Exploring the Charm of the National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts & History

Jump to Section

Related Posts

If you’re a history buff like me, you’ll love exploring the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History. This iconic institution isn’t just a museum, it’s a treasure trove of Ireland’s rich past, capturing the essence of the nation’s artistic and historical journey.

Set in the heart of Dublin, the museum’s vast collection is a testament to Ireland’s cultural heritage. From ancient artefacts to modern designs, it’s got it all. In this article, we’ll dive into the museum’s captivating exhibits, exploring the stories they tell about Ireland’s past.

So, whether you’re planning a visit or just curious about Irish history, this piece is for you. We’ll take a virtual tour, uncovering the museum’s must-see highlights. Stay tuned, as we delve into the captivating world of the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History.

History of the National Museum of Ireland

History has a way of speaking to us, and the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History unlike others, has a distinct voice of its own. It’s an aggregation of stories, painstakingly collected over the years. Each tale uniquely woven into Ireland’s rich past.

Establishment of the Museum

Incredibly, the roots of this national gem stretch back to August 1877. The museum was first brought into existence as the Dublin Science and Art Museum. Situated at Leinster House, it was primarily used as an academy for the arts and natural sciences. It wasn’t just a place to house artefacts; it was a beacon for Irish culture.

Its establishment didn’t happen by chance. There were key figures behind it — known as the “founding fathers of Irish museum,” they were a group of avid archaeologists and historians. They believed in preserving Ireland’s heritage and knew that an institution of some kind was needed.

Expansion and Renamed to National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History

The museum expanded its horizons as the country journeyed through the annals of time. The Leinster House quickly outgrew its role as the sole museum facility. In the 1990s, the museum began branching out into different sites around Dublin – in Castlebar, County Mayo, and notably, at the Collins Barracks.

The Collins Barracks, an old military base, was transformed into the spectacular display that you see today. It was within these walls that the museum found its new identity. In 1997, the renamed National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History officially opened its doors. The switch marked a win for Ireland. The museum’s expansion reflected not just the country’s prosperous growth but also the increased emphasis on preserving its rich history.

Today, the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History is one of Ireland’s premier cultural institutions. Holding in its chests, artefacts that underscore the cultural wealth of the nation, the museum stands as a testament to Ireland’s rich heritage. Delving deeper into the exhibits allows us to trace the trajectory of its evolution, offering a mirror to the soul of Ireland. Stay tuned as we uncover more mysteries and excitement that this illustrious museum entails.

Note: We won’t be wrapping things up just yet! Instead, we will progress onto the next fascinating chapter of our virtual tour.

Collections at the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History

Let’s delve deeper into the treasure trove that is the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History. This prestigious establishment houses four primary collections: the Decorative Arts collection, Military History collection, Folk Life collection, and the Archaeology collection.

Decorative Arts Collection

Explore the Decorative Arts Collection – a spectacle of creativity. Here artists’ passions meet polished craftsmen skills. You’ll encounter a wide spectrum of objects such as ceramics, glassware, furniture, clothing, and jewellery from all corners of the globe. Anything that illustrates human ability to transform ordinary material into stunning pieces of art finds a home here. This collection gives a fascinating insight into the changing styles, tastes, and manufacturing techniques of decorative arts from the 17th century to the present day. You’ll see Irish masterpieces, international influences along with everyday objects given a touch of the extraordinary.

Military History Collection

Next on the path of discovery, I introduce the Military History Collection. Get a feel of Ireland’s military history from the 1550s to the present. Stout armour, intimidating weaponry, and poignant memorials fill this collection. It brings alive the tales of courage, sacrifice, and strategy from numerous military campaigns such as the Nine Years War, the Irish Civil War, both World Wars, and UN peacekeeping missions. It’s more than about battles; it’s about the humans behind the history.

Folk Life Collection

The Folk Life Collection – a favourite among lots of visitors – provides a remarkable glimpse into Ireland’s rural history. It showcases the traditional way of life from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century. Get to know the tools of the trade in farming, fishing, and domestic life. Look at the toys children played with, clothes people wore, and furniture that adorned their homes. Even grand displays like decorated horse-drawn caravans make a show here. Taking a stroll in this section is like travelling back in time to an Ireland of days gone by.

Archaeology Collection

Finally, the last collection but certainly not the least, come and get marvellously lost in the past with the Archaeology Collection. This captivating collection spans over 7000 years, from the Stone Age right up to the Late Medieval period. It’s where history springs to life. Marvel at fantastical gold artefacts of the Bronze Age, the magnificent Tara brooch, Iron Age bog bodies, and artefacts from Viking and Medieval Dublin. It’s not just a collection of items; it’s a gateway to understanding Irish history and heritage.

All these collections intertwine to form a vivid tapestry of Irish culture, history, and arts. You won’t be just walking through a museum; you’ll be journeying through time, unraveling Ireland’s rich but complex narrative. So, I invite you not to rush but relish every moment you spend here. Come fully prepared to discover, learn, and let your imagination run wild with the stories these artefacts tell. This experience will be one you won’t quickly forget. But we’re not finished yet: There’s still more to reveal beyond these four collections. Stay tuned for the mysteries that are yet to unfold here at the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History.

Exhibitions at the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History

Add an enriching element to your walk down Irish history by exploring the exhibitions at the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History! An eclectic mix of exhibitions, both permanent and temporary, make this an engaging place to enjoy, learn and be inspired.

Permanent Exhibitions

The National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History offers a diverse range of permanent exhibitions. These exhibits are maintained all year round, allowing visitors to plan their visit with the assurance that they’ll get to see these unique collections. These permanent exhibitions play a considerable role in divulging the different aspects of Irish history, culture, arts, and society across the ages.

The various permanent exhibitions include:

  • The Decorative Arts Exhibition: It’s a place where you can delve deep into the stunning transformation of everyday objects from mundane to artistic.
  • Folk Life Collection Exhibition: Through rural life exhibits, it helps visitors to understand the rural past of Ireland.
  • Military History Exhibition: It dramatically narrates Ireland’s military past through an array of artefacts dating from the 1550s to the present day!
  • Archaeology Exhibitions: For history enthusiasts, its an opportunity to witness the timeline of human existence from the Stone Age to the Late Medieval period in Ireland.

Temporary Exhibitions

Besides the permanent ones, the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History periodically hosts temporary exhibitions. These aim to showcase new findings, unique artefacts, or special themed exhibitions based on celebratory events and anniversaries. These displays provide visitors with an opportunity to view limited-time collections and delve into different aspects of Irish history and culture.

The frequency of these exhibitions varies, keeping the museum experience fresh and invigorating every time you set foot in here. In the past, the museum has had highly acclaimed temporary exhibitions like the Easter Rising 1916, Clontarf 1014 and Ireland in the Middle Ages.

So, whether it’s the permanent exhibitions that take you back to the ancient ages or the temporary displays that throw light on the contemporary facets of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History is sure to make your visit an enlightening experience. Hence, stay updated before planning your visit. It’ll help to ensure that you don’t miss out on any valuable temporary exhibitions that coincide with your travel dates. But let’s not wrap up just here! Up next, we’ll delve into the architecture and building history of the museum – a fascinating aspect that deserves a mention.

Facilities and Amenities at the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History

Diving deeper into what the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History has to offer, it’s worth noting the various facilities and amenities available to the visitors. They add an extra touch of convenience and enjoyment to your visit. Let’s explore what they have lined up:

Museum Shop

The Museum Shop is an absolute treat for all souvenir enthusiasts. It not only carries a fine selection of gifts reflective of Ireland’s rich cultural heritage, but it also has an assortment of books for those invested in deepening their understanding of Irish history and culture. Many of the items found here are inspired by the displays within the museum, making it an extension of your overall museum experience. It’s an ideal spot to find a tangible memory of your visit.


If you’re looking to rest your feet and refuel before continuing your museum journey, the Museum Café is a splendid choice. Offering a range of scrumptious meals, light snacks, and refreshments, it’s jewel is its array of traditional Irish delicacies. Here, you’ll have a chance to satiate your palate while still being immersed in the cultural experience. It’s the perfect spot to unwind and dissect the wealth of knowledge you will have acquired so far.

Accessible Facilities

The museum takes pride in its accessible facilities. It ensures that the exploration of Irish history and culture is inclusive and available to all. They have wheelchair access throughout the museum, hearing loop systems for the auditorically impaired, and visual guides for those who need them. Furthermore, the museum staff is trained and ready to assist in case of any requirements or emergencies. Inclusivity isn’t just mandatory, it’s a part of their culture.

As we continue this journey, remember that the facilities and amenities play an integral part in forming a holistic and comfortable museum experience. Therefore, take advantage of these during your visit. They’ve been put in place to enhance your exploration and satisfaction. So keep this information handy as you prepare for your trip to the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History.

Events and Programs at the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History

The National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History is more than just a repository of Irish cultural heritage; it’s a living, breathing institution that regularly hosts fascinating events and programmes. These include thought-provoking lectures and talks, hands-on workshops, and engaging family activities. I’ll delve into these in the following sections:

Lectures and Talks

The museum regularly hosts guest lectures and engaging talks given by a wide range of experts in the field of decorative arts and history. These sessions are aimed to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of Ireland’s rich cultural heritage among visitors. Some of the past topics covered include “The Influence of Celtic Design in Modern Art,” “The Role of Women in Ireland’s Independence Struggle,” and “Understanding the Vikings through Art and Artifacts.” These lectures and talks are included in the museum’s admission fee, making it an enriching add-on to your museum visit.

Workshops and Classes

Visitors looking for something more hands-on can participate in one of the many workshops and classes offered at the museum. There’s plenty on offer, from ceramic painting, tapestry weaving, metal crafting to historical dress reconstruction. Through these dynamic sessions, you’ll get the chance to create your own piece of art under the guidance of skilled artisans, while also learning about Ireland’s craft traditions. It’s a fun, interactive way to learn and immerse yourself in Ireland’s material culture.

Family Activities

The National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History is also very family-friendly, offering numerous activities tailored for young visitors and their families. The aim is to provide a fun, engaging learning environment where children can learn about Ireland’s history through storytelling, treasure hunts, and hands-on craft activities. Not only do these family activities offer a great way to keep the little ones entertained, but they also help forge a deeper connection with Ireland’s rich history and culture.


So, there you have it – the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History isn’t just a treasure trove of Irish culture and history. It’s also a place where you can enjoy a bite of traditional Irish fare, shop for unique souvenirs, and even get your hands dirty creating your own art. And let’s not forget the enriching programs and events that’ll deepen your appreciation of Ireland’s rich heritage. Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, or a family looking for a fun and educational outing, this museum has something for everyone. So why wait? Make sure you include the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History in your travel itinerary. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss!

What exhibitions are provided at the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History?

The National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History offers both permanent and temporary exhibitions. The exhibitions involve a spectrum of areas that primarily encompass Irish cultural heritage and national history.

What facilities and amenities are available at the museum?

The museum boasts a collection of facilities and amenities, including an endemic museum shop for cultural souvenirs and books, a café serving traditional Irish delicacies, and accessible facilities for a diverse range of visitors.

What kind of events and program does the museum offer?

The museum curates an assortment of events and programs which include lectures and talks by experts in decorative arts and history, hands-on workshops for visitors to delve into art creation, and family activities to engage young visitors with Ireland’s history and culture.

How do workshops and activities benefit the visitors?

Workshops and family activities at the museum provide visitors an opportunity to engage in hands-on learning, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of Ireland’s cultural heritage. It’s an interactive way to learn and discover more about Irish history and culture.

Olivia Sinclair

Olivia Sinclair

Olivia is the founder of The Dublin Buzz, believing that you don't need to spend big in Dublin to have a great time. She began with a weekly free event newsletter to showcase some of the great things to do for free in Dublin each week.