Brought to you by

Brought to you by An Post, The Irish Times, the National Museum of Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy


Fish Trap

  • ‘Mesolithic’ actually means ‘middle Stone Age’ and ‘Neolithic’ ‘new Stone Age’.
  • During the Mesolithic era, the population of the whole of Ireland was only around 5,000 - the same as a small town nowadays.
  • The population of the entire island of Ireland is now over 1,000 times greater, at 6.3 million.
Discover more about the object >



  • The axehead was never used to cut anything. It was always a rare object, made not only to enhance the prestige of its owner but as a sacred thing in its own right.
  • The axehead originally came from Monte Beigua, high in the Italian Alps near Genoa.
  • The axe was the symbol of human power over nature. It was axes that allowed the dense woodlands to be cleared.
Discover more about the object >



  • The neolithic bowl was discovered in 1992 in Annagh, in the east of Co. Limerick.
  • The bowl was discovered along with remains of three other pots, in a small cave that contained three full human skeletons, two other sets of partial remains, various animal bones and a flint blade and arrowhead.
  • The bowl and pots tell us that the people were farmers; the other objects tell us that they were also hunters and warriors.
Discover more about the object >



  • Flint is found in lumps in chalk beds.
  • Flint is one of the hardest materials there is.
  • This ceremonial macehead, found in the chamber of the eastern tomb beneath the great passage tomb at Knowth, Co. Meath in the Boyne Valley.
Discover more about the object >



  • This object is a 5,000-year-old handbag found in a bog in Twyford, Co Westmeath.
  • Similar bags have been found around the world: the technique goes back to the Middle East around 4800 BC and is still used by indigenous cultures.
  • At the time people could not expect to live beyond their 30s.
Discover more about the object >



  • The basket earrings were buried at Amesbury, near the great English monument of Stonehenge sometime around 2400-2200 BC.
  • Some archaeologists think that they were worn around the edge of the ear.
  • Others think that they were worn in hair braids.
Discover more about the object >


Pair of
Gold Discs

  • The gold discs are from Tedavnet, in Co. Monaghan.
  • In the Early Bronze Age the ability of metalworkers to turn crude rock into objects of dazzling brightness must have imbued them with some sense of the magical.
  • The general belief is that the discs relate to a cult of the sun and that the cruciform shapes in the design are intended to represent its life-giving rays.
Discover more about the object >


Gold Hoard

  • The Coggalbeg Gold Hoard has an extremely light weight -78g in total, about 2½ ozs.
  • The discs represent the sun and the lunula the moon.
  • More than 80 of the 100-plus gold lunulae found in western Europe come from Ireland.
Discover more about the object >


Bronze Age
Funerary Pots

  • Sometime in the Early Bronze Age, Irish people began to bury their dead in single graves. Not only are the dead given an individual burial, but the idea also takes hold that they will continue in some other form.
  • These pots are among the many ‘food vessels’ that survive from this period, some of which are vase-shaped, some bowl-shaped.
  • To our eyes, the most moving of these burials are those in which the dead person has been arranged in a foetal position. This tells us both that these Bronze Age people were looking carefully at the human body: they knew the shape of the child in the womb.
Discover more about the object >



  • Aurum is the Latin word for gold and means ‘glow of sunrise’.
  • Gold can be melted down and used again and again. Most of the gold ever discovered (about 80%) is still being used today.
  • Scientists believe that most of the gold on earth came from outer space! They say that millions of years ago, meteors slammed into the earth and brought a lot of gold with them.
Discover more about the object >



  • In March 1854 near Newmarket-on-Fergus the largest hoard of Bronze Age gold objects ever found in western or northern Europe.
  • Many pieces were melted down, but the evidence suggests there were 138 bracelets, six collars, possibly two torcs and four other pieces: 150 objects, all of gold.
  • Mooghaun had a large and prominent hill fort, with three huge, roughly concentric stone ramparts enclosing about 12 hectares and commanding wide views of the Shannon estuary.
Discover more about the object >


Gold Gorget

  • The marks that run through the ridges on the right-hand side of this dazzling gold collar show that it was roughly bent in two before being thrust into a rock fissure in the Burren, in Co. Clare.
  • The Gleninsheen gorget is a technical and artistic achievement at the apex of goldworking in the Europe of its time. It was made by applying a range of techniques: repoussé, chasing, raising, stamping, twisting and stitching.
  • There is evidence that gorgets like this one may be an ultra-luxurious and superfine expression of a contemporary European fashion.
Discover more about the object >


Bronze Cauldron

  • The cauldron, found in a bog in Castlederg, Co. Tyrone, is crafted from offset bands of sheet bronze held in place by rows of conical rivets, it almost certainly had a ritual as well as a social significance.
  • It was probably used as a central part of elite ceremonies in which the local king’s ability to share food and drink was an enactment of his power.
  • What is clear is that the practice of using bronze feasting equipment belongs to a widespread central and western European Bronze Age elite fashion.
Discover more about the object >



  • Recent carbon dating of the remains of its wooden shaft suggests that it may be more than 1,000 years older.
  • The Hallstatt people seem to have been responsible for the westwards spread of ironworking.
  • The radiocarbon tests date the ash shaft somewhere between 811 and 673 BC.
Discover more about the object >



  • The Broighter boat appears to be a precise model of an ocean-going vessel, probably wooden but possibly made of hide. The boat originally had nine benches for the rowers and eighteen oars with rowlocks, a long oar for steering at the stern, three forked barge-poles, a grappling-iron or anchor and a mast.
  • The Broighter boat was contained in a hoard of gold objects found in what had once been a salt-marsh on the shore at Lough Foyle, in Broighter, Co. Derry.
  • Apart from the delight of the Broighter boat itself, what is striking is that the gold objects found with it are mostly imports, including two neck chains that come from the eastern Mediterranean, possibly from Roman Egypt.
Discover more about the object >


Armlet, Old
Croghan Man

  • Old-croghan Man has a leather and tinned bronze armlet, with stamped metal clips representing the sun and decorated in the fashionable continental style, on his arm.
  • Before his death, he was fed a ritual meal of milk and grain: not the high-status meat-based diet that is revealed by analysis of his nails, but one meant, rather, to symbolise the earth’s fertility.
  • Old-croghan Man’s death was garishly violent. He was stabbed in the chest, struck in the neck, decapitated and cut in half (all that has been found is his torso and arms).
Discover more about the object >



  • The Loughnashade Trumpet was discovered in Emain Macha in Co. Armagh
  • Loughnashade is the Irish name for 'Lake of the Treasures'
  • The Loughnashade Trumpet is similar to a version called The Dying Gaul created to terrify the Romans
Discover more about the object >



Early First Century AD
  • The Keshcarrigan Bowl was originally discovered in a tributary of the River Shannon in Co. Leitrim
  • The Keshcarrigan Bowl is thought to have been used during drinking bouts that involved a ritual and social function
  • Similar examples of the Keshcarrigan Bowl can be found in Devon, Cornwall and Brittany
Discover more about the object >



First or second century AD
  • The Corleck's Head was found in 1855 near Corleck Hill in the townland of Drumeague in Co. Cavn
  • Corleck Hill was the site of the Lughnasa Festival held on the first Sunday of August
  • The Corleck's Head is thought to represent an 'all knowing God' who can see all dimensions of reality
Discover more about the object >



second century AD
  • The 'Crown' consists of a sheet of bronze with a pair of highly decorated discs attached to its front
  • There are two examples of horn 'head dresses' on display in Cork Public Museum
  • It is thought that only one Petrie Crown has survived to this day
Discover more about the object >



AD460 - 75
  • Cunorix is a Latinesed version of the Irish language which means 'Hound-king, son of the tribe of Holly'
  • Cunorix was an Irish King thought to have been a powerful figure in western England at that time
  • The Cunorix slab was found in Wroxeter, near Shrewsbury in the western English county of Shropshire
Discover more about the object >


St Patrick’s

c. AD460-90
  • Saint Patrick was not the first missionary in Ireland. Palladius, probably from Auxerre, in France, was sent in 431 as the first bishop to ‘the Irish believing in Christ’—a pre-existing Irish Christian community.
  • Saint Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.
  • The earliest copy of St Patrick's Confessio is on display in the Book of Armagh alongside the Book of Kells in Trinity College Dublin.
Discover more about the object >



  • The Mullaghmast Stone was discovered when a castle at Hill of Mullaghmast in south Kildare was being demolished and being re-used as a lintel.
  • The spiral carvings found on the stone close in style to those found on dress pins and brooches of the period are thought to date it to the sixth Century AD.
  • The Mullaghmast Stone is thought to represent a Celtic ritual that survives to this day - 'The Sword in the Stone'.
Discover more about the object >


St Patrick’s

c. Seventh Century
  • The Mullholland Family have been the 'keepers of the bell' since Medieval times.
  • Saint Patrick's Bell was renowned for its simplicity and is made from two pieces of thick iron sheet coated in bronze.
  • Saint Patrick's Bell is less than seven inches tall in height
Discover more about the object >


Wax Tablets

Late-Sixth Century
  • In 1913, a man cutting turf in Springmount bog in Ballyhutherland in Co. Antrim found a set of six yew tablets held together with leather straps.
  • The inner tablets are hollowed out on both sides, forming the pages of a small wooden book.
  • These inner surfaces are filled with wax, on which someone inscribed with a pointed stylus, a biblical text.
Discover more about the object >



c. AD600
  • The Ballinderry Brooch was discovered in the 1930s in a crannóg (lake dwelling) on the south side of Ballinderry Lough in Co. Offaly.
  • The Brooch is zoomorphic (animal-shaped) and penannular (there is a gap in the ring); a style developed in Roman Britain but popular in Ireland between the fifth and seventh centuries.
  • The basic image on the brooch is Pre-Christian: the twoheaded snake biting its own tail, a symbol of eternity and regeneration.
Discover more about the object >



  • This handle was found on a riverbank in Donore, Co Meath in 1984, thought to have originally been the handle of a church door.
  • The Donor Handle consists of three piece: a beautifully engraved circular plate of tinned bronze, a splendid lion’s head that was probably made from a wax model and a frame that was probably cast from a twopiece mould.
  • The lion's head inlaid with brown glass (made to look like amber) originates from Roman traditions (similar images were used in Roman temples).
Discover more about the object >


of Kells

c. 800
  • The Book of Kells is thought to have been made on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland.
  • The Book of Kells required the skin of 185 calves to make its vellum pages
  • The range of pigments used for its colours—orpiment, vermilion, verdigris, woad and, perhaps, folium—is far greater than that of other contemporary books.
Discover more about the object >



Eighth Century
  • In the late-nineteenth century, copies of the ‘Tara’ brooch were a must-have item of Celtic chic. 
  • One important nationalist organisation, Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland), headed by Maud Gonne, adopted it as its membership badge. 
  • The brooch, made over a thousand years earlier, became a symbol of the Irish cultural revival because it presented a stunning answer to Victorian theories of Irish racial backwardness.
Discover more about the object >



Eighth Century
  • The Chalice was discovered in 1868 under a stone slab in a ringfort in Reerasta near Ardagh, co. Limerick.
  • Along with the Derrynaflan Chalice, this is one of the finest liturgical vessels of the Early Christian world.
  • What is extraordinary, though, is the number of pieces that make up the chalice: more than 350.
Discover more about the object >



Late-Eighth / Early-Ninth Century
  • This is the most spectacular item from the hoard of eucharistic vessels found in a shallow hole at an ancient church site, Derrynaflan, in Co. Tipperary, in 1980.
  • The paten is a large, silver dish, with a diameter of approximately 37cm, probably intended to hold the sacred host during Mass.
  • The paten images contain symbolic references to redemption, the Eucharist, baptism and beasts from the Book of Genesis and the psalms
Discover more about the object >


Belt Shrine

Eighth / Ninth Century
  • The shrine was discovered by turfcutters in a bog in Co. Sligo.
  • The overall impression is somewhat dulled now but originally, the belt would have been a riot of colour, with shiny silver panels, blue and white glass studs, and red and yellow enamel borders.
  • There is a particularly strong early-mediaeval tradition in Western Europe of the belts or girdles of saints being placed around the waist of a woman undergoing a difficult childbirth.
Discover more about the object >


Crucifixion Plaque

Eighth / Ninth Century
  • The iconography on the plaque had been used in Europe for about 200 years before this piece was made in Ireland but it was very rare in Ireland at that time.
  • Irish art of this period displayed relatively little interest in showing the human form or using images to tell stories.
  • If you look closely you will notice how Irish the plaque is…
Discover more about the object >


Tall Cross,

Late-Ninth Century
  • Since the late-nineteenth century, the Gaelic Athletic Association has useda high cross for its logo and for All-Ireland medals.
  • This cross, from Monasterboice in Co.Louth, is almost seven metres tall, and every available face is covered with elaborate carvings of a dazzling variety of scenes.
  • The circle part which encloses the arms of the cross may be intended to represent a halo around the figure of Christ, but it can also be seen as a cosmic symbol, in the manner of older Irish traditions of representations of the sun.
Discover more about the object >



c. 815
  • Very few objects ever did so much to change the course of Irish history as the fearsome and beautiful Viking longship.
  • The low, sleek shape made the ships highly manoeuvrable when steered with a single rudder mounted on the right-hand side of the stern.
  • The rudders were always mounted on the right hand side. This is why the right-hand side of ship, and now also of an aeroplane, is known as the starboard—i.e. Steerboard— side
Discover more about the object >



Mid-Ninth Century
  • This is one of the finest surviving examples of a technology that helped to transform Ireland in the ninth and tenth centuries: A viking sword.
  • The Vikings typically imported their blades from high-quality workshops in the territory of the Frankish empire (today’s Germany).
  • While the blade may have been imported, the hilt and pommel were made in Scandinavia.
Discover more about the object >


Lead Weights

c. 900
  • These weights were discovered in 1866 in a Viking grave at Islandbridge
  • What we see in these little objects is what can reasonably be called the beginning of capitalism in Ireland.
  • Vikings brought with them the idea of an internationally tradable currency to Ireland.
Discover more about the object >



Late-Ninth Century
  • This brooch is distinctively Irish; and it could not have been made without the Vikings.
  • Good silver had been rare in Ireland, where it was used sparingly and for highly prized objects. The Vikings had access to vast quantities of the metal. Through trading, Irish craftsmen got access to lots of silver.
  • The fact that Irish craftsmen are using Viking materials and influences (and, more importantly, that their Irish patrons are comfortable with them doing so) tells us that the Viking invasions were traumatic but not catastrophic.
Discover more about the object >



Late-Ninth or Early-Tenth Century
  • It was found, along with a human skull, iron spearhead and bronze pin, near Ardakillen crannóg, Co. Roscommon. Its function was brutally plain: to turn people into moveable property.
  • The Old Norse word for a slave is ‘thræll’ and is still part of language today as thrall.
  • In the ninth century, Viking Dublin had.
Discover more about the object >



Mid-Tenth Century
  • This cone is one of the largest of a group of eighteen found in 1999 in the limestone cave at Dunmore, just north of Kilkenny city.
  • The smaller ones in the hoard have parallels in Viking burials on the Isle of Man and Iceland.
  • It seems that this was once part of an elaborate silk garment with a silver wire border and cones that functioned either as tassels or as buttons.
Discover more about the object >



Early-Eleventh Century
  • Around 954 Dublin became the main urban centre not just of the Irish Sea, but of the western Vikings
  • Some items of personal ornamentation such as oval brooches typical of Scandinavian women have been found in Ireland but never in Dublin. This suggests that female population of the town was almost entirely Irish.
  • For a long time the Viking intervention in Ireland was an unsettled affair. Groups of raiders moved back and forth between Ireland, Britain and the continent. The development of Dublin was shaped by these patterns.
Discover more about the object >



Late-Eleventh Century
  • This is the shrine of St Maodhóg. St Maodhóg was a bishop and patron saint of the kings of Leinster.
  • The shrine is strongly associated with Drumlane, Co. Cavan.
  • The bronze figures in this shrine are, as Dr Pat Wallace puts it, ‘so deeply moulded that it looks as if it is carved wood’.
Discover more about the object >



Eleventh Century
  • The crozier is probably associated with Saint Ciarán, founder of the Clonmacnoise monastery.
  • Ciarán is recorded as appearing hundreds of years after his death to smite a would-be raider with his crozier.
  • It is very likely that this crozier, dedicated to an ancient saint, was made in Dublin.
Discover more about the object >


of Cong

Early-Twelfth Century
  • In the late-nineteenth century, this cross once belonged to the last abbot of Cong, Co. Mayo, Fr Prendergast.
  • The cross was made c.1123 in Roscommon and probably intended for the diocesan centre of Tuam.
  • The Cross of Cong is 76cm high, but in procession it was held even higher on a staff or pole. It was meant to invoke awe.
Discover more about the object >



Twelfth Century
  • Strongbow died in Dublin in April 1176.
  • Strongbow summed up the qualities of the Anglo-Norman elite: energetic opportunism, military prowess and acquisitive efficiency.
  • Normans were known for their extreme violence and cold calculation. During the so-called Harrying of the North in 1069–70, the Normans destroyed food stocks to create a murderous famine.
Discover more about the object >


Papal Bull

  • This is one of the most controversial objects in Irish history and is also one that might not even exist.
  • Laudabiliter—the name of a bull issued by Pope Adrian IV to the English king Henry II in 1155— granted Henry the right to claim lordship over Ireland. Or did it?
  • Laudabiliter is a dodgy dossier. Henry’s invasion of Ireland was pre-emptive. His fear was that Strongbow would establish himself as king of Leinster (through his marriage to Diarmait Mac Murchada’s daughter Aífe or even of Ireland.
Discover more about the object >


Figure of
a horseman

Thirteenth Century
  • This damaged figure was found in 1844 at Knockmannan Hill near Kinnitty, Co. Offaly.
  • Its is the stirrup of the horseman that indicated that he is Anglo-Norman.
  • Anglo-Norman stirrups anchor the rider to their horse and gave them the control necessary for disciplined concerted action. Irish cavalry, by contrast, were lightly armed and did not use stirrups. Though these military advantages did not allow the Anglo-Normans to subdue Ireland easily.
Discover more about the object >


The Domhnach

c. 1350
  • The Domhnach Airgid was made to enclose a miscellany of relics. Traditionally, the shrine was claimed to be that given by St Patrick himself to his companion St Macartan, making it an object of great veneration.
  • One of the reasons the Anglo- Normans represented a far more potent threat to the established order in Ireland than the Vikings was their interest in controlling the Irish church.
  • Around 1350, the abbot of Clones, Co.Monaghan, John O Carbry, commissioned a substantial remodelling of the Domhnach Airgid. This remodelling brings the ancient relic up to date, in the international gothic style.
Discover more about the object >


Charter Roll

  • The Waterford Charter Roll is four metres long and contains documents or transcripts relating to the city going back to 1215.
  • The charter roll has seventeen remarkable illustrations.
  • The roll is a brilliant early example of targeted advertising to flatter the king and add weight to legal arguments.
Discover more about the object >



1280s and 1460
  • There is a gap of almost 200 years between these two coins.
  • Coins are tokens of the health of the colonial Anglo-Norman economy in Ireland.
  • That the colony produced virtually no new coins for such an extensive period is striking evidence of the series of disasters that overtook it during the fourteenth century.
Discover more about the object >



  • This cross was given to the Franciscan friary at Lislaghtin, Co.Kerry, by Cornelius Ó Conchobhair and his wife, Avelina (Eileen), daughter of the Knight of Kerry.
  • It marks a new prominence of high-status women in fifteenth-century Ireland.
  • This cross is the finest of its kind from mediaeval Ireland.
Discover more about the object >



c. 1470
  • The Magi Cope is staggeringly opulent: one-and-a-half metres high and two metres wide, brocaded velvet on cloth-of-gold, with a pile of red silk fixed with tiny loops of gold.
  • The hood of the Magi Cope alone depicts three parallel Biblical scenes: the homage of the Magi to the newborn Christ at the centre, the arrival of the Queen of Sheba at the court of King Solomon on the left and the visit of Abraham to Melchizedek on the right.
  • The Magi Cope is part of a set of copes hidden within the Christ Church cathedral in Co. Waterford. They were so well hidden that they were not discovered again until 1774, when the old cathedral was demolished.
Discover more about the object >


De Burgo-O’Malley

  • There are two names inscripted on this chalice. These are the names of Thomas de Burgo and his wife, Gráinne Ní Mháille (Gráinne O’Malley).
  • It is suspected that this chalice was probably made in Galway.
  • The chalice is a physical token of the integration of the former invaders into Gaelic aristocratic society.
Discover more about the object >


Charter Horn

Twelfth and Fifteenth Centuries
  • This exotic object, preserved at Borris, Co. Carlow, by the Kavanagh family, perfectly captures this revival of Irish kingship.
  • It was made from elephant ivory, sometime in the twelfth century, and may originally have been used as a hunting horn.
  • In the period of Art Mór’s resurgent kingdom it was given a new brass mounting. This turned the horn into a ceremonial drinking vessel, probably for use in inauguration rituals.
Discover more about the object >



Fifteenth or Sixteenth Century
  • The Gallowglass Gravestone is 1.75 metres long.
  • It was uncovered in the graveyard of the ruined church at Clonca on the Inishowen peninsula, in Co. Donegal.
  • It is made of dark limestone, finely carved with a crucifix and a floral motif.
Discover more about the object >


Book of
Common Prayer

  • This object is the first book printed in Ireland and, as such, marks the island’s rather belated acquisition of one of the defining features of modernity.
  • The revolutionary process of printing on a press with moveable type was pioneered in Germany by Johannes Gutenberg almost exactly a century prior to this book of prayer.
  • Much of the initial impetus for the use of print was political and administrative, but it became an important weapon in the struggles between the energetic new Protestant faiths and the Catholic Counter-Reformation.
Discover more about the object >



c. 1588
  • This pendant was recovered from the wreck site of the Spanish galleass La Girona, which sank off Lacada Point, on the north Antrim coast, in the autumn of 1588.
  • The pendant was said to serve talismanic protection against the danger of fighting on a wooden ship for any office who wore it.
  • The salamander’s body is of gold probably from the Spanish colonies in the new world of America. The rubies that marked out its spine and tail—three of the original nine survive— may have come from southern Asia.
Discover more about the object >



Late-Sixteenth Century
  • A morion is a helmet without a protective visor or beaver.
  • The exact provenence of this morion is not clear, though it was almost certainly made in Italy around 1580.
  • It is believed that it must have reached Ireland as a result of efforts by the papacy or Spain to support Catholic rebellions.
Discover more about the object >


Na Ríogh

Tenth-Fifteenth Century
  • Leac na ríogh was a rough-hewn stone chair. It was the focal point of Tulach Óg.
  • Leac na ríogh translates to ‘the flagstone of the kings’.
  • This is one of the most poignant objects in Irish history. It is also one that was deliberately and symbolically destroyed.
Discover more about the object >



Late-Sixteenth Century
  • Wassail comes from the Anglo- Saxon ‘wael hael’ which means good health. The word refers to the tradition of ceremonial drinking of cider that survived strongly in south west England.
  • In 1599 Arthur Chichester brought this wassail bowl from his native Devon to Ulster.
  • It can be seen as a token of the idea that took shape in the plantation of Ulster: making Ulster British.
Discover more about the object >


on Atrocities

  • The 1641 Depositions—eight volumes of written testimonies of witnesses to the violent ethnic revolt that began in Ulster in that year and spread through much of the island, are objects of this sort. They contain evidence—mostly, but not exclusively, from Protestants—of murder, assault and theft.
  • Right up to the twentieth century,they were deployed as proof of Catholic barbarism and malice, justifying everything from the campaigns of Oliver Cromwell to resistance to Home Rule.
  • Phrases such as ‘believeth’, ‘thinketh’ and ‘hath credibly heard’ appear far more frequently in the deposition texts than ‘saw’ or ‘witnessed’. Yet, there is no doubt that the depositions do contain real evidence of great cruelty and traumatic suffering.
Discover more about the object >



  • This superb silver chalice declares its origins very clearly. The engraving in Latin on the base reads: ‘Malachy O’Queely Doctor of Sacred Theology from Paris and Archbishop of Tuam had this chalice made for the convent of friars minor of Rosserilly [Co. Galway], 1640’.
  • With its inscription ‘I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord’, and its bold engravings of the Crucifixion alongside O’Queely’s own coat of arms, the chalice speaks of a resurgent and militant faith.
  • O’Queely, with his continental connections, illustrates the key role played by the Franciscans in re-creating an Irish Catholic identity after the Flight of the Earls.
Discover more about the object >



c. 1652
  • This very fine ebony cabinet is thought to have been made in Flanders, most likely Antwerp, around 1652.
  • Antwerp became the leading European centre for painted cabinets, many of which were given as wedding gifts.
  • There is a tradition that Cromwell gave this one to his daughter Bridget when she married the lord deputy of Ireland, General Charles Fleetwood.
Discover more about the object >


Books of Survey
and Distribution

Mid-Seventeeth Century
  • The Books of Survey and Distribution, were compiled between the 1650s and 1680s.
  • They record microcosm the seismic shift in the ownership of land in Ireland after the Cromwellian conquest. The class of Catholic proprietors, of both indigenous and Anglo-Norman descent, was all but swept away.
  • After the defeat of the Catholic rebellion, the Commonwealth administration undertook an extraordinarily ambitious programme of social engineering. Under the guise of the punishment of traitors, about half of all land in Ireland was taken from its owners and given to adventurers who had funded Cromwell’s armies or to those who had served in his campaigns.
Discover more about the object >


King William’s

c. 1690
  • On the morning of 14 July 1690, King William III presented these fine doeskin gloves to John Dillon, in whose home in Lismullin, Co. Meath, he had stayed the previous night.
  • It is believed that King William may have worn these during battle such the Battle of Boyne.
  • William is often depicted wearing heavy, fringed gauntlets such as these in several ‘battle’ paintings by various artists
Discover more about the object >



  • In 1950, during rebuilding works on an old house in Summerhill in Co. Meath, this rough piece of sandstone was found behind a blocked doorway. It had been in a window recess of a secret, sealed-up chamber.
  • The stone was clearly used for secret Catholic worship, and its date coincides with one of the first attempts by the state, in 1739–40, to enforce laws penalising Catholicism.
  • Laws ‘for the suppression of Popery’ passed in 1697 and 1703 required bishops, deans, vicars general and friars to leave the country and remaining clergy to register with the authorities.
Discover more about the object >



Eighteenth Century
  • Conestoga wagons were first made by German immigrants in eastern Pennsylvania in the 1730s.
  • Longer and deeper than European wagons, covered at first with hemp and later with canvas, and having small, manoeuvrable wheels, they were capable of carrying families and heavy freight over rough terrain.
  • During the great migration from Ulster in the half-century after 1718 about 200,000 people left Ulster for colonial America, most of them Presbyterians whose origins lay in Scotland.
Discover more about the object >



  • In 1722, the British government granted English iron manufacturer William Wood permission to proceed with a patent to coin £100,800 worth of copper halfpence for Ireland.
  • The patent had originally been granted to the duchess of Kendal, one of George I’s mistresses, who then sold it to Wood for £10,000.
  • Almost immediately, most of the Dublin establishment was expressing its outrage. There was a widespread belief that the issuing of copper money would devalue Irish coinage and damage the local economy.
Discover more about the object >


Regimental Flag

  • Dillon’s Regiment was unique—it was continuously under the command of members of the same family for more than a century.
  • The flag was first raised to fight for James II in 1688 by Theobald Dillon, who was killed at Aughrim.
  • The most famous battle in which the regiment and the larger Irish brigade took part was at Fontenoy, near Tournai in Belgium in May 1745, at which this flag was flown. This was a crucial episode in the war of 1740–48, when France and Prussia clashed with Britain and the Netherlands over who would succeed Charles VI of Austria.
Discover more about the object >


Rococo Silver

c. 1745
  • This candlestick is characteristic of the rococo style that became the rage in Paris in the 1720s.
  • That this candlestick was made in Dublin tells us something both about the extravagant taste of the Irish ruling class and about the city itself.
  • Members of the ascendancy could spend enormous sums on silver plate. A dinner service commissioned by the earl of Kildare in 1745, the year when our candlestick was probably made, cost £4,044 at a time when £44 would have been a comfortable annual middle-class income.
Discover more about the object >


Engraving of

  • This engraving, one of a set of twelve by Irish artist William Hincks, is a rare artefact: it acknowledges the work of women.
  • Irish people had been growing flax and making linen since the Bronze Age.
  • The Linen Board was formed with public money in Dublin in 1711 to regulate the growing industry.
Discover more about the object >


Cotton Panel Showing
Volunteer Review

  • This panel was advertised for sale as being “a volunteer furniture with an exact representation of the Last Provincial Review in Phoenix Park, with a striking llikeness of Lord Charlemont as reviewing General.”
  • That images of the Volunteers, like this one, produced by Thomas Harpur in Leixlip, were desirable consumer goods for the well-to-do is vivid evidence of the political ferment of the decade.
  • Volunteering took off in 1778, as a response to the American War of Independence.
Discover more about the object >



  • Pikes were a standard weapon of mediaeval and early modern armies.
  • By the eighteenth century they were much more strongly associated with revolutionary violence.
  • The first seizure of hidden pikes was in Dublin in 1793.
Discover more about the object >


Act of Union

Early-Nineteenth Century
  • This list was 19 pages in total.
  • On one side of the pages were the names of members of the Irish parliament in 1799. On the other were the rewards they received for voting in favour of the Act of Union.
  • The Act of Union abolished Ireland’s independent status and created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Discover more about the object >


Glass Decanter

Late-Eighteenth Century
  • The glass decanter’s applied cutting is a variant of the more typical style of semi-circular pendant arch motif, with a star underneath and pillars running around it—typical of the work of the Penrose glass factory in Waterford.
  • The Penrose factory was made possible by the lifting of English prohibitions on the export of glass from Ireland and of duties on coal used for its manufacture in the dynamic 1780s.
  • This glass decanter tells a poignant story: the flowering of an Irish industry in the two decades before the Act of Union and its withering after.
Discover more about the object >


Emmet’s Ring

  • The emerald stone in this ring came from India and was given by Sir John Temple to his cousin Dr Robert Emmet, the Irish state physician.
  • Emmet’s revolutionary sons, Thomas Addis and Robert later copied the ring and used as a seal and apparently as a token of trust.
  • One of the sons, Robert, was expelled from Trinity College Dublin in 1798, rightly suspected of radical activities.
Discover more about the object >



Nineteenth-Twentieth Centuries
  • This cradle, woven from wicker, was collected on Inis оirr, one of the Aran Islands, in the 1950s. However, it is probably much older.
  • In the early-nineteenth century the population in Ireland was growing faster than anywhere else in western Europe.
  • The adoption of the potato as a staple crop made it possible to form a family with very little land and as a result aided this increase in population.
Discover more about the object >


O’Connell’s ‘Chariot’

  • The ‘chariot’, 3 metres high and 4.5 metres long, was specially made for O’Connell’s glorious re-entry into the city.
  • The chariot was modelled on the triumphal cars of ancient Rome.
  • The sides showed Hibernia with the increasingly familiar national iconography of harp, round tower and wolfhound. On the back was a representation in gold of a harp surmounted by the word ‘Repeal’, summarising O’Connell’s campaign for repeal of the Act of Union.
Discover more about the object >



  • This remarkable table cloth, measuring eight feet by four and showing 250 different figures in 31 panels of inlaid felt patchwork, is the work of one man, Stephen Stokes over 20 years.
  • Stephen Stokes was born in Plymouth in 1802 and enlisted in the army as a boy. In 1819 he entered the 63rd Regiment, then stationed in Ireland, transferring to the 1st Royal Dragoons in 1826.
  • Stokes seems to have been self-taught and presumably began his project to stave off the boredom of barracks life. His patchwork evolved into a panorama of political, military and even cultural affairs.
Discover more about the object >


‘Captain Rock’
Threatening Letter

  • For much of the nineteenth century, the most violent resistance of the anonymous poor was personified in a single, mythical figure, Captain Rock, whose name was appended to thousands of threatening letters, like this one.
  • Secret, oath-bound societies that survived the repression of the 1798 rising were called Ribbonmen.
  • The Rockites won no military victories, but their campaign of arson and murder did succeed in cowing local magistrates, stopping the collection of tithes and lowering rents.
Discover more about the object >


Cooking Pot

Nineteenth Century
  • This six-gallon example of a traditional iron cooking pot is from Corelish East, Grean, Co. Limerick, was purchased by the National Museum in 1965.
  • Famines were not rare in Ireland: there were perhaps 30 severe episodes between 1300 and 1800, including a disastrous failure of the potato crop in 1740.
  • Phytophthora infestans is the name of the potato blight fungus responsible for the worst event in Irish history.
Discover more about the object >



Late Nineteenth to Mid-Twentieth Century
  • This particular teapot was made by an old tinker, Mike Maughan and collected in 1961.
  • Irish people would buy these teapots from travelling people before making the long sea voyage to America.
  • Between 1856 and 1921, between 4.1 and 4.5 million adults and children emigrated (passenger lists show large number of children travelling alone).
Discover more about the object >


William Smith
O’Brien Gold Cup

  • The William Smith O’Brien cup weighs in at 125 ounces and is made 22 carat gold.
  • It was made in Melbourne, Australia, by Irish-born goldsmith William Hackett, using nuggets donated by Irish miners, and presented to an Irish nationalist hero, William Smith O’Brien.
  • O’Brien was deported to Van Diemen’s Land in July 1849, having been found guilty of high treason.
Discover more about the object >


Silver Casket

  • This basket was given to Charles Stewart Parnell in 1884 by ‘the nationalists of Drogheda’.
  • Parnell was an unlikely leader of Irish nationalism. Born into a Protestant landowning family in Avondale, Co. Wicklow, and educated at Cambridge, he was nervous superstitious and sometimes withdrawn.
  • Parnell was a pragmatist who could hint effortlessly at revolutionary intent. His boldest stroke was to accept the presidency of the Land League, founded in Dublin in 1879 by Fenian gun-runner Michael Davitt.
Discover more about the object >


Cathedral Pulpit

  • This pulpit is twenty-foot high. and made for an Iris Catholic church just half a century after the devastation of the Great Hunger.
  • It was carved, from the finest oak, by artists in the Belgian city of Bruges and unveiled in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Carlow in October 1899.
  • The message of the pulpit is that the Irish church is now fully intertwined with European, and therefore Roman, Catholicism.
Discover more about the object >


Lace Collar

  • This needlepoint lace collar epitomises one of the more remarkable achievements of Irish women in the second half of the nineteenth century—the creation from scratch of a world-class craft industry.
  • It was nun Mary Anne Smith, who ‘conceived the idea of getting up some kind of industrial occupation amongst the poor children attending the convent school such as would help them to earn a livelihood or, at least, keep them from starving’ in 1847.
  • Irish laces quickly became high fashion, worn by everyone from the Pope to Queen Victoria.
Discover more about the object >



  • This gold medal was presented to a Limerick player, P.J. Corbett, a member of the team that won the first all-Ireland Gaelic football championship final.
  • The GAA was founded on 1 November 1884 at Hayes Hotel in Thurles, Co. Tipperary.
  • Michael Cusack was the original founder.
Discover more about the object >



Late-Nineteenth Century
  • This reclining buddha is imperial loot.
  • It is in the Mandalay style which dates it to 1857-86.
  • Colonel Sir Charles Fitzgerald, an Irishman in the British army in India, stole it while on a punitive military expedition to Burma.
Discover more about the object >


Launch Ticket

  • The Titanic set off from the Harland and Wolff shipyard at Queen’s Island in Belfast lough.
  • The Titanic creators were largely Protestant—2000 Catholics worked in the shipyard but they were not part of its official story.
  • Three days after Titanic sank, the third Home Rule Bill was introduced into the House of Commons in London. Three months llater, vicious and organised assaults forced all Catholics out of the shipyards.
Discover more about the object >


Lamp from
‘River Clyde’

  • This lamp is from a converted collier, the River Clyde.
  • On 25 April 1915 it lit the way for 2000 soldiers. They had been chosen as the shock troops of an Allied landing near Sedd-el-Bahr at Cape Helles, on the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey during the First World War.
  • Although Home Rule was finally passed in September 1914, its implementation was immediately postponed for the duration of the war.
Discover more about the object >


Connolly’s Shirt

  • This undershirt was worn by James Connolly in the General Post Office in Dublin during Easter Week 1916.
  • James Connolly was an organiser for the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) and helped found the Labour Party in 1912.
  • James was imprisoned during the Lockout in 1913, when Dublin’s employers shut out workers who would not give up membership of the ITGWU.
Discover more about the object >


Coin Design

  • In January 1926 Minister for Finance Ernest Blythe told the Dáil that the new Irish Free State should have ‘a coinage distinctively our own, bearing the devices of this country’.
  • The designer of the coin, Jerome Connor, thought of the penny as a child’s coin and conceived a design that celebrated childhood. The scampish boy is actually based on his own grand-nephew John.
  • Many children in the new Ireland did enjoy a safe and happy upbringing, but the aspiration to ensure that no child we.
Discover more about the object >



  • Boyne coracles were oval shaped boats.
  • They were generally made from woven hazel rods and covered with locally tanned cow-hides; the size varied from six feet by four feet to six-and-a-half feet by four feet, so that the vessels could easily be covered using a single, large hide.
  • Mediaeval Irish sources describe St Colmcille going into exile and St Brendan going ona fabulous sea voyage in similar hide-clad boats.
Discover more about the object >


Gray Chair

  • Eileen Gray was born in 1878 at Brownswood, near Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford.
  • Eileen Gray collaborated with Jean Badovici to design a stark modernist house. This was callled E-1027 and is located at Roquebrunenear Monaco.
  • Eileen called this her ‘nonconformist chair’. She explained that ‘An armrest was omitted in order to leave the body more freedom in movement and to allow it to bend forward or to turn to the other side unrestricted’.
Discover more about the object >



  • Emigration was one feature of Irish life largely unchanged by partition and independence.
  • During the Great Depression of 1929 less people started going to the US and Britain subsequently became the primary destination.
  • Three out of every five of those who came of age in Ireland in the 1950s emigrated.
Discover more about the object >