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20th Anniversary

In 2017, we invite you to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History.

The museum opened its doors on September 18, 1997, to share Ireland’s rich and remarkable art and industrial collection, spanning hundred years, while also telling the fascinating story of our military, political and social history. 

When it opened, this museum added a whole new chapter to the proud, 140-year history of the National Museum of Ireland, which is dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing our nation’s greatest treasures and cultural heritage.

Over the intervening two decades, the Museum of Decorative Arts & History has become an iconic national cultural institution. It attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually from across Ireland and internationally to the historic and impressive setting of Collins Barracks at Benburb Street, Dublin 7.

Clarke Square in Collins Barracks

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the National Museum of Ireland invites you to take our newly launched anniversary trail through history (PDF, 8Mb), available also as Gaeilge (PDF, 8Mb), viewing a selection of objects from the collections on display here.

Trail objects include The Non-Conformist Chair by the pioneering designer Eileen Gray, The Unhappy Judas by the renowned stained glass artist Harry Clarke, and The Gold Brooch by Joseph Johnson.

Together, these objects reveal some of Ireland’s greatest treasures in decorative arts and provide a unique insight into our past. 

Some artefacts from the trail


The Non-Conformist Chair by Eileen Gray (EG:2000.1) The Non-Conformist Chair by Eileen Gray has been selected as one of the showcase objects to celebrate our 20th anniversary, paying tribute to one of Ireland’s most important 21st century designers.

The museum acquired this object in 2000 and it forms part of a superb exhibition of Eileen Gray’s work on the third floor.





Gran Colombian Army coatee and epaulettes (HA:2001.8.1).

In 2001, the museum acquired an excellent example of a Gran Colombian Army coatee, with beautiful epaulettes. This object dates to the 1820s and was worn by Colonel William Ferguson - one of many Irishmen who served in Simon Bolivar’s army, fighting for the independence of South American countries from Spain in the 19th century.

The coatee is on display in the Soldiers & Chiefs exhibition on the first floor.






Pocket watch used in the trenches during WWI by Michael John Carney (HA:2014.3.35) Worn in the trenches of World War One, this pocket watch helps to tell the story of the Irish men who fought and died in their thousands on the battlefields of Europe during this devastating conflict. The museum acquired this watch in 2014 and we know it belonged to Michael John Carney, a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, later of the Royal Irish Regiment.

The watch is on display in the Recovered Voices; the Stories of the Irish at War, 1914-15, located on the ground floor.





Celebrating the objects of 1997

To further mark the 20th anniversary, the museum is also highlighting a number of objects which were part of the inaugural exhibitions from twenty years ago. These artefacts have been on display until today and include:




Mosque Lamp - Out of Storage Gallery Mosque Lamp

This Mosque Lamp was made in Cairo, Egypt, in the reign of Sultan al-Malik al-Nasir, 1310-1341AD. It is enamelled with a verse from the Qur’an as well as the sultan’s name.









Carved oak figure of St Molaise - Curator's Choice Gallery Carved oak figure of St Molaise

This late-13th/early-14th century statue of St Molaise was a focal part of an annual pilgrimage to Inishmurray Island, Co. Sligo, for centuries. It was transferred for safekeeping to the National Museum of Ireland when the last inhabitants left the island in 1948.









Learn more about these and other fascinating objects on display at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History (PDF, 800Kb).


Celebration and Activity Area

The 20th anniversary of the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History, was celebrated on September 12, 2017, with an official launch of our birthday celebrations and a photo call. The trail [in English (PDF, 8Mb)as Gaeilge (PDF, 8Mb)] is available from September 12 until the end of the year, so come and explore the museum and trail at your own leisure. 

For families and younger visitors, be sure to stop off at an Activity Area during your cultural adventure and help wish the Museum of Decorative Arts & History a very happy birthday. Drop into the Activity Area and draw a birthday card. All materials are supplied so you just need to bring your imaginations.

Activity Area


Big celebrations, big reward!


Don’t forget to take part in our social media competition. To enter, simply snap a selfie with your favourite object from the collection and share it with us using the hashtag #NMICB20TH. The most creative selfie will win a fantastic prize of an exclusive private tour with a curator, lunch for 4 at Brambles Café and a museum shop voucher so be sure to have your camera or smartphone ready during your visit. Winner will be announced on the 3rd of October. 



Collins and Clarke: Iconic names at a site steeped in history

Read about the History and Architecture of Collins Barracks.