An extremely rare dodo bird, a tricolour that's been to the moon, lunar rocks and the fossil of a Jurassic 'sea dragon' are among the rare artefacts that will soon be accessible to the public after being hidden away for decades as part of an €85m refurbishment of the National Museum of Ireland, it was announced yesterday.
The skeleton of the dodo, a flightless bird native to Mauritius that has been extinct for centuries, is one of just 20 left in the world. But due to the lack of accessible exhibition space at the crumbling Natural History Museum on Merrion Street, it has been kept hidden away from the public since 2007.
The dodo, along with a tricolour that travelled to the moon and back as part of the Apollo 15 landing in 1971 as well as lunar rocks collected by astronauts, are among tens of thousands of artefacts stored away or never exhibited before due to space and other physical limitations, according to Nigel Monaghan, keeper of the National History Museum.
Other rarely seen treasures - including a seven-metre long fossil of a Rhomaleosaurus marine dinosaur or sea dragon, and the remains of 40,000 year-old hyenas that once roamed Cork - should be on display within the next three to four years once restoration of the Natural History Museum is complete, according to Mr Monaghan.
The massive restoration and refurbishment project of all four National Museum of Ireland sites is part of a 15-year plan unveiled by Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan yesterday.
It will be the State's largest single infrastructure investment in culture and heritage under the Government's Project 2040 development blueprint.