Women in the museum


Sir, – I was very taken aback to read Joan Burton’s attack on the National Museum of Ireland (Home News, April 11th). Her assertion, as reported, that the National Museum is “hopeless on the subject of women” lacks any real basis in fact and is wholly unjustified.

At the Museum of Country Life branch of NMI just outside Castlebar, Co Mayo, considerable focus has been put the role of women in Irish life over the last number of years, in our programming and exhibitions.

In 2008-2009, the education and outreach department of the Museum of Country Life undertook a project with women from new communities in Ireland living the Co Mayo, exploring identities through cloth-working. The project, and the resulting exhibition, was called Common Threads. Each of eight women from four different nationalities made a garment that was then displayed in the museum galleries. Through the project, issues such as persecution and asylum-seeking, migration, alienation, acceptance and rejection, loneliness, difference and similarity were explored from the female perspective.

As a follow-up to this small-scale project, a major year-long temporary exhibition was mounted in 2015-2016 featuring the female experience of migration.

In this exhibition, called Migrant Women: Shared Experiences, the experiences of women who had migrated to Ireland in the late 20th and early 21st centuries were juxtaposed against those of Irish women who emigrated to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Our current temporary exhibition, Travellers’ Journey, was co-curated with women of the Traveller community and was opened by President Michael D Higgins in July 2018. It focuses on the richness and diversity of Traveller culture and together with its accompanying programme explores belonging and alienation.

Our next major temporary exhibition, Kitchen Power – Women’s Experiences of Rural Electrification, will explore the role of women in the rollout of the ESB’s rural electrification programme between the 1950s and the 1970s, together with the impact that this had on their lives. This will open in July 2019 and will run into 2020.

In 2018, our annual OnSight art project focused on the theme of the Suffragette and marked the centenary of the female franchise in Ireland. – Yours, etc,



Manager Keeper,

National Museum of Ireland

– Country Life,

Turlough Park,


Co Mayo.