{Ireland} Dublin Mini Museum Marathon

May 3, 2016


100 Museums Challenge: Museum No.29, 30, 31, 32 & 33

On my second day in Dublin, I went on a little mini museum marathon. I’d only planned in three museums (yes, *only*, that’s not really that many for me), but picked up another little couple of exhibitions on the way. Walking past a sign saying “free exhibition” to me is like walking past a sign saying “free beer” or “free candy”, lol. Anyway…

No.29 – The Book of Kells

Kells 01

I’d pre-booked my ticket for the Book of Kells, and I’m so glad I did because there was a *massive* queue waiting outside when I arrived first thing in the morning. By the time I was just under half way through the exhibition, it was absolutely heaving and most of the people coming in behind me had rushed past me and where out the other end. The majority of the exhibition is info panels – about the creation of the Book of Kells, monastic life, the makers, materials and methods. There are some film clips showing techniques, and some other related original artefacts on display, but most of it is information for you to read, with two of the original gospels from the Book of Kells (it was rebound in four volumes in 1953, one for each gospel) displayed at the very end in the ‘Treasury’. So two pages from the Gospel of Luke and two pages from the Gospel of John is all you get to see. But think about it, how else are you going to display a book without ruining it? (okay, so most people probably don’t work in museums and probably don’t give this much thought). Anyway, point being, the majority of visitors just seemed interested in rushing through to glance at the real deal, and to be honest it’s a bit pricey for that. But although I’m not the world’s biggest text panel reader, I studied the Celts at university and worked several times at a retreat centre in a former Celtic monastery on a holy Scottish island in the Inner Hebrides, so I actually found all the information really interesting. Sure, I could have just read a book about it. But it’s not the same. Because this was in Ireland. And, well, you know, those two genuine book pages at the end…

Kells 02

Kells 03

The Book of Kells is open seven days a week. Up to date information on opening times and prices can be found on their website. A visit also includes access to the amazing Long Room in the Trinity College Dublin’s Old Library. I’ll have a library like that, please!

No.30 – National Library of Ireland

NLI 01

The National Library of Ireland hadn’t been on my itinerary, but I actually ended up visiting two of its locations. First, a small exhibition about WW1 in Ireland, told from the point of view of several different characters from history, including a both soliders and people back ‘home’. World War Ireland: Exploring the Irish Experience is showing in the exhibition space of the Library’s Department of Manuscripts on 2/3 Kildare Street until further notice.

NLI 02

Then, at the Library’s main site, I visited the exhibition about Irish author W.B. Yeats. The design of the exhibition was really good, and the content was fantastic. Unfortunately, I didn’t have too much time to spend there, but managed to get a good idea of his life and works. If you have some extra time to spare, you can easily make your visit stretch to an hour or two. It has been showing at the Main Library, further along on Kildare Street, since 2006, when it opened to unanimous acclaim. It has won several awards, and you can also take a virtual tour of the exhibition online.

NLI 03

NLI 04

Both exhibitions are open seven days a week (opening times can be found on the Library’s website) and admission is free.

No.31 – Royal College of Physicans of Ireland


The exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians, in the Heritage Centre at their Kildare Street site, was also about WW1 (with the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, there’s a lot of that all over town at the moment). Irish Medicine in War and Revolution was just a small exhibition, but it was no less interesting. I particularly found the story of Dr Kathleen Lynn (pictured below) interesting, an Irish Sinn Féin politician, activist and medic who became Chief Medical Officer of the Irish Citizens Army. Here personal diaries are held in the Royal College of Physicians archives. You can read a little more information about her on Wikipedia.



The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland holds a collection of “material relating to the history of medicine in Ireland, with over 20,000 books, 10,000 manuscripts and hundreds of medical instruments and historical curiosities”. You can browse the RCPI library and archive catalogues online, and you can also ask to view items from the collections in their reading room, regardless of whether there are any exhibitions on. They open for visitors Mondays to Fridays, and you can find all relevant information on their website.

No.32 – National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, Dublin, Ireland

NMI Archaeology 03

The National Museum of Ireland covers four sites, three of which are located in central Dublin. The first site I visited was the Archaeology museum, which is located next to the National Library (with matching gates and everything!). The collections cover every possible aspect of Archaeology and Antiquities – Prehistoric Ireland, Viking Ireland, Medieval Ireland, as well as Ancient Egypt, Ancient Cyprus and much more. The architecture of the museum is just as much of an exhibition piece as the objects itself, from it’s mosaic floors to its carved columns. The cafe was also very nice too, and had some gluten free sweet treats on offer – bonus!

NMI Archaeology 01

NMI Archaeology 02

The Archaeology Museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays (up to date opening times can be found on the museum’s website) and admission is free.

No.33 – National Museum of Ireland – Natural History


My final museum on Day 2 in Dublin, was the National Museum of Ireland’s Natural History Museum, just around the block from the Archaeology Museum. The ground floor is dedicated to ‘Irish Animals’, from the now extinct giant Irish deer to more contemporary creatures, and on the first floor you can find the ‘Mammals of the World’ exhibition, with everything from A for aardvark to Z for zebra. There are further upper levels, but these are unfortunately not accessible at present due to a lack of emergency exits.



The Natural History Museum – which is also known locally as the ‘Dead Zoo’ – opened its doors in 1857, and while improvements have been made to visitor access and learning opportunities, the traditional exhibition style and furnishings remain largely unchanged. The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays (up to date opening times can be found on the museum’s website) and admission is free.

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