Exploring the Conservation and Outreach Efforts at the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History

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Let’s take a virtual walk through the hallowed halls of the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History. Often referred to as the ‘Dead Zoo’, this museum is a treasure trove of over 2 million species, both from Ireland and across the globe.

In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating exhibits, delve into the museum’s rich history, and discover why it’s a must-visit for any nature enthusiast.

Whether you’re an avid museum-goer or simply curious about the natural world, you’ll find something to pique your interest. So, buckle up for an exciting journey into the heart of Ireland’s natural history.

History of the National Museum of Ireland

Stepping into the realm of history, let’s dig a bit deeper into the origins of the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History. Constructed in 1856, the museum’s roots extend back to an era when Ireland was finding its scientific footing. The building itself, a Victorian architectural marvel, was designed by the acclaimed architects Frederick Clarendon and William Wilkins.

As the years rolled on, it’s continued to house a steadily growing collection. The collection, initially smaller and confined primarily to Irish fauna, started to grow with each passing generation. Noteworthy personalities, such as Robert Francis Scharff and Richard Barrington, had significant roles in shaping the museum’s early collections.

The ‘Dead Zoo’: More Than Just a Nickname

Dubbed by Dubliners as the ‘Dead Zoo’, this moniker doesn’t merely hint at the museum’s vast collection of preserved and extinct species. It’s also a nod towards its unchanged presentation style – a unique aspect that has entranced visitors for over a century. Standing the test of time, the original display cabinets with specimens categorised by species, bring an air of nostalgic charm to the museum.

Natural Disasters and their Impact

Like any institution that’s been around for a while, the museum’s faced its share of challenges. Devastatingly, in 2007, the museum had to close its upper floors due to a staircase collapse. This tragic event led to a temporary shutdown. However, it didn’t dampen spirits or deter the museum from its mission. Post the incident, meticulous restoration efforts enabled these floors to be reopened in 2010.

Future Plans

Moving forward, the museum has plans to further enhance its engagement with the public. It’s currently working towards creating new exhibits that provide interactive and educational experiences. As it continues to preserve an intricate snapshot of our world’s history, I’m excited to see how the museum will evolve while staying true to its roots.

So, as we immerse ourselves deeper into the rich tapestry of the museum’s history, we’ll explore some of their amazing exhibits, which – in spite of their sometimes gruesome subjects – never cease to captivate visitors.

The Building and Architecture

The National Museum of Ireland – Natural History isn’t just a treasure trove of natural wonders. It’s also a perfect specimen of Victorian architecture that has managed to withstand the tests of time. Don’t let the majesty of its scientific collections distract you from the visual feast that is its aesthetic design and structural make-up.

Victorian Style

When you step into the museum, you’re not merely crossing a threshold. You’re stepping back in time into an era of elegance and grandeur – the Victorian Era. The architectural panache of the museum is a testament to this period in history. Its intricate designs and solid build ooze with the aesthetic values of the 19th century Victorian style – the reigning style at the time of the museum’s inception.

Take a look at the high ceilings, archaic metalwork, and dark woodwork. You’ll realise quickly that the design is quite distinct and notably Victorian. Interestingly, the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History is one of the few buildings with such classic Victorian architecture that has remained largely unchanged.

Architectural Features

My intent isn’t simply to shower the museum with compliments. Rather, to draw attention to the museum’s most intriguing architectural highlights. These features significantly contribute to its identity and help shape the visitor’s experience.

Expressing the Victorian style, the building flaunts a combination of iron, wood, and glass. The unique usage of ironwork isn’t merely for aesthetics – but it provides structural support. Despite its complicated look, it’s ingeniously designed with practicality in mind.

The museum’s famous vaulted glass ceiling is another notable feature, bathing the interiors in natural daylight. Aesthetically pleasing and functional, the glass roof does its job brilliantly, providing clear visibility of the thousands of specimens displayed.

Then there’s the grand display cabinets themselves, exceptional works of carpentry, executing with utmost precision. Considered an integral part of the museum, these dark and stylish cabinets host the myriad of preserved natural specimens, adding to the overall Victorian vibe.

Every element in the building, big or small, moulds the overall atmosphere of the museum. From the majestic entrance to the large display cabinets, the architecture of the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History is nothing short of a tribute to the Victorian Era. Take in the opulence. Admire the meticulous detailing. Relish the vintage vibes.

I hope that while going on this incredible journey of discovery, one will appreciate not only the natural history on display. But also the history of the building, a timeless piece of architecture from the Victorian era.

Exhibits at the Natural History Museum

As one steps into the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History, they’re greeted with an exclusive narrative of life on Earth from the earliest creatures to existing biodiversity. A comprehensive array of well-preserved specimens, neatly housed in glass display cabinets, capture the attention and fuel one’s curiosity about our natural world.

The Irish Fauna

The journey begins with The Irish fauna – a striking display dedicated to Ireland’s abundant wildlife. Simply captivating, it’s easy for anyone to lose track of time while examining the sheer diversity of life native to the country. Features such as stuffed animals, bird species and sea creatures bring the Irish wilderness to life right in front of our eyes.

Fossils and Prehistoric Creatures

As we proceed further, we’re led to another fascinating section – fossils and prehistoric creatures. Our attention is immediately drawn to the complete skeletal assembly of a giant deer, adding a sense of dramatic realism to the exhibit. Complementing this are a myriad of fossils that give us a peek into life forms that existed millions of years ago. These remnants of the past provide a tangible link to Earth’s prehistoric times, igniting a fascination that runs deep.

The Diversity of Life

Finally, we come across the star feature of the museum – The Diversity of Life exhibit. This is indeed a marvel, showcasing the sheer variety of life forms that our planet nurtures. From the smallest bugs to the largest mammals, the scale and range represented in this display elicit a sense of awe. This section serves to remind us of our shared existence with millions of other species on Earth.

At the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History, it’s not just about observing exhibits, it’s about gaining a newfound appreciation for the world we inhabit. Through its Victorian architecture intertwined with the historic legacy of life on Earth, the museum skilfully unites the past, present and future under a distinctive, vaulted glass ceiling.

Interactive Displays and Experience

Embracing advanced technological means, the National Museum of ireland – Natural History extends its audience interaction beyond the traditional, static exhibits. The innovative format sparks an interest in the scientific world, prompting in-depth exploration of the natural world.

Virtual Reality Exhibits

The emergence of Virtual Reality (VR) has revolutionised the museum experience. By immersing visitors in the prehistoric era or deep-sea expeditions, VR exhibits break down geographic and temporal boundaries. They expose visitors to inaccessible environments or eras, ones that books and traditional displays may only superficially touch upon.

Every VR journey is a close encounter with the natural world, laced with authentic sounds, visuals, and movements. It’s not just visually stimulating – it’s an educational adventure, a sensory explosion that brings the abstract world to life.

One remarkable VR exhibit portrays the Irish wildlife in their natural habitats. Exploring the untouched Irish wilderness, the VR experience pulls you into the secretive life of the indigenous species. Accompanied by narrative facts, it makes complex information digestible, even for the novices.

Discovering Nature

To forge a connection between the visitors and Mother Nature, the museum has multiple touch-and-feel displays. These tactile encounters offer an opportunity to experience nature’s texture, weight, and form. Touching the fluttering wings of a butterfly or the rough skin of a crocodile, makes the wildlife tangible. It’s a tangible wildlife voyage which blurs the line between the museum and the raw outdoor world.

Discovering Nature isn’t an area restricted to children. Adults too can relish this layer of sensory engagement. Whether it’s the magnified view of insect life or the painstaking detail of animal anatomy, the museum ensures every curiosity is catered to.

Throughout the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History, hands-on learning and digital interfaces merge seamlessly. Visitors are encouraged not only to look but to touch, listen, and engage as they journey through the ages and across continents under one roof.

Educational Programs and Events

At the heart of the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History’s mission is an unwavering commitment to education and learning. With an array of engaging, interactive exhibit galleries, complemented by digital interfaces and touch-and-feel displays, the museum’s function as an educational entity extends beyond traditional methods. The Natural History Museum’s arsenal includes immersive VR experiences, extensive displays, and a myriad of educational events and initiatives designed to bring natural history to life for visitors of all ages.

School Tours and Workshops

For educators seeking meaningful field trip opportunities and workshops, you’ll find the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History provides an unbeatable combination of fun and learning.

The team at the museum design school tours specifically to link with the national curriculum, letting students see their classroom lessons come to life. From delving into ice age Ireland to understanding urban wildlife, these tours offer students the chance to engage with natural history directly.

Meanwhile, museum-led workshops provide more in-depth insight. Specialists at the museum offer teaching resources, age-appropriate activities, and workshops for classes, fostering a deeper understanding of natural history. Whether it’s investigating the life of a mouse or exploring biodiversity, these hands-on experiences can ignite passion and curiosity in students, providing a memorable learning experience.

Lectures and Talks

Beyond school tours and workshops, the Natural History Museum also hosts a variety of lectures and talks for the more academically inclined.

From expert-led presentations on specific topics like climate change and wildlife preservation, to guest lectures from renowned naturalists and researchers, there’s always something new to learn. These sessions provide an excellent platform to delve into deeper discussions around natural history, current environmental issues, and cutting-edge research in the field.

For those who are unable to attend in person, many of the lectures and discussions are available online as digital resources, ensuring the museum’s commitment to education extends beyond its walls.

As we continue exploring this remarkable institution, it’s beyond doubt that the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History provides a holistic and depth-filled interactive learning experience.

Visiting the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History

Following the description of the elaborate educational programs, let’s swiftly move on to getting a firsthand experience of this immersive world of Natural History. Visiting the ‘National Museum of Ireland – Natural History’, you’ll be enveloped in the wonder of the earth’s rich and diverse natural heritage.

Opening Hours and Admission

To start, let’s shed light on the practicalities – the museum’s opening hours and admission policies. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10:00 – 17:00, and on Sundays from 14:00 – 17:00. Make a note that it’s closed on Mondays. Furthermore, admission to the museum is free, truly enabling it to be an all-inclusive educational space.

Guided Tours

For a more structured and insightful view, guided tours are the way to go! The museum offers guided tours for schools, groups, and individuals upon request. These tours are an excellent opportunity for you to delve deeper into the fascinating exhibits. And, I can vouch for the fact that they are immensely enlightening. So, don’t miss out on the guided tours— consider it as your personalized gateway to the marvels of natural history.


The National Museum of Ireland – Natural History is committed to making its collections and premises accessible to everyone. Lifts are provided for wheelchair users, prams, and those with mobility issues to access all levels of the museum. Additionally, all exhibition spaces and facilities are wheelchair accessible. Restrooms are also adapted to accommodate visitors with disabilities. This is a prime example of how they are stepping up their game to ensure that knowledge is accessible to all.

As we step into the next section of our article, let’s get ready to explore the most exciting part – the spellbinding exhibits that the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History houses.

Conservation Efforts and Research

A significant part of the mission at the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History focusses on the conservation of the extensive collections and conducting research in various fields. Let’s delve into how the museum manages to make an impactful contribution to these areas.

Collections Preservation

Without a doubt, maintaining and preserving the trove of artefacts and specimens is no small feat. But it’s essential to the seamless functioning of the museum, ensuring that future generations can relish the wealth of knowledge it holds.
Strategies such as controlled environments, preventive conservation and expert handling are employed to ensure the exhibits’ longevity.
Detail-oriented work is undertaken to clean, repair, and restore objects to their former glory where necessary. From animals to minerals, each item is carefully looked after, ensuring that it survives in optimal condition for the longest possible time.

Collaborative Projects

In addition to internal preservation activities, the Natural History Museum of Ireland has been part of several collaborative projects across the world. Fieldwork, biodiversity studies and archaeological digs are often undertaken in tandem with other institutions, stretching from the USA to Asia. The objective is twofold – to increase the outreach and impact of the museum’s work and to facilitate cross-pollination of ideas, discovery and preservation efforts.

Among the collaborative projects features a detailed study of Irish insects with counterparts in western European institutions. Another crowning achievement is a global effort to map bird biodiversity, in cooperation with museums and research institutions across continents.

These collective endeavours reflect the dedication of the museum towards nurturing a global community of researchers and preserving nature’s vast heritage for generations to come. The next section of our article will focus on special events and educational programmes organised by the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History.


After delving deep into the workings of the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History, it’s clear that the museum’s conservation efforts and research are commendable. Their dedication to preserving their vast collections and the partnerships they’ve formed with other institutions globally are a testament to their commitment to their mission. The museum’s special events and educational programmes further enhance its appeal, making it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in natural history. So, if you’re ever in Ireland, don’t miss the chance to explore this treasure trove of nature’s history.

What is the primary focus of the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History?

The museum is mainly focused on the conservation and research of its extensive collections. Also, it stakes out on various projects with other international institutions, aiming to enhance outreach and facilitate the sharing of preservation strategies.

What does the museum’s collaboration with other institutions entail?

These collaborations are designed for the mutual exchange of ideas and innovative preservation tactics. They also increase the global reach of the museum’s work, fostering a greater collective impact on conservation efforts.

What will the next section of the article discuss?

The upcoming section of this article will delve into the special events and educational programmes hosted by the museum. These are invaluable components of the museum’s effort to promote natural history education and awareness.

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.