The Historical Collections in the care of the National Museum of Ireland cover the political and military history of Ireland between the 18th and 20th centuries, and number about 35,000 objects. They range from uniforms, firearms, letters and pamphlets, to prison craft, photographs, Daniel O’Connell’s hat and Michael Collins’ slippers. Due to the sheer scale of the collection, the majority of these objects may never be on display in the galleries, but behind the scenes digital cataloguing work is underway, and objects collected in the 20th century are being re-discovered by a new generation of museum staff. After 20+ years of working for the museum I still react to these objects that connect us with past events and people, whether with nerdish excitement, sadness or bewilderment that we have such a random and strange thing. So, to share this, a selection of some of the more interesting objects feature on this blog as I come across them.
About me – My name is Brenda Malone, historian and museum professional, particularly interested in the Irish Wars of Independence and the idea of nation in Ireland through the centuries. I was one of the curators on the NMI’s Soldiers and Chiefs – The Irish at War at Home and Abroad from 1550 to the Present Day, 1913 Lockout – Impact and Aftermath and Recovered Voices: Stories of the Irish at War 1914-1915 exhibitions, and the new 100th Anniversary Exhibition of 1916 at Collins Barracks – Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising.
I am currently the Curator of Military History, Arms and Armour, Flags and Banners and Transport at the National Museum of Ireland, with responsibilities for contemporary history collecting.
I have also curated the museum’s Irish Folklife collections (vernacular furniture and architecture) and managed the site at St. Conleth’s Reformatory at Daingean, Co. Offaly for four years. I specialise in object interpretation, care of collections and collections information management, which means I spend a lot of time thinking about the possible acid content of storage boxes and off-gassing, and terminology (is it a ‘leaflet’ or a ‘handbill’ ….). You can search our digital collection of 10,000 of these artefacts at Historical Collections Online
All research, interpretations and opinions on this blog are my own and not those of the National Museum of Ireland. This work is not to be reproduced without express permission.
All photographs are taken by me and are not the work of the NMI Photography Department or professional contractors, unless otherwise stated.
This blog was made possible with the kind permission of the Director of the National Museum of Ireland.
Please remember that these objects are in the care of the NMI; if you need to use an image that’s from the NMI collections please contact the NMI to request permission. Photographs must not be used for commercial purposes or publications. As the images here are taken specifically for the blog, you may need to request the object be photographed professionally by the NMI.
Also, if referring to an object or image in your own work, you should link to the relevant blog post – this is to keep the object and its information / provenance together, which aids people in their own research. See below for referencing and citation requirements.
If you’re in the area, you can pop in and see the Soldiers & Chiefs, Understanding 1916 and Recovered Voices exhibitions at the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks, Benburb Street, Dublin 7
(Museum stop on the Red Luas line)
© Brenda Malone. This work is original to the author and requires citation when used to ensure readers can trace the source of the information and to avoid plagiarism.
Sources and general reading used in the creation of these articles are listed on the Further Reading page.