Other institutions assembled the original core of the National Museum of Ireland’s collections prior to its establishment in 1877. These institutions were the Royal Dublin Society (RDS), the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) and the Museum of Irish Industry (MII).
The RDS, founded in 1731, collected plaster casts, geological minerals, fine art and ethnographical material, in order to train artists and encourage industry. The RIA, founded in 1785, sought to advance the study of Irish antiquities, science and literature. The MII, established in 1847, sourced its material largely in the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Dublin Exhibition of 1853.
The Science and Art Museum, established in 1877, brought all three collections together and expanded them through loans, purchases and donations, with the aim of developing the institution into ‘a source of recreation and instruction.’ In 1900 it became the National Museum of Science and Art, placing much emphasis on the development of rural craft and contemporary design. The aim was that the Museum and its collections should be ‘of commercial value to the country as well as of historical and scientific interest.’
With the foundation of the Irish Free State, the institution was transferred to the Department of Education and became the National Museum of Ireland. Its concentration was now on collecting and exhibiting material of Irish interest and its stated aim was ‘to increase and diffuse the knowledge of Irish civilisation, the natural history of Ireland and the relations of Ireland in these respects with other countries.’ The collections on view here reflect the various stages of the Museum’s development, the political changes that altered its status, and the shaping of its collecting policy over the years.
Explore the world's foremost repository of ancient Irish artefacts
Explore approximately 150,000 artefacts reflecting Ireland's heritage in the decorative arts, as well as political, military and social history.
Find out about tradtional life in Ireland through the Museum's Folklife Collections
The Natural History Collections comprise approximately two million specimens across the disciplines of zoology, biology, and geology.
See how the Conservation Department cares for, preserves and investigates all of the collections of the National Museum of Ireland.
Information on the work of the Registration Department with links to the Documentation Discoveries blog, Museum Library, Archives, and Documentation & Collections Management.
Information for researchers on accessing the Museum's Folklife, Natural History and Art & Industry Collections.
Details on the use of metal detectors to look for archaeological objects and frequently asked questions on what to do with finds.
Explanations of the cataloguing numbers from the different collections in the National Museum of Ireland
Find out about rare objects, exciting collections and unusual specimens discovered in the course of The Museum’s Inventory Project.
The chosen objects take us through the history of people in Ireland over 7,000 years.
A digital exhibition of Frongoch prison art and craftwork, in partnership with the Digital Repository of Ireland.
Search our Historical Collections Online, a sample of 10,000 artefacts from the National Museum of Ireland’s Historical, Military and Easter Week Collections, published as part of the Decade of Commemorations.