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Authors:Andrew Sawyer:
Publication title:National Museums in the Republic of Ireland
Conference:Building National Museums in Europe 1750–2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus, European National Museums: Identity Politics, the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen, Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1
Publication type: Abstract and Fulltext
Issue:064
Article No.:019
Abstract:As the current director of the National Museum of Ireland has noted, ‘to understand the National Museum of Ireland both as an institution and in terms of tradition from which its collection evolved, is in some ways to understand the complexity of modern Ireland itself’ (Wallace 2002: 1). Wallace’s references to evolution and tradition highlight the significance of the past in the life of the Republic of Ireland, a past closely linked to Britain. In her comprehensive analysis of Irish museums, Bourke concluded that their development followed a route similar to British, and latterly American museums. They did not devolve from princely possessions, but were built on objects from antiquarianism and private collections, with funding from government or scholarly societies. The difference in Ireland is that this development coincided with the emergence of the nation-state (Bourke 2011: 427).

The emergence of the Irish state was marked by conflict. It is remembered in popular culture, for example in the films Michael Collins (Jordan, 1996), about the nationalist leader, and The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Loach, 2006), about the tragedies of the Anglo-Irish War and the Civil War. Each film, successively, broke all box office records in Ireland. They address the 1916 Uprising, the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) and the Irish Civil War (1922-1923), which were pivotal in Irish history. In brief, until the 1920s, the entire island was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and museums in Ireland were part of that wider context. An Anglo-Irish elite, though largely Protestant (Anglican) and British in outlook, nonetheless contributed to the development of distinctly Irish learned societies and institutions, including early museums. In the north-east, industrialisation in Belfast, and earlier immigration, led to museums more influenced by Dissenters (Protestants who rejected Anglicanism) and commercialism. As British governments began to contribute to funding, they also began to shape and eventually to take control of key Irish museums. The Gaelic Revival of the 1880s, however, celebrating Ireland’s Gaelic past (a ’golden age’), was reflected in museum collections with a growing interest in Irish antiquities. The 1916 rising, attempts by the British to impose conscription (1918), the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War reshaped Irish society.

After independence, national museums were largely ignored by governments faced with harsh economic conditions, despite having provided substance to the emerging, nationalist ‘Gaelic Revival’. Towards the end of the twentieth century government attitudes changed, and with EU 521 help, funding was increased. Expansion enabled new approaches to Ireland’s history and new avenues for art. Pre-historic antiquities began to make room for displays on the Viking and Anglo-Norman contributions to Irish culture. More recently, there is a measure of awareness that the Republic of Ireland, formed on the basis of a distinct cultural identity, now faces the challenge of a more pluralistic, multicultural society, which Bourke reflects on in the context of Irish museums (2011: 423-6).

Language:English
Year:2011
No. of pages:31
Pages:435-460
Series:Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings
ISSN (print):1650-3686
ISSN (online):1650-3740
File:http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp/064/019/ecp64019.pdf
Available:2011-09-30
Publisher:Linköping University Electronic Press, Linköpings universitet

REFERENCE TO THIS PAGE
Andrew Sawyer (2011). National Museums in the Republic of Ireland, Building National Museums in Europe 1750–2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus, European National Museums: Identity Politics, the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen, Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1 http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp_article/index.en.aspx?issue=064;article=019 (accessed 9/20/2014)