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Arms and Armour Section

Discuss about the Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art.

As students we were given a choice to select either an exhibition or a museum for this report and I decided to review the national museum of decorative arts and history of Ireland. The museum is a branch of the National Museum of Ireland and is located near the Arbour Hill area of Dublin. The museum was actually founded on August 14, 1877 by the Parliament act. It has around 150,000 items which includes art and craft, Irish coins, silverware, currency, furniture, costumes, ceramics and also glassware (Herle and Anita 2012). The sprawling property also holds artifacts from the Battle of the Boyne such as Etruscan vases and an armoured glove worn by King William.

There is also an oar and a life belt which were discovered from the wreck of the RMS management Lusitania (Forrest and Craig 2012).

Also, there is a pocket book which was carried by Irish revolutionary Wolfe Tone during his time in the prison. It quite a sight to behold when one ventures inside this historical structure (Herle and Anita 2012). The visiting hour for the museum is from 10 am to 5 pm from Tuesday to Saturday. On Sunday it is open from 10 am to 5pm and is closed on a Monday.

The art and architecture inside the museum is divided into different categories for visitors to explore without difficulties. First, let us come to the Arms and Armour section. The arms section consists of swords, long arms, pistols which are mainly Irish and English weapons belonging to the 16th and 20th centuries. Some of these weapons are also from the United States of America and Europe. There are also a lot of mesmerizing non-Western muskets and swords from 19th Century. It is also very interesting to find long arms like flintlock, semi-automatic weapons and percussions. There are also cannons which are symbolic of that era along with double edged weapons consisting of daggers, pole-arms, clubs and crossbows.

The museum put together the collection which is from the second half of the 19th century and is kept in the Arms and Armour section where Textiles, Glass, Ceramics, Metalwork, Wood, Musical Instruments and Ivory collections have also been incorporated (Hourihane and Colum 2012). There is also ‘A Dubliner’s Collection of Asian Art’ which was gifted to the National Museum in the 1930 by Albert Bender who was an Irish American. On show were relics from China, Tibet and Japan. I loved these as the artefacts were well preserved and depicted bygone cultures and traditions. Some of the Chinese relics include painting, statues and cloaks related to religions and philosophies of Buddhism and Daoism.

Costume and Fashion Design

Then there is the collection of ceramics which was first brought in to influence the local ceramic industry.

There is the collection of continental European and Italian Maiolica, French Faience, Dutch delftware and Hispano-Moresque ware. Besides these, there are Belleek and Carrigaline, and a huge collection of Irish works (Hourihane and Colum 2012).

The toys and dolls section is one of the finest collections in the museum which has over 700 items. The collection spans across Irish, European and English dolls. The collection also boasts of antic doll houses and board games. There are also clockwork toys and the ones made of tin. Some of the items in this section are very old and have been restored or renovated.

The concept of fashion has existed since time immemorial and in this museum too there is a huge collection of costumes. The collection has almost 2000 items, comprising mainly English and Irish costumes which mostly belong to women from the 18th century to present day (Ward and Alex 2014).

Designs from Ireland during the 20th century are also on display. These are intricate designs and portray the lifestyle during the time and are mighty impressive (Ward and Alex 2014). Religious vestments, legal and academic robes, court dress are also on display.

Under this collection the museum has got hold of materials in relation with 1916 War of Independence. These have been donated or purchased over time. It has a number of documents which are directly related to the Rising. One of them is the historical Proclamation of the Republic and Pearse’s surrender order (Murphy and Brian 2012).

Then there is the Museum’s Fine and Graphic art collection which comprises paintings management done by water colour and drawings by European and Irish artists. The shades of colour actually takes one back to time. The collection itself was made in the 1920s and the museum authorities since then have not added to it (Murphy and Brian 2012).

While venturing into other nooks and corners of the massive hall one stumbles upon the collection of flags too. There are 50 flags which are on display. They are mainly Irish with the time period ranging from 1641 to present day. Most of these flags are military but some belong to historical events and political parties.

This is a massive collection and one of the most famous blocks for tourists. The section showcases a wide range of furniture from the 17th to the 20th century. Mostly there are furniture from the 18th or 19th century which therefore covers a lot of famous makers. The collection also boasts of Irish, English and European materials (Myzelev and Alla 2017). The collection is only growing by the day and the division features a major collection from Irish designer Eileen Gray.

Museum's Furniture Collection

The exhibits are in a room known as the ‘Reconstructed Rooms’ where there are four centuries of furnishings, right from the Georgian era to present day Irish designs.

Next, there is the ‘fragile’ section of the museum which has some of the best Irish, European and American glass ranging from the 18th to the 20th century. It all started from being collected from Belfast, Cork, Dublin and Waterford from the late 18th to the middle of 19th century. There is also a great collection of Irish modern day works.

The jewellery section too does not cease to amaze. These items date back to the 18th and the 20th century and it boasts of great quality costume jewellery. It also has pieces from early 20th century crafts from the Celtic Revival and modern Ireland. The section also boasts of a large collection of intaglio seal stones, carved cameo and Tassie paste copies (Eppihimer and Melissa 2015).

There is also the costume accessories collection which has around 1600 items including shoes, shoe-buckles, hats and fans (Dmitrieva and Elena 2012).

There is also a collection which consists of Irish and European lace accessories from the 17th Century to the early 20th Century. The collection mainly consists of Irish lace and lace designs from the middle of the 19th Century to the middle of the 20th. These laces were bought directly from cooperatives and lace schools from around the country.

The metal work collection boasts of a large section of pewter, enamel, brass and ironwork. Helmets, iron armours are all on display here. However, Ireland cannot be complete without Irish silver. Silver is the most significant element in this collection and ranges from the 1500 s to present day. The entire collection of silver is on display at the museum in an exhibition called ‘Irish Silver’.

The stock of silver here is the strongest for periods between 1750 -1800, however, the collection of modern day silver is also growing each day. Upon request the staff also help people get dressed in these armours which are on display.

Ireland is a country which is steeped in Military History as it has been subjected to numerous battles. Therefore the collection of war memorabilia’s such as books, documents, personal papers, medals, uniforms and ephemera of Irish, British and American armies (Forrest and Craig 2012).

The largest part of the section includes uniforms, uniform accessories including head dresses, insignias and belts which date back to the 1780s.

Fragile Section

Ireland also has a rich history of music and the museum’s collection features all such instruments. The harp collection holds a special significance and has a few of the early wire-strung harps (Boydell and Barra 2013).

The harp collection also focuses on the 18th century and is a collection of very rare pieces (Mary Louise and O'Donnell 2014). The pianos too are from the later half of the 18th century and the spotlight is on the Irish manufacturers. The section also boasts of a rare lyrachord.

The coin collection has 10,000 pieces and is of the rarest of rare kind. The majority of the coins are Irish and belong to the Viking period. These have been divided into two sections- hoard material and chronological collection. The chronological collection of Irish coins is increased by denomination management , provenance and style in the same manner as the silver collection (Series 2012).

There is also a huge collection of English, European, Asian and Roman coins which are provided as comparisons or contrasts.

There are also 3,700 Irish medals which are part of history, sports, politics, education and agriculture.

The museum also has a huge transport collection which mainly consists of 18th and 19th century carriages and also materials such as photographs and drawings.


Overall, the museum is one of the most iconic in the world. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give it an eight just because it does not cease to amaze even for one bit. Some of the collections including the metal work and furniture are top class and are things one would remember even after they have come back home. The visit to the museum was thus enriching. However, there were a few let downs like the connectivity where I had to change buses to get to the stop.

Writing an assignment on a place with so much history related to it is always difficult. First of all I had to start off by finding a museum dipped in culture and history and what better than the national museum of decorative arts and history in Dublin. Then it was about research work and if the museum suited the needs of the project. Next it was about planning a trip there since I needed to visit the museum to write my review. I changed two buses and reached the museum at around 11.30 on a Wednesday. The monumental stature of the building was overwhelming but then the things that awaited me inside were even more mesmerizing. The museum is old and there were renovation works in progress in some corners. The only way I could traverse the whole museum was if I had a guide book in my hand. I got the book from the counter and used it to navigate my way from one section to another. I must say these are things I have not done before and therefore this is a skill too which I picked up. Next, it was about documenting the artefacts which were kept in different sections of the museum. Proper documentation is needed to reproduce the same facts and figures in an assignment and therefore I had to do it carefully keeping in mind that a wrong date can be disastrous. Reporting is another key skill I developed during this assignment as I knew I would have to put my notes on a paper and submit it as a report. I have tried and represented the facts as closely as possible. Sometimes thoughts and words tend to get lost in translation.

Jewellery and Costume Accessories Collection

There were also a few challenges faced by me while doing the project. First of all, the museum is vast and covers a lot of area. Covering each and every part was taxing. I am quite thankful to the guide book I had in my hand without which I would have been lost for sure.  There were also a lot of repair work in progress in key sections of the museum which was quite a hindrance for my research work. Sections like the ones were the glass artefacts and ceramics were kept were closed. I had to come back home and consult a few other books to complete my research and then write down the assignment. Also, the sign boards inside the museum are old and sometimes one might get confused as to where to head next. A lot of the times, I headed the other way then had to return back and find another path to a certain section. The lack of guides also adds to a bit of one’s confusion. Often one does not know the history of certain artefacts and has do to the strenuous tasks of reading it from the signage. However, despite these let downs the museum continues to be one of the best in the Ireland.


Boydell, Barra. The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland. Edited by Harry White. University College Dublin Press, 2013.

Dmitrieva, Elena. "On the formation of the collection of gem impressions in the State Hermitage Museum." Journal of the History of Collections 25, no. 1 (2012): 77-85.

E Batey, Colleen. "Quarrying in Western Norway. An Archaeological Study of Production and Distribution in the Viking Period and Middle Ages." (2016): 185-186.

Eppihimer, Melissa. "A paradox of eighteenth-century antiquarianism: ‘Persian’gems among the Tassie casts." Journal of the History of Collections 28, no. 2 (2015): 191-208.

Forrest, Craig. "Culturally and environmentally sensitive sunken warships." Austl. & NZ Mar. LJ 26 (2012): 80.

Herle, Anita. "Objects, agency and museums." Museum Objects: Experiencing the Properties of Things (2012): 295.

Hourihane, Colum, ed. The Grove encyclopedia of medieval art and architecture. Vol. 2. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Mary Louise, O'Donnell. Ireland's Harp: The Shaping of Irish Identity, C. 1770-1880. University College Dublin Press, 2014.

Murphy, Brian P. "Telling the Story of 1916: the" Catholic Bulletin" and" Studies"." Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 101, no. 401 (2012): 47-56.

Myzelev, Alla, ed. Fashion, interior design and the contours of modern identity. Routledge, 2017.

Series, CoinWeek Ancient Coin, and Mike Markowitz. "The Earliest Coins of Ireland."

Ward, Alex. "Dress and National Identity: Women’s Clothing and the Celtic Revival." Costume 48, no. 2 (2014): 193-212.

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