Editorial Have you been to the National Museum of Archaeology in Kildare Street recently? I try to pop in for a look when I’m in Dublin—always a treat and, of course, it’s free, so always good value, whether you have five minutes or two hours to kill.
As you meander around the display cases of the Treasury, studying the intricate details on the artefacts, it can be easy to forget that this is the ‘shop window’ of an institution that does much more than display some of the best and most famous of our national treasures. It took years of work and curation to get these objects into their display cases, and the research of generations of experts to arrive at the information on the labels and other display panels.
The primary role of the National Museum is to preserve, interpret and display our material heritage, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Behind the scenes, new discoveries are reported, catalogued and stored, research is undertaken, outside researchers are welcomed and access to objects facilitated, vulnerable artefacts are conserved, queries from the public are answered and public engagement planned and carried out. Every artefact discovered in the State, no matter how, where or by whom, belongs to us all, and the Museum is the official custodian.
The institution also has an important role as a regulatory body in Irish archaeology, consulting in the licensing of excavations, processing licences to export or alter archaeological objects (e.g. for analysis or dating), consulting in the licensing of detection devices, informing Codes of Practice for bodies who might encounter archaeological sites, and in the drafting and revising of heritage legislation.
Summer 2018 Volume 32 No. 2 Issue No. 124
The recent news that the National Museum is to receive €85 million (to be divided between the Archaeology Museum in Kildare Street and the Natural History Museum) was met with delight and perhaps even a sense of relief. Heritage funding, including for our national repository, has been inadequate for a long time. Even during the boom years, when development-led archaeological excavations meant that the staff of the Museum were dealing with a massive volume of licences, consultations and acquisitions, the increased workload was not matched by necessary investment in the internal infrastructure.
By the time this issue of Archaeology Ireland leaves the printing press the NMI Master Vision Statement for the next fifteen years will have been announced, mapping out plans for all its sites up to 2032, including a complete refurbishment of the Kildare Street site. Those of us who are lucky enough to have ventured beyond the shop window are eagerly waiting to hear how the behind-the-scenes functions and facilities fit into those plans.
In the meantime, pop in for a visit next time you’re passing and bear in mind that you are looking at only a fraction of what the National Museum is holding in trust for all of us.
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