“ Collins Barracks, Benburb Street, Dublin 7.Tel: +353-(0)1-6777444 „
The National Museum of Ireland is located in Collins Barracks, an imposing grey building beside the River Liffey. The barracks are a square, with a large open courtyard in the centre. We visited on a weekday afternoon, when the museum wasn't terribly busy and the weather was dull - the courtyard in these conditions felt exposed and almost intimidating, much like it may have done to the many recruits who did drill here, the pace markings still present on the walls of the barracks.
Entry to the museum is free, although donations are encouraged. We dropped a note into the donation box, picked up a guide to the museum and headed off in what seemed the obvious direction to start in. This site of the Museum is Decorative Arts & History; there are other sites for Archaeology, Country Life and Natural History.
Much of the museum is dedicated to Ireland's military history, from medieval times to the present. For much of that time the Irish had to fight for the British crown, but there were also many who chose to fight for other European powers. There is a large section dedicated to the Easter Rising of 1916; this was in fact where we started, and as we moved on from this exhibit it became clear that we had somehow ended up mainly going backwards - we had started on the most recent history, and went back in time.
Not long after we had seen the Easter Rising exhibit, we came to a large room detailing Irish military history for the rest of the twentieth century. This was a very visual display, featuring several military vehicles, planes and a boat. This was an interesting section, covering as it did Irish neutrality in the Second World War and peacekeeping missions with the UN.
There was also a large room about the war of independence, which I found a little creepy - for the simple reason that it featured mannequins behind pillars, in action-like poses; I kept seeing them out of the corner of my eye and thinking they were people. It was however interesting, and easy to follow for someone like myself who knew very little about this war (even though we were going through the display backwards).
We continued moving backwards through time, and I found other points of interest in the following exhibits, connections to the Jacobites and a display about weapons from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
It took us a couple of hours to go round the military exhibitions, and by that time we were needing a seat and a drink. We headed to the museum cafe, and had some tea and coffee. We didn't have anything to eat, not even cakes, so I can't comment on that, but the tea was good and the cafe was very nicely decorated, well maintained and clean.
We had a brief stroll around the decorative arts galleries after that, but we were flagging somewhat by then so we decided to call it a day. It was clear that from the extensive content of the museum you could easily spend most of a day going round it.
The various displays in the museum were well laid out. The chronological layout of the military displays was very logical, despite us managing to get it wrong. The displays included plaques with information on, and many artefacts including the obvious weapons and uniforms, but also personal effects. There was a good balance between information and learning, and fun things to look at.
While perhaps not an attraction I'd class as a "not-to-be-missed" one, the National Museum of Ireland is an interesting place to visit. Its location in Collins Barracks adds to its interest, as in addition to the museum you are also visiting an historic building.
A mile from the city centre, the Collins Barracks site is based in the oldest continuously occupied barracks in the world. Since 1997 it has been Ireland's museum of the decorative arts and of economic, social, political and military history. Permanent exhibitions include Irish Fashion since 1950, ceramics, silverware, and period and country furniture. The Natural History Museum in Merrion Street is also under the same guidance; it houses a permanent exhibition of stuffed animals. Huge skeletons of extinct animals and fish which were indigenous to Ireland are also on view. You really need plenty of time to wander around this museum as there is so much to take in – but it definitely worth half a day’s wandering. You never know what you may find out.