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Acetate Disc Collection

Welcome to the RTÉ Archives Acetate Disc Collection. The presentation of these recordings is a work in progress you are welcome to explore and listen here to the content as it is being added to and developed.

The collection of acetate discs held by RTÉ Archives contain audio recordings made between the late 1930s and the early 1970s. Among the recordings are sound effects, performances, interviews and reports created for use in the production of radio programmes. There are also some news broadcasts and full programmes.

The acetate disc was used in the production, recording and broadcast of programmes at Radio Éireann. This is the earliest sound recording format held by RTÉ Archives and the discs were used to record and broadcast content before the introduction of magnetic tape. As well as being used in a studio this disc recording process was suited to capture sound on location. The discs were usually made of aluminium with a coating of lacquer, and the audio signal was cut directly into a groove in the lacquer of a blank disc.

Unfortunately, recordings on acetate discs do not sustain repeated playing. The grooves are much softer than would be in a vinyl disc. Acetate discs are considered a vulnerable format because recordings made on them would become inaudible after being played multiple times.

Recordings on acetate discs at RTÉ Archives.

The content of the recordings in the collection is varied and fascinating, with a range of broadcast genres. There are various types of music programmes, documentary features, drama series, news and current affairs, talks, and output from the Radio Eireann mobile recording unit. The majority of the collection is in English but there is a significant amount of Irish language recordings, mainly music and magazine programmes.

While this collection constitutes a significant amount of material, it is still only a fragment of the entire output of Radio Eireann for the years covered. The reasons recordings of every programme broadcast do not exist are varied. Essentially, in the early years of radio broadcasting, programmes were often live only. There was a limited means of recording radio output. This collection at RTÉ Archives will often not have a recording of the full programme as was broadcast but rather elements of the production, such as sound effects, music, and interviews.

The collection reflects a fascinating audio account of Irish society over the time period covered, and provides a unique insight into the arts, social and political discourse of the time.

Made between the 1930s and 1970s, the content presented here reflects the language and terminology of when the recordings were made. Expressions may no longer be considered appropriate, may use inaccurate terms or be considered offensive language. In the content descriptions created we have used language that is more appropriate.

Where does the description information come from?

Dates, titles, names have for the most part been taken from the handwritten labels on each disc. Further details have been taken from newspaper listings and other archival sources in order to provide as much information as possible about each recording and when it was broadcast.

The date refers to when the audio was originally recorded. In some cases, through programme listings and archival research we have been able to find the broadcast date of the programme the recording was used in. For a small number of recordings, there is only a partial date or no date at all. Where there is only a partial date it has been included in the description and will appear under the search tab for 2021 or 2022 for the time being.

Can you provide any further information?

The descriptions accompanying each recording have been created using the information from the disc labels, listening to the content and our own research. We may be missing details or have the wrong information in some cases. We welcome any feedback. If you recognise a voice or event which is not reflected in the description, or spot any errors please contact us at archives@rte.ie

This collection has been digitised for long term preservation with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Archiving Scheme. To reuse or license RTÉ content please contact archivesales@rte.ie

RTE Archives Acetate Disc Collection