Friday 24 November 2017

Museum's treasures to stay hidden

Slump keeps 4.5 million items out of public view

Chris Harbridge of the registration department at the National Museum, beside a Victorian coach
Chris Harbridge of the registration department at the National Museum, beside a Victorian coach
Chris with a collection of period furniture
A Victorian doll's house also kept in storage

Fiona Ellis

THESE are some of the hidden historical treasures the public will never get to see because funds aren't available to display them.

From Victorian carriages and Georgian sleighs, to meteorites and ritual masks from New Guinea, the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, has hundreds of intriguing and important artefacts that can't be exhibited because the recession has put an end to expansion.

In total the museum has almost 4.5 million artefacts in storage.

Although there never would be space or a need to exhibit every single item, Dr Patrick Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland, said budgetary restraints meant there were items the public deserved to see but could not.


"All museums take in materials for centuries, so you're bound to have holdings and collections that exceed your ability to put them all on show at one time. There are elements we have in storage which I think should be on display. We had big plans, although the recession has now stopped us."

The doctor on the last voyage of Captain Cook almost 200 years ago was a Trinity College graduate who brought back hoards of items from his travels with the renowned explorer.

The collection includes ritual masks, clothes and even the boats that made the treacherous voyages all those years ago.

"This is a wonderful collection, one of the finest collections, and

I want to put that on display.

"The boats they brought back, masks used in rituals, clothes worn by the native people of New Guinea -- I'd love to see them out on display," Dr Wallace said.

Two other collections that are hidden away include collections of geological items, including large meteorites that have been found in the country.

"We are the national museum, you'd be surprised at the amount we have," Dr Wallace added.

"I think we could expand more, in Dublin and in branch museums around the country. Maybe if we had three or four branch museums we could put some of this stuff out on display."

However, the recession has put a stop to any expansion he may want.


Dr Wallace said his priorities were focused on trying to keep his current exhibitions open rather that trying to raise funds for new ones. "The only thing I'm worried about at the moment are the staff cutbacks.

"We're being told that we have to cut back staff and it's very hard to do that in an institution like a museum.

"If they take staff off me, I'll have to close sections of the museum. That's my current worry -- not will I get €5m for a new ethnographic museum."

Irish Independent

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