Published: December 17, 2002
CHESTNUT HILL, MASS. – An Irish harp handcrafted in Dublin in the 1820s during a revival of interest in Celtic traditional music has been acquired by the John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College, where it is now on display in the library’s Irish Room.
The 35-inch wooden harp, decorated with gold shamrocks, was crafted by John Egan, a leading Irish harp-maker of the day, at a time when such portable instruments and sheet music of traditional Irish music were finding popularity in middle-class Irish homes.
Discussions with Nancy Hurrell of the Historical Harp Society led to the instrument’s being presented to Burns Library, where it now resides alongside a second Egan harp, which is on loan. Plans are to keep the newly acquired harp on exhibit indefinitely, according to Burns Librarian Robert O’Neill.
“The Egan Harp is a beautiful instrument. It emerged in the early 1800s in response to the tremendous enthusiasm generated by the 1792 Belfast Harp Festival,” O’Neill said. “We already exhibit the Egan harp that is on loan to us. The two harps are slightly different, however, and musicologists will find comparisons between the two instruments of great interest.”
The Burns Library is home to the Boston College Irish Collection, considered to be the premier, most comprehensive collection of Irish research materials in the United States. Founded in 1948, the collection documents the history, life and culture of the Irish people, with strong holdings in Irish history, religion and politics, and significant collections related to some of Ireland’s greatest writers.
The library, 140 Commonwealth Avenue in Chestnut Hill, is open weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm.
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