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1914-1927: The Birth of the National Museum of Ireland

Great Seal of Saorstát Eireann, c. 1925. HH:1939.163a

This dramatic period of war and rebellion saw major political changes come about in Ireland - and also at the Museum. See what artefacts emerged at the Out of Storage exhibition.

During the tumultuous events of the 1910s and 1920s, some museum staff supported those who fought in the First World War. Others, such as the Director, Count G.N. Plunkett, and Keeper, Liam S. Gogan, enthusiastically supported the 1916 Rising and were consequently imprisoned.

Civil War closure and re-opening

The outbreak of the Civil War, in June 1922, caused the Provisional Government to close the Museum, as its building was required for government accommodation; the institution was to be re-opened by degrees from 1925, under the new title of the National Museum of Ireland.

Its new parent government department was Education. That department commissioned a committee of inquiry to re-assess the Museum’s functions, and in 1927 it was recommended that the role of the Museum was ‘to increase and diffuse the knowledge of Irish civilisation and the relations of Ireland in these respects with other countries’.

What artefacts you can see from this period at Out of Storage

On display here to represent this period is the Great Seal of Saorstát Éireann, which dates to about 1925. The seal was designed by Archibald McGoogan, the Museum’s first photographer and later the curator of musical instruments and watercolours.

Also on display are egg, market, butter and potato baskets - everyday objects of Irish life that were made from locally available materials.

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