The heritage of Ireland is steeped in tradition and folklore as far back as the earliest civilizations. Through painstaking research, excavation, and restoration, the national treasures have been preserved in many of the museums throughout the island. Public access to these treasures is available year round; however, opening times may be shorter in the winter season. The visitor is assured of authenticity of the exhibitions. Several museums are devoted to a particular topic, such as emigration and famine, to transportation and maritime or medieval artifacts up to 20th century lifestyles. Other museums exhibit materials from other parts of the world. Art galleries, often times, conduct a presentation on a specific artists’ work, or rotate other types of artwork.
Ireland’s history is very old, in each museum; the visitor will take some knowledge away with them. Listed below is a smattering of museums throughout the country, some more notable than others.
Dublin, as the Capitol of the Republic of Ireland, has by far, some of the most extensive of museums. They include: the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Kilmainham Gaol Museum, The Chester Beatty Library, Irish Jewish Museum, National Museum of Ireland, Natural History Museum, James Joyce Museum, Dublin Writer’s Museum, and Pearse Museum, to name a few.
The National Museum of Ireland has two sites. The first, on Kildare Street, exhibits artifacts of Celtic and Medieval art along with the history of the Republic of Ireland’s independence. The second site is located in Collins Barracks and exhibits decorative arts and economic, social, political and military history. This Museum often loans collections and exhibitions to other museums around the country.
The James Joyce Museum houses a collection of Joyce memorabilia. He lived in the Tower for a short period. The Museum, located in Sandycove, County Dublin, is closed from November through March. Admission is charged.
Kilmainham Gaol Museum was a functioning prison between 1796 and 1924. In Stonebreakers Yard the leaders of the 1916 rebellion were executed. Admission is charged.
Along the East Coast and Midlands some of the most notable museums in County Louth includes the County Museum, and Millmount Museum. There is the Irish National Stud and Horse Museum in County Kildare, and Donaghmore Workhouse Museum in County Laois.
In Dundalk, The County Museum has its home in a restored 18th Century warehouse where the natural and industrial history of County Louth is detailed. The Millmount Museum in Drogheda is home to the collection of local artifacts, and 19th Century Trade & Guild banners. Irish National Stud and Horse Museum in Tully, County Kildare, houses the skeleton of legendary steeplechaser, Arkle. There are also the traditional crafts of Furriery and Saddlery. The Donaghmore Workhouse Museum in Donaghmore, County Laois was built in 1853 to feed and house 400 paupers. The facility houses a display of horse-drawn farm implements and local household goods from a time long past.
The South East offers museums in Counties Carlow, Tipperary, and Waterford.
Located in Carlow Town is the Carlow Museum in the Town Hall. This museum exhibits the domestic and commercial life in the 19th and 20th Century. There is also a display of Celtic artifacts found locally. In Clonmel, County Tipperary, is the Tipperary South Riding County Museum. Located in a 19th Century house with displays of Tipperary’s history. Dungarvan, County Waterford, offers the Dungarvan Museum with two and three-dimensional displays.
Traveling throughout the South West in Counties Cork and Kerry are various museums.
Located in Cobh, County Cork, is the Cobh Museum in the old Scots Presbyterian Church. Here there is a collection and exhibition of maritime history with paintings, models and photographs. There is also a display of the Lusitania disaster. Cobh developed in the 18th Century when the harbor became the assembly point for fleets sailing during the Napoleonic wars. Admission charge. In Youghal, County Cork is the Lane Folk Museum with collections of domestic gadgets used in previous generations. There is an authentic 19th Century kitchen giving insight into domestic life at that time. Kinsale, County Cork has The International Wine Museum at Desmond Castle.
The Ballybunion Heritage Museum is located in Ballybunion, County Kerry and features exhibits of the local history, Marconi and the Lartique Monorail System. Ballyferriter on the Dingle Peninsula has the Corca Dhuibhne Museum. These exhibits are of the Ice Age through to the Medieval Church. In Glenbeigh, on the Ring of Kerry is The Kerry Bog Village Museum. This museum highlights domestic life in the 1800’s.
The Shannon Region encompasses the Counties of Clare and Limerick.
In Ennis, County Clare is the DeValera Museum & Library. This Museum contains archaeological and historical museum pieces, and archival material. There is also the Clare Museum in Ennis, which exhibits the history of Clare with artifacts. In Foynes, County Limerick is the Foynes Flying Boats Museum. This museum offers a range of exhibits and graphic illustrations of the 1930’s.
Limerick City in County Limerick has two museums, The Limerick Museum, a restored Georgian building at Castle Lane, Nicholas Street and the Hunt Museum at the National Institute of Higher Education complex at Plassy. The Hunt Collection is an international collection of major art and antiquities, ranging over the centuries from pre-Christian times to the 20th Century. It is a personal collection of John and Gertrude Hunt, which was presented to the nation in 1976. The Limerick Museum has an extensive display of history of Limerick City and surrounding areas from Stone Age times to the 20th Century.
Continuing along the Western part of Ireland is Galway, Roscommon and Mayo.
Galway boasts of the Dartfield Horse Museum. This complex exhibits life-size displays of the first horses on the island of Ireland, and the evolution of the horse. There are displays on native ponies and horses along with other breeds around the world. There is a veterinary display, an art gallery, and an audio-visual presentation. There is also a walking tour available.
In Strokestown, County Roscommon, is the very impressive Famine Museum. The museum is located in the original Stable Yards of Strokestown Park House. Here a combination of original documents and images of The Great Hunger are exhibited.
Traveling in the Northwest of Ireland to the Counties of Cavan Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan, and Sligo, provides good coverage of Irish history.
In Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan, is located the Cavan County Museum. Located in a 19th Century building, the Museum houses the material culture of Cavan and surrounding districts. The various galleries exhibit artifacts from the Stone Age up through medieval times. The GAA Gallery details sports history.
In Glencolmcille, County Donegal, is the Folk Village Museum, with three centuries of rural life on display. Buncrana is the home of Fort Dun Ri Military Museum. The Fort was built during the Napoleonic Wars by the British and occupied until the 1930’s when it became the property of the Irish Army. There is a large collection of artifacts depicting the history of coastal defense. Located in Letterkenny is the Donegal County Museum, which houses artifacts of life in Donegal from the pre-historic period to the 20th Century.
Traveling into Northern Ireland includes six counties, Antrim, Armagh, Fermanagh, Derry, Down and Tyrone. The National Trust maintains some of these museums along with special houses and heritage centres.
In Holywood, County Antrim, is the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. This is an open-air museum depicting the area, as it would have looked in the early 1900’s. There is an Irish Railway Collection, Road and Transport Galleries, and a variety of programs throughout the year. Belfast is the home of the Ulster Museum. This Museum houses extensive collections of Irish archaeology, fine and decorative arts, history, treasures from the Spanish Armada and natural sciences. It is also home to the National Museums & Galleries of Northern Ireland, promoting the awareness and appreciation of art, history and science. Ballymoney is the home of the Ballymoney Museum & Heritage Centre. This Museum has a collection of artifacts dating back to the earliest human settlements in Ireland.
In Armagh City, County Armagh, is the Armagh County Museum. This museum maintains exhibits on local history in Armagh, along with textile, railway, and military exhibitions.
In Coleraine, County Derry, is the Harbor Museum. This Museum houses maritime artifacts and history of the area. The Upperlands Eco-Museum, in Upperlands, Derry, tells the history of continuous linen production in this Village.
In Downpatrick, County Down, is the Downpatrick Railway Museum. The exhibits tell the history of County Down including Stone Age artifacts and the story of St. Patrick. NEWRY, County Down is home to the Newry and Mourne Arts Centre & Museum. There are photographs and artifacts detailing archaeology, industry and the social history of Newry.
In Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, is the Fermanagh County Museum. The Museum is located in Enniskillen Castle, with both the Heritage Centre and Museum of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. There are many exhibits on archaeology, local history and natural history. A special exhibition program runs throughout the year.