At the launch of ‘Ireland On The Box’ were RTÉ Director-General, Dee Forbes with Director of the National Library of Ireland, Sandra Collins and RTÉ presenter Bláthnaid Treacy.Photo: Andres Poveda

Exhibition marking 60 years of RTÉ opens at National Photo Archive

Sixty years ago, Meath TD and veteran of the War of Independence Mick Hilliard was the Minister for Post and Telegraphs, and his department (now Communications) had responsibility for launching the new national broadcasting service, Radio Teilifis Éireann.

It was launched at a gala night at the Gresham Hotel on New Year's Eve 1961, with RTÉ broadcaster, Eamonn Andrews, as chairman, and GAA commentator, Micheal O Hehir, as master of ceremonies. The initial broadcasts that night carried speeches by Uachtarán na hEireann, Eamon de Valera, Taoiseach Sean Lemass, and the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, Navan man Hilliard.

RTÉ is marking the anniversary with a special photographic exhibition, 'Ireland on the Box', in partnership with the National Library of Ireland (NLI), at the National Photographic Archive in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin.

The free exhibition will explore six decades of television in Ireland, through entertainment, drama, sport, music, education and news and current affairs programming. Curated by RTÉ Archives, and supported by the National Library of Ireland, the exhibition tells the story of a nation through the television it consumed.

From "Roll it there, Róisín" to "A nation holds its breath" and from "Well, Holy God" to "Coola Boola", iconic phrases from popular TV programmes and national moments of celebration will connect visitors to recent shared cultural history, represented in images which feature the many familiar faces that graced Irish television screens throughout 60 years of RTÉ television, from the early days, right through to more recent times.

RTÉ Director-General, Dee Forbes said: "Since Ireland’s first television service was launched on New Year’s Eve 1961, photography has played a key role in RTÉ television productions and promotions. While television has changed radically in 60 years, the ability of photography to capture a unique moment in time and to generate an emotional connection and response remains as strong as ever. Each of the images selected for this exhibition tells its own story, but together they represent an essential part of our recent history as a nation."

Director of the National Library of Ireland, Sandra Collins said: "We are absolutely delighted to partner with RTÉ on this fabulous new exhibition. The National Library works to share our nation’s memory and this photographic exhibition reveals unforgettable moments from our social and cultural history. This exhibition will appeal to all ages and we welcome everyone to visit and find their own special memory."

Bríd Dooley, Head of RTÉ Archives explains: "These photographs, taken over the last 60 years and kept in safe keeping by RTÉ Archives, offer both a record of television production and an insight into life in Ireland through the decades. These images reveal changing styles in programming and presentation, and offer a taste of the range of news, sport, music, drama, entertainment, education and events produced and covered by RTÉ. Crucially they remind us of the presenters, performers and people who have made their own important contribution to putting Ireland on the box and who deserve another moment in the spotlight as we reach this milestone."