Kerry Writers’ Museum has received significant Heritage Council funding for r&d on the management of film, digital media and intangible heritage assets at a community level. A key part of this task will be developing a collection management system that will set a standard and can be replicated in other organisations.


I joined the museum as Curator of Film and Digital Media in April 2024 and I work with Cara Trant, Executive Director, to build the museum’s capacity to manage its film and digital media collections in line with objectives set out in the Heritage Council’s 2023-28 strategy and Heritage Ireland 2030.


The project builds on the success of “The Bolex Boys”, an exhibition named after the iconic 16mm movie camera that became the badge of  filmmakers John Lynch and Michael Mulcahy. Mulcahy bought his first 8mm movie camera in 1963, while Lynch was managing a cinema in Kilkee. Lynch acquired a Bolex in 1971 and began making silent movies heavily influenced by Italian social realist cinema. Mulcahy joined Lynch as a sound operator and replaced his 8mm camera with Bolex. The partnership is still going.


Lynch and Mulcahy remastered The Way I Remember It in 1978, adding a soundtrack that RTÉ actor Eamon Keane of Listowel devised and narrated. I met them in 2020 and the digital restoration of the film and soundtrack provided the foundation for the “The Bolex Boys” project, which Cara Trant adopted in 2023 and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media funded through the Regional Museums Scheme. The exhibition opened in September 2023.




My curatorial strategy was to create a space inspired by the analogue movie making technologies that Lynch and Mulcahy used in the 1970s and are undergoing a remarkable revival. This involved the construction of a space to display the analogue gear that Lynch and Mulcahy. Excitement and engagement was high on the agenda, so everything is hands on and the space itself doubles as a camera obscura, still the only one in in Ireland in the classic sense of a room-sized pinhole camera: an immersive space that creates a real time movie of Listowel town centre and places the viewer inside a working pinhole camera. We built a community cinema on the other side of the camera and this serves as a venue for celebrating a wider tradition of community storytelling in film that began in the 1930s and continues to this day.


In summary, “The Bolex Boys” project was a singular experiment in the collection, conservation and digitisation of film and digital media heritage resources, but we were always aware that Lynch and Mulcahy had built up an extraordinary collection of film and digital media along with fifty years’ worth of analogue film making technology. We were also aware that there were other filmmakers in and around Listowel who had similar collections, people like Leo Finucane who bought his first camera after seeing Lynch filming farmers delivering milk to Cooraclarrig Creamery in 1978 and went on to make 18 narrative films.


These  filmmakers all cite the work of earlier pioneers, Jack McKenna and Jack Hannon especially. McKenna bought his first camera in 1929, when he was eleven years of age. So this is not a localised, rural nostalgia project. It’s a popular art movement that has a long history and continues today in the work of artists like Lisa Fingleton and Laura Fitzgerald. It is also connected to a wider community film and video movement that includes Derry Film and Video Collective, Frameworks in Cork and Michael Fortune’s in Wexford.




To finish, film has always been part of the cultural life of this town that has become synonymous with storytelling, although, unlike the region’s literature heritage, there was little understanding of the need to collect, preserve, archive and share this heritage at a local level. That prompted an application to the Heritage Council in the Spring of 2024 and the Film and Digital Media Heritage project started work in April 2024. Since then, I have been involved in an audit of film and digital media heritage assets and the result of that research will be showcase during Heritage Week, which runs from 17-25 August. This will be, in effect, a manifesto in film.