An Afternoon at the National Museum of Ireland by Chris Shauinger Lewis & Clark FIE Spring 2015

31 Jan

An Afternoon at the National Museum of Ireland

Oh the National Museum in Dublin is cute. It’s a small museum that houses centuries of Irish historical objects as well some European treasures and an assemblage of Egyptian relics. It dwarfs the collection at the National History Museum of London. I found this fact quite amusing. So many conversations of Irish History have the mention of Brittan in them. As I turned a corner in the National Museum in Dublin, I couldn’t help but think of the symbiotic relationship of the two countries; the attention to minute details, organization and administrative qualities of the English and the artist, nomadic and carefree characteristics of the Irish. There in front of me was an old desk leaned up against the wall, a chair with a disconnected computer on it and other items being stored in plain site in the Nation Museum of Ireland.


I had to laugh. “If England had never existed, the Irish would have been rather lonely. Each nation badly needed the other, for the purpose of defining itself,” wrote Declan Kiberd in Inventing Ireland. Kiberd spends much more time explaining this complicated relationship between Ireland and England. Rather it should read, “If the Irish had never existed, the English would have been rather lonely.” To me, this collection of discarded or stored items in public view was a perfect example how the Irish are less concerned with those details like the appearance of one corner in a museum than the anal perfections and grandeur of the National Museum in London. That being said I am no expert, nor am I criticizing neither the Irish nor the English. As a foreigner learning of the dynamic relationship between the two countries and who has visited both, I am constantly noticing and am entertained by the little details. This also reminds me of the rejected Sir Edward Lutyens design for a Liffey bridge gallery that would have housed a donated collection of Impressionist Paintings of great value. W.B. Yates disapproval of the decision not to create a museum that would house such cultural icons as well as his detestation of the Irish middle class is captured in September 1913.

“What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone;
For men were born to pray and save;
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.”

Again, I am neither criticizing the Irish nor the English just observing a small detail in the National Museum in Dublin that, to me, represents two different sets of priorities between the Irish and English that contribute to an undeniable symbiosis.


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