The National Museum of Ireland Celebrates its 125th Anniversary

The National Museum of Ireland (photo Mike Peel)

This Saturday, the 29th of August, the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street, Dublin will commemorate its 125th anniversary. To celebrate, a day of free hands-on activities, talks and demonstrations are taking place at the museum and these are open to all.

The National Museum of Ireland was founded under the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act of 1877. Previously, the Museum’s collections had been divided between Leinster House, originally the headquarters of the Royal Dublin Society, and the Natural History Museum in Merrion Street, built as an extension to Leinster House in 1856 – 1857. Under the Act, the government purchased the museum buildings and collections. To provide storage and display space for the Leinster House collections, the government quickly implemented plans to construct a new, custom-built museum on Kildare Street and on 29 August 1890, the new museum opened its doors to the public.

The Ardagh chalice on display at the National Museum of Ireland

Designed by Cork architects Thomas Newenham Deane and his son Thomas Manly Deane, the museum was built in the Victorian Palladian style. Neo-classical influences can be seen in the colonnaded entrance and the domed rotunda, which rises to a height of 20 metres, is modelled on the Pantheon in Rome. Within the rotunda, classical columns – made of marble quarried in Counties Cork, Kilkenny, Galway, Limerick and Armagh – mirror the entrance colonnade.

At the inaugural event on 29th August 1890, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lawrence Dundas said that it was his:

fervent hope that this National Museum may in the fullest measure fulfil the purpose for which it (has) been raised: that (it) may not only prove a source of recreation and instruction to the general public but may afford such real assistance to Irish students and workers that their inauguration today may hereafter be regarded as making a new growth of the arts and industries of the Country.”

Commenting on the anniversary of the Museum, Raghnall Ó Floinn – Director of the National Museum stated;

The collections housed in the Museum’s magnificent Kildare Street building have fascinated and enthralled millions of visitors from home and abroad since opening in 1890. Join us in celebrating our 125th birthday as we take a closer look at the building and its collections and learn how we have cared for our archaeological heritage over the generations

Bronze Age spears on display at the National Museum of Ireland

A list of the events planned for Saturday can be seen below.

Exploring the Digital Crypt: 10.30am-4.30pm

Drop by to discover online catalogues of the collections stored in the Museum’s basement, known as the Crypt. Explore the extent of our collections and digital catalogues with this special display by our inventory team and chat with them to learn which artefacts came from your local area. Located next to the Treasury exhibition, ground floor. No booking required. Wheelchair accessible.

Where do they get this stuff from?– 125 years of collecting; During Museum Opening Hours.
Find the answer at a pop-up display case created by the Museum’s inventory team who are generating a digital catalogue of the collection. Learn about the unusual origins of the objects and the evolution of the methods of collecting over the past 125 years. If you can’t visit why not look at the Documentation Discoveries online on the museum Located on the first floor. Not wheelchair accessible.

Floor to Ceiling: A Closer Look at the Interior of the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street; 12.00pm – 1.00pm
The National Museum on Kildare Street is not only a repository for artefacts, it is a work of art in itself. From Sienese wood carving designs to Oppenheimer mosaic floors, join Jennifer O’Mahony, NMI, for a closer look at the beautiful features that make the museum building unique. Located in the Ceramics Room, first floor. Not wheelchair accessible.

Minding the Museum’s Mosaics; 10.30am-4.30pm
Drop-in and meet ceramic artist Laura O’Hagan and her team and view how they are working to protect and ensure the long-term preservation of the Museum’s stunning mosaic floors. Takes place throughout the Museum building.

Artefact Detective!; 2.30pm – 4.30pm
Discover how archaeologists solve the puzzle of mystery objects during this drop-in session! There are six objects on display, but there are nine descriptions, can you match the correct descriptions to the six artefacts?Located in the Learning Resource Room. Not wheelchair accessible.

Curators Talks & Tours
Drop-in during the day and have a personal chat with one of the archaeology curators who will be on hand to talk about the wonderful collections on display. Check for more information.

Archaeology on Film; During Opening Hours
Catch a showing of one of the many videos of the amazing discoveries and work of the Museum archaeologists and conservators, from forensic examinations of Bog Bodies and the Faddan More Psalter to conserving recent archaeological finds such as Viking swords and axes. Located in the Viking AV Room, first floor. Not wheelchair accessible.

History of the Building Trail; During Opening Hours
A trail highlighting the history and design features of the public, illustrated with original drawings and photographs of the Museum in the past.Available free in the Rotunda. Partially wheelchair accessible.

Hands on Prehistory; During Museum Opening Hours.
Inspect the evidence of the past and get hands-on with a selection of replica artefacts and discuss how archaeologists interpret the evidence for our prehistoric ancestors. Throughout the Museum. Partially wheelchair accessible.

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