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Irish Wars 1919 – 1923 | The National Museum’s Excellent Exhibition

The refurbished Irish Wars 1919 – 1923 exhibition is currently on display at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History in Collins Barracks.

The collection forms part of the permanent exhibition Soldiers and Chiefs. Yet, it has been substantially reimagined in conjunction with the museum’s Decade of Centenaries Commemorations. Visitors will see more than 50 newly displayed objects, new graphics and AV elements, as well as some new topics of discussion including civil disobedience, imprisonment, hunger strikes, propaganda, women in warfare and the effects of the conflict on civilian populations. The probing of these subject matters aims to increase public understanding of this complex period in Ireland’s history.

Items returning to display from the National Museum of Ireland’s reserve collection after 15 years include the death masks of Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha and Terence MacSwiney. The exhibition will also feature two key artefacts on loan from private family collections. One of these is an IRA Intelligence File which has been digitised and shown publicly for the first time. The other is hair shorn from a woman in a ‘bobbing’ or ‘punishment shearing’, found in the possession of Michael Barry when he was arrested in 1920.

Other objects new to the exhibition include the note written by Arthur Griffith on the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty declaring ‘The end of the conflict of centuries is at hand’; the RIC handcuffs worn by Seán Hogan when he was rescued by the Tipperary Brigade IRA at Knocklong in 1919; experimental weapons made by the IRA; items used in escapes from the Lincoln, Mountjoy and Kilmainham prisons; and the propeller of the British airplane destroyed at Kilfinane, Co. Tipperary in 1921.

The exhibition is supported by a wide range of multi-media. This includes contemporary newsreel film provided by the Irish Film Institute. The footage features stop and searches, funerals, IRA captures and destruction from the period between 1919 and 1923.

Dr Maurice Manning, Chair of the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations, said of the exhibition in a statement: “There are many different perspectives and views as to how these very complex events, and all whose lives were affected during this period, should be remembered.  Throughout the Decade of Centenaries, as a people, we have shown great maturity and understanding in exploring our past, embracing its complexities and nuances in an inclusive and respectful manner.”

“Our National Cultural Institutions have a very important role in this process as custodians of our history and culture. They create opportunities for people of all ages and traditions to explore and reflect upon this divisive period in our history.  The National Museum has delivered on this in this exhibition by presenting our history in that measured tone which is so essential.”

Like all the museum’s exhibitions, entry to the Irish Wars 1919 – 1923 collection is free. For more information, visit www.museum.ie.

Featured Image Credit – Courtesy of National Museum of Ireland – E Coy A.S.U 3RD Batt., Dublin Brigade IRA patrolling on Grafton Street, July 1921

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