The Story of Irish Museums 1790-2000: Culture, Identity and Education

Author Marie Bourke
Condition Very Good
Cover Type Hardback

This is the first book to give a long-term and comprehensive account of the stories, the histories and the evolution of Irish museums and galleries. From 1790, when the ‘cabinet of curiosities’ was an important asset in a gentleman’s home to the new millennium, when museums and galleries are at once physical and virtual spaces, this is a fascinating history of the human desire to collect, catalogue, conserve and create stories around our shared heritage. As such, it incorporates the founding and the progression of the key institutions in Irish cultural history, the collectors and collections that form the basis of the national collections, the public role of the museum, the theoretical models upon which modern museums were established and the cross-cultural influences that allowed the museum cultures of Britain and America to find fertile ground in Ireland. In short, this is a vivid and engaging examination of why museums matter to society, and how much they matter. This thoroughly researched, far-reaching book examines two key aspects of the museum tradition in Ireland: the history of the museum, including its place in society and associated notions of nationhood; and the future of the museum as a focus of learning and enjoyment for all members of society. As such, it represents a new departure in literature on this subject, pushing the analysis further and throwing the net wider to include many noted international museums and galleries. The author brings museum buildings and their contents to life in a very new way. The stories behind the collections make for fascinating reading. The reader quickly begins to appreciate the nature of the cultural space provided by the museum/gallery and to understand that beyond housing the collections for which they were created, these spaces are far more than architecture and objets d’art-they are a direct reflection of social mores in any given period, of artistic trends and counter-trends, of the politics of a nation and of the aspirations of those who use ‘culture’ for various agenda. Marie Bourke’s book is the first of its kind, providing an erudite but accessible monograph on the history of the museum/gallery in Ireland within an international context, while at the same time making a strong case for the future viability of those spaces in the age of global technology.