National Museum seeks to reclaim Celtic festival of Samhain

Festival which gave the world Halloween is celebrated in new exhibition

The Irish gave the feast of Samhain to the world, which became Halloween, and a new exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland is seeking to claim it back.

The 2014 Samhain project is a collaborative venture involving the National Museum of Ireland, Age & Opportunity and Poetry Ireland.

The photographs in the exhibition depict landscapes and sites in Northern Ireland that were important to the Celtic people and where objects from the Celtic past, now on display in various national museums both north and south of the border, were discovered.

In Dublin, the participants worked with musician Robbie Blake and composer Elaine Agnew to create a soundscape that reflects their experience of the Celtic Samhain.


The Samhain group in Mayo were involved in a series of workshops with poet Terry McDonagh to create writings, poetry and stories that reflect the folklore of Samhain. The group also had a workshop with well-known storyteller Eddie Lenihan.

National Museum of Ireland head of education Lorraine Comer said she hoped the exhibition will allow the public to reflect on issues surrounding death and dying.

“The project aims to make connections between these themes and related objects in the National Museum’s collections of artefacts,” she said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times