WHAT YOU CANNOT DO AND YOU ARE BEING WATCHED
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The Museum of Decorative Arts and History is home to a wide range of objects which include weaponry, furniture, silver, ceramics and glassware, as well as examples of folklife and costume. The exhibitions have been designed in innovative and contemporary galleries. The Fonthill Vase, a Chinese porcelain vase made about 1300 A.D., is one of the rarest pieces in the museum. It is world-renowned as one of the best documented pieces of early porcelain. The William Smith O’ Brien Gold Cup, the Eileen Gray chrome table and the Lord Chancellor’s Mace are also among the highlights.
The initial buildings at Collins Barracks were started in 1702 and were designed by Captain Thomas Burgh. The complex, which includes eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings, housed troops continually for over three centuries. Originally the complex was known as ‘The Barracks’ , but changed in the early nineteenth century to the ‘Royal Barracks’ . In 1922 the whole complex was handed over to the troops of the Free State army and was immediately named Collins Barracks after Michael Collins, the first commander-in-chief of the Irish Free State.
In 1994, Collins Barracks was assigned to the National Museum of Ireland. The buildings were completely renovated and restored to become the Museum of Decorative Arts and History, which opened in September 1997. Three floors of exhibition galleries were refurbished on two of the wings of the best surviving square-Clarke Square. Over 2,500 square metres of space was devoted to the introductory exhibitions, outlining the museum’s chequered history and showcasing some of the prime collections long hidden from public view.
Today, Collins Barracks is the administrative headquarters for the four branches that now constitute the National Museum of Ireland. Since the first phase of exhibitions was formally opened, additional galleries have been added. These include the Riding School, which accommodates temporary exhibitions and a state-of-the-art conservation laboratory has also been opened on the western side of the site. When the large second-phase building is completed at Collins Barracks it will accommodate additional historical exhibitions and permanent galleries for both the Ethnographical and Earth Science collections.
The Museum of Decorative Arts and History is home to the Art and Industrial Division of the National Museum of Ireland. The Division is responsible for over a quarter of a million artefacts reflecting Irish economic, social, industrial, political and military history over the last three centuries. In addition to managing these collections, staff care for collections of Irish, European and Oriental decorative arts which give an understanding of international design and culture as they relate to Ireland.