Heritage hot spots: History, nature, art, environment

Sat, Jul 7, 2012, 01:00

National Maritime Museum of Ireland

What is it?The National Maritime Museum of Ireland, in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, celebrates our marine heritage with its collection of artefacts from ships and lighthouses. It reopened last month after six years of renovation works.

Why visit?The museum is housed, appropriately, in the 19th-century Mariners’ Church, the landmark former Church of Ireland building designed for seafarers using the harbour.

When he reopened the museum, President Michael D Higgins called the church the greatest artifact in the museum’s collection. “It is one of the few large mariner church buildings in the world today. Even the prison boxes, for holding ships’ prisoners during religious services, are intact,” he said.

Other artefacts include the Baily optic, the light from the Baily lighthouse in Howth, which was removed in 1972; a clockwork model of the SS Great Eastern, which was the largest ship in the world when it was built, in 1857; and several other models of ships. You can also learn about the history of lifeboats and spectacular wrecks off the Irish coastline.

The oldest Dublin Bay Water Wag is on display alongside a traditional currach.

Why now?A new exhibition, Lost Sailors, opened yesterday. It tells the stories of sailors lost at sea through sculpture, prose and portraits. A soundtrack has been written by Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy and Cathy Davey. The exhibition runs until July 31st.

A show about the findings of the French research ship Tara, which opens today and continues until August 31st, features photographs taken during surveys of remote coral reefs as part of the Tara Oceans Expedition to Mauritius and the Gambier Islands.

In the longer term, the museum hopes to open the church spire as a viewing tower, looking across Dublin Bay, and to reopen the Maritime Library.

How do I get there?Mariners’ Church is on Haigh Terrace, a few minutes walk from Dún Laoghaire Dart station. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday (and on public holidays) from 11am to 5pm. Admission €5/€3; families €10; 01-2800969; mariner.ie.


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