A major aspect of the Trust’s work is the digital recovery and preservation of the oldest and most vulnerable titles in the Radharc series, not only for their own sake but for their value to researchers and public alike, who may on the one hand see these earliest titles simply as nostaligic jaunts through 1960s Ireland or fine examples of vintage programme-making, and on the other as thought-provoking time-capsules filled with values and perspectives that can inform more current points of view. These fifteen documentary titles were scanned and digitally reconstructed at high resolution in 2015, and are shown here for the first time in full.
Note on Restoration: Prior to the Trust’s preservation project in 2015 the only master materials for these titles were degraded by age, use, loss, re-purposing and re-edits which had broken up, contracted and disordered the original structure of several programmes. While those changes are in themselves historically informative, some having been made by Radharc’s own editors in response to audience trends and practical demands, without a strong drive to correctly re-assemble by digital means the best of disparate elements stored in the vaults of separate archives, it was unlikely we would see them again as our parents and grandparents might have in 1962 and 1963, or be able to properly consider the intent behind the modulation of story-arc present in each carefully scripted sequence of items and links. Added to the challenge of drawing good quality footage for digital preservation from sometimes severely degraded reels then, was that of replicating the original structure of each programme. Approaching the task called for deep research and collaboration; optimal reels and fragments located in the Radharc Trust’s Collection in the IFI and RTÉ’s broadcast archives were evaluated and digitised at high resolution; surviving scripts, story-boards and production documents from the Trust’s Paper Collection were sensitively referenced in a concerted effort to re-assemble the programmes as experienced in the earliest years of Irish broadcasting. Although nearly all of programmes 1 to 15 were successfully recovered, sadly the following segments – ‘Croagh Patrick’, ‘Mass Rock’, ‘Sunshine House’ and ‘Emigrant Ship’, along with some studio links and the whole of Programme 13 ‘Sermon in Stamps & Touist, Co. Kerry’ remain lost. Where critical Voice-Over audio tracks were missing, a modern recording taken from the original script has been provided for reference which, along with documents from the Radharc Paper archive will help the dedicated researcher piece together a better sense of how the full original broadcast would have run.
Images formerly blurred and buried for decades emerge from these cleaned and recovered versions to freshly reveal the works of skill and substance that engaged a Nation and will reward even a viewer already familiar with Radharc’s iconic documentaries.