The National Museum of Ireland (NMI) is the national cultural institution charged with the responsibility of collecting and preserving the portable material heritage of Ireland. Its collections tell the story of Ireland from many perspectives; its art, history, people and environment, across its four collection divisions and public museums; Decorative Arts and History (Collins Barracks, Dublin), Irish Archaeology (Kildare Street, Dublin), Natural History (Merrion Street, Dublin) and Irish Folklife (Turlough Park House, Castlebar, Co. Mayo).
The NMI is entrusted to collect, curate, preserve and interpret these collections relating to Ireland, its people at home and abroad, and its history and place in the world. We work to present a fully-rounded history of the life of Ireland over millennia to over one million visitors annually through exhibitions, education programmes, outreach, online initiatives and events.
NMI Collins Barracks is home to the Decorative Arts and History Museum, which has a wing dedicated to the military history of Ireland. Its award winning exhibition Soldiers and Chiefs – The Irish at War at Home and Abroad from 1550 to the present day traces Ireland’s military history from 1550 into the 21st Century, using over 1,000 objects from all over the world over 1,700 square metres of Collins Barracks, the oldest military barracks in Ireland.
This exhibition uses original artefacts, letters, replicas and interactives to show how soldiering and warfare have affected the lives of Irish people, both combatant and civilian, at home and abroad. It explores Irish military history over three main themes: Soldiering in Ireland (the British Garrisons in Ireland, and the Gaelic Wars from 1550 to 1798), Soldiering Abroad (the Wild Geese in military service across the world, and in the American Civil War) and Soldiering in the 20th and 21st Century which covers the wars for independence and civil war, the Irish in the World Wars, the formation of the Irish Army, and UN Peacekeeping in modern times.
The Military History section of the NMI’s collections are developing further to be able to tell the history of the continuing conflict on the island Ireland post Partition and the creation of the Irish Free State, up to and including the history of The Troubles era across the island of Ireland. These collections are being developed specifically to be part of the display in the upcoming exhibition Éire a Athrú – Changing Ireland: stories from the collections 1900 to 2020 (projected opening date October 2024), which will explore Ireland’s modern century to the present time. This also builds on the existing collection of printed material from the northern counties during The Troubles era – known in the NMI as Cnuasach Uladh – the Ulster Collection – which was gathered and donated by Mr Joe Nolan from the 1970s to the 1990s.