This exhibition contains the furniture typically found in the traditional rural Irish home. It shows both the range of styles from different areas of the country, the functional nature of each piece, and the skill of native Irish craftsmen. The display also highlights the evolution and development of traditional furniture and furnishings as Ireland’s social and economic circumstances changed through the 19th and 20th centuries.
The full range of furniture and domestic fittings required to furnish a country home is presented to the visitor in its social context, including dressers, beds, seating and hearth furniture.
Central to the display at Collins Barracks is a re-construction of a country kitchen. Throughout Ireland’s smaller rural dwellings and farmhouses, the hearth was the central point of the home. It was the functional and social centre of the house where the cooking, eating, socialising and storytelling took place. This re-construction contains chairs, a settlebed, storage furniture such as a meal bin and food cupboard, a dresser, a kitchen table and hearth furniture, along with examples of cooking and eating utensils, to illustrate how an Irish country kitchen was arranged, and the importance of this area of the house as the heart of the home.
Pride of place in the traditional country kitchen was reserved for the dresser, which was used to display the wealth, and therefore social status, of the household. The exhibition has several fine examples of dressers from around the country, each displaying ceramic wares such as willow pattern platters, sponge ware and transfer pattern mugs and plates, earthenware bowls and jugs, and bowls turned from wood. The work of craftsmen such as the travelling tinsmith is shown, and the gallery’s display of domestic iron objects such as the elaborate candle and rushlight holders and oatcake toasters show not only the skill of the local blacksmith, but the desire for beautifully designed and crafted objects in the home.
Variations in styles of furniture such as bedding and storage and domestic wares can also be seen in detail, with smaller areas of the gallery dedicated to showing a range of each type. The display of chairs and stools in particular shows the variations in design, technique and materials found in seating around Ireland.