Irish traditional boats inspiring the next generation

Since opening in 2001, the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life has encouraged cooperation with third level institutions and we continue to strengthen those relationships. The Irish Folklife collection, and the various staff who work with the collection, provide valuable and relevant information to students who visit us at Turlough Park.

University of Galway Material Culture and Museums students with lecturer Conor Newman, Turlough Park. © National Museum of Ireland.

Over the past number of months, I have met with several student groups that booked behind-the-scenes tours of our reserve collection. Our reserve collection is that section of the collection that is not on public display and is stored in buildings usually only accessed by Museum staff. The reserve collection is continually worked on by staff who record object details and carry out research. The reserve collection is also regularly viewed, by appointment, by external researchers, experts, academics, authors and artists who have a particular interest in a related subject matter. Any group interested in booking a tour should do so through our Bookings Office.

A visit from MA students from UCD, and their lecturer Bairbre Ní Fhloinn, was recently followed by two visits from University of Galway students and lecturer Conor Newman. Most recently, I gave a tour to fourth year students from ATU Mayo and their lecturer Niamh Hearns.

Fourth year students from ATU Mayo with lecturer Niamh Hearns, Turlough Park. © National Museum of Ireland.

The tours are a great opportunity to talk about our work developing the boat gallery and students are always interested in the stories behind the boats currently in our stores. The University of Galway group are students of the university’s Material Culture and Museums course. The course introduces students to material culture and museums and combines classroom instruction on the teaching collection and digital platforms with site visits to the National Museum of Ireland and Galway City Museum. The group was particularly interested in the role of a curator and the boat gallery development offered a perfect example of that work.

Designer Peter Sheehan works with students in various design colleges. In 2022, Peter developed a non-formal educational experience for students at ATU Connemara. He is currently working on an installation titled ANAM. As part of his research, Peter viewed our collection of currachs last month to record the techniques used in building these simple but effective boats. The Irish traditional boats continue to inspire.

A beautiful currach built by designer Peter Sheehan. © Peter Sheehan.

My thanks to the students and lecturers from UCD, University of Galway and ATU Mayo and to Peter Sheehan.

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