The collection contains music manuscripts, photographs, slides, lecture scripts, diaries, music arrangements (mostly for the Irish harp), research notes, ephemera, artefacts, and commercial & non-commercial sound recordings. A large number of books also form part of this collection.
This collection was created by Derek Bell during his lifetime. The majority of the papers and audio visual collection date from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. There are some papers relating to Bell's early music education in London's Royal College of Music and Trinity College Dublin but the vast majority of materials date from his professional music career. The papers cover Bell's time with the City of Belfast Orchestra and the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra. His international career as a solo musician, recording artist, composer and his long career with the Irish music group The Chieftains are very well documented in this collection. Derek Bell's interest in Irish music, ethnic music from Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and South America and classical harp music are also evident in the collection. His interest in the relationship between music, mysticism and meditation is reflected both in his papers and his audio visual collection. The first series contains personal papers which include: music papers relating to education, teaching and musical instruments; financial documents; religious papers relating to the guru Gideon Fontalba and the spiritual organisation the Self Realization Fellowship; papers relating to family history; and papers gathered by his widow Stefanie Bell after his death in 2002. Correspondence with family, friends, music publishers, music librarians, musicians and business related correspondence can be found in the second series of this collection. The third series contains papers collected by Bell during his time as a working musician both as a solo and orchestral artist and with The Chieftains. Included in this series are invitations from individuals and organisations to Bell to perform as well as rehearsal schedules, performance related ephemera, reviews, articles, promotional material, tour schedules and awards and certificates. The final two series in this collection contain photographs of Bell and The Chieftains and audio visual material. This material includes Bell's solo recordings as well as The Chieftains many albums. Also included in the audio collection are ethnic music recordings from around the world.