The Science and Art Museum, Dublin

In 1877, government passed an Act of Parliament to establish a new Dublin Museum, with the intention that ‘the people of Ireland would obtain the fullest opportunity of improvement in the cultivation of industrial and decorative arts’. With advice from South Kensington Museum in London, officials began immediately to acquire material from renowned international private collections.

Quality contemporary items were selected directly from, for example, Tiffany and William de Morgan as well as locally from Vodrey, Pugh and Belleek. Works were also collected to document the ‘cradles of the world’s civilisations’ – the classical Mediterranean, India and China.

The new institution also concentrated on items illustrating industrial and economic development in Ireland, particularly from the 17th Century. As a result of its vigorous acquisition policy, the collections expanded greatly. Indeed, when the new Kildare Street premises opened in 1890 some collections remained on exhibition in Leinster House because of space constraints.

Examples of the types of material acquired at this time and on display in the Out of Storage gallery include glass vases that were purchased directly from the studio of Eugène Rousseau in 1880. With advice from the British Museum, the Museum purchased a mosque lamp, which was a remarkable achievement of the early 14th Century in terms of the quality of its glass production, gilding and enamelling. It was acquired along with Turkish and Damascus tiles from the estate of a renowned collector, Major W.J. Myers.

Also on display is a two-handled bowl and stand, the first piece of 19th-Century Irish glass acquired by the Museum. Made in Waterford about 1820, its pillared and diamond design was the inspiration for the popular ‘Hibernia’ pattern produced at the new Waterford Glass factory in 1947.

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