Home / About Us / News / January 2020 / Refurbished 'Irish Wars 1919 - 1923' exhibition explores complex period in Ireland's history

Refurbished 'Irish Wars 1919 - 1923' exhibition explores complex period in Ireland's history

New theme interpretations include civil disobedience, imprisonment, hunger strike, propaganda, women in warfare and the effects of conflict on civilian populations


From left: Lynn Scarff, Director of the National Museum of Ireland, Dr Maurice Manning, Chair of the Expert Advisor Group on Centenary Commemorations, and Brenda Malone, Curator

The National Museum of Ireland has just launched a refurbished Irish Wars 1919-1923 exhibition aimed at increasing public understanding of a complex period in Ireland’s history.

Chair of the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations, Dr Maurice Manning, performed the official launch on Tuesday, January 21, at the National Museum of Ireland - Decoratives Arts & History, Collins Barracks, Dublin 7.

Irish Wars 1919 – 1923 forms part of the permanent exhibition Soldiers and Chiefs, but it has been substantially reimagined as part of the Museum’s Decade of Centenaries Commemorations.

Visitors to the exhibition will see 50 newly displayed objects, new graphics and AV elements, as well as new theme interpretations such as civil disobedience, imprisonment, hunger strike, propaganda, women in warfare and the effects of the conflict on civilian populations – all of which aims to increase public understanding of this complex period in Ireland’s history.

Items returning to display from the National Museum of Ireland’s reserve collection after 15 years, include the death masks of Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha and Terence MacSwiney.

The exhibition will also feature two key artefacts on loan from private family collections, an IRA Intelligence File which has been digitised and shown publicly for the first time and hair shorn from a woman in a ‘bobbing’ or ‘punishment shearing’, found in the possession of Michael Barry when he was arrested in 1920.

Other objects new to the exhibition include the note written by Arthur Griffin on the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty declaring ‘The end of the conflict of centuries is at hand’;  the RIC handcuffs worn by Seán Hogan when he was rescued by the Tipperary Brigade, IRA, at Knocklong, 1919;  experimental weapons made by the IRA; items used in escapes from Lincoln, Mountjoy and Kilmainham prisons; and the propeller of the British airplane destroyed at Kilfinane, Co. Tipperary, 1921.

The exhibition is supported by a wide range of multi-media, including contemporary newsreel film provided by the Irish Film Institute, of stop and searches, funerals, and IRA captures and destruction from the period 1919 – 1923.

Launching the exhibition, Dr Manning said:

"There are many different perspectives and views as to how these very complex events, and all whose lives were affected during this period, should be remembered.  Throughout the Decade of Centenaries, as a people, we have shown great maturity and understanding in exploring our past, embracing its complexities and nuances in an inclusive and respectful manner. 

Our National Cultural Institutions have a very important role in this process as custodians of our history and culture – in creating opportunities for people of all ages and traditions to explore and reflect upon this divisive period in our history.  The Museum has delivered on this in this exhibition, by presenting our history in that measured tone which is so essential."

Brenda Malone, Curator of the Irish Wars 1919 – 1923 exhibition, said:

"A distinct aspect of the reimagined Irish Wars exhibition is the focus on the personal stories of ordinary people, involved in atrocities and tragedies on both sides of the conflict. In developing it, we had the opportunity to expand and develop traditionally underrepresented stories, like the role of women in the conflict."