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Museum of Country Life : Temporary Exhibitions Last Updated: 2, Apr 2018 - 10:02

Some Current Temporary Exhibitions
By Bernie Byron
16, Feb 2008 - 06:27

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Running until March 2008....

Island Life: the Islands of Ireland
In association with Fáilte Ireland & the Dept. of Community Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs

This exhibition of photographs features images of daily life on the islands around the coast of Ireland from the late nineteenth century onwards.  It also includes images of some non-coastal islands. The images span roughly a hundred years, starting in the late nineteenth century. They document a century of change. The photos come from the well-known Lawrence Collection, that unique record of life in Ireland at the turn of the nineteenth/twentieth centuries, also from the Diggin collection and from the camera of the great Colman Doyle.  While islands from all around the coast are included, the daily lives of the people on Achill Island, Oileáin Árainn, Valentia and Na Blascaodaí feature prominently.

And running until June 2008:

Take A Seat! An exhibition of Gallery Seating by students of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology at Letterfrack

This temporary exhibition is comprised of benches and chairs made in 2006 / 2007 by students of the Furniture Design and Manufacture programme at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology campus in Letterfrack. The students worked from a brief developed by staff of GMIT at Letterfrack and the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life to design seating suitable for the public visiting these exhibition galleries.  Further details available from the Education and Outreach Department.

Opening in April:

Romantic Stitches and Realist Sketches

An exhibition of knitwear and drawings at the National Museum of Ireland


An exciting new exhibition of knitwear and drawings will open at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo in April 2008.


The Museum exhibition will show a range of early 20th Century Aran knitwear and a series of drawings by Seán Keating RHA which was used to illustrate an early marketing brochure developed by businessman, Pádraig Ó Síocháin in the 1960s & 1970s to promote Aran knitwear worldwide.  The exhibition focuses on the unique marketing story of the Aran knitwear as well as highlighting some of the traditions associated with the stitches.


They were made in their thousands and exported and sold all over the world as a symbol of Ireland and a product of traditional folk art.  The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem adopted them as their stage outfit and spread their fame wherever they went.  The Aran jumper, the Aran sweater, the Aran gansey or geansaí were the names by which it was known from Kilronan to Dublin and from New York to Tokyo. The beginning of the story of Aran knitwear remains as elusive today as it ever was and while many have tried to unravel its secret we can still only speculate on how it all developed and became so famous.


The main players were the knitters themselves who lived not just on the Aran Islands, but in many other places especially along the west coast.  They were almost exclusively the women of the house and they plied their trade for the few shillings which the knitting of each jumper gave them.  They worked for the small merchants who sold the garments locally and also for the bigger businesses which helped develop the industry to one which achieved worldwide appeal.


Two of the main players from the business end of things were the late Muriel Gahan, a multi talented lady, who ran the Country Shop on St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin from the early 1930s to the late 1970s.  She encouraged the knitters by recognising their talent and skill.  She persuaded them to continue to add new stitches and produce a unique product which had both aesthetic appeal, and also comfort and style.  A second important player was the lawyer turned businessman, Pádraig Ó Síocháin.  Through his company, Galway Bay Products, he gave the knitters a ready outlet for their product in the 1960s and 1970s and built up a customer base in Europe and the United States. 


Today’s fashion designers are still finding influence in the Aran stitches from the internationally known Jean Paul Gaultier to our own Lainey Keogh and Joanne Hynes.


Admission to the exhibition is free. Opening times: Tues-Sat: 10am – 5pm; Sun: 2-5pm. Closed Mondays (incl. Bank Holidays).






Some recent Temporary Exhibitions:

3-10 December 2007.
Barrel Top Wagon Project & Traveller Life exhibition

In 2005, the V.E.C. in Swinford, Co. Mayo, ran a number of workshops with Traveller men in the East Mayo area in    order to provide them with trade and craft skills, traditionally part of Traveller culture, to help lead to future employment. The success of this project led to the building of a barrel top wagon in 2007, where the group worked with carpenters, tutors and artists, learning new skills and creating what they felt to be a traditional symbol which represented them as a community. 

This wagon will be on display in the grounds of the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, from the 3-10 December to coincide with Traveller Focus Week.  It will be complemented with a display on Traveller life in Ireland which will provide insight into the ways and traditions  of Irish Travellers using a wide variety of objects from the museum's collections. Come and learn about life on the road in a barrel top wagon.

8 December 2007 - January 2008
Christmas exhibition
This small exhibition will display objects relating to a typical Irish Christmas with panels and fact sheets giving visitors the opportunity to learn how Christmas would have been celebrated in Irish homes in the past. The exhibition will also coincide with a series of family events (workshops, Santa visit) being held in the Museum on Saturday 8 December.

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