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20th Anniversary

In 2017, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & 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 invited you to take our anniversary trail through history (PDF, 8Mb), available also as Gaeilge (PDF, 8Mb), to view a selection of objects from the collections on display here.

Trail objects included 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 also highlighted 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).



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

Read about the History and Architecture of Collins Barracks.