers to pull off an event this big and the very first year the committee consisted of:
Bill Drew, Bill O'Donnell, Jim Brennan, and Jim McCann (Fund Development Committee)
Bernice Reilly (the Voice of Irish Fest)
Danny and Helen O'Donoghue
Congratulations to Ed, his brother Chuck, Barry Stapleton, archivist Jeff Ksiazek, and all the volunteers and hard workers that make the Fest and the Archives what they are today.
Ward Irish Music Archives Catalog
Search the Ward Irish Music Archives online catalog! We continually update and standardize our catalog data to help our users find the nearly 50,000 audio recordings, videos, sheet music, and other items in our collections. This work is on-going, so be sure to check back for updates. If you have any questions about searching our catalog, feel free to contact us.
Full List of Collections
Milwaukee Irish Fest Link