The Collections

The collections of Cork Public Museum are as rich and diverse as the history of the city itself. We are particularly proud of our archaeological collection that features some of the most important archaeological finds from this region. Among them is Ireland’s oldest Pick and Shovel, discovered in a Bronze Age copper mine in Mount Gabriel, the Iron Age Cork Helmet Horns and the Garryduff Gold Bird, a triumph of Early Medieval skill and craftsmanship. Our ethnography collection contains some of the finer examples of workmanship from areas as far away as Australia, New Zealand and the South Seas Islands.

Classical archaeology is also represented in Cork Public Museum with a small but impressive collection of artefacts from ancient Egypt and Greece. The importance of Cork as a thriving medieval town is explored in an exhibition that contains objects excavated from recent digs around the medieval town wall. This exhibition also serves to remind us that archaeology is a constantly evolving area where new discoveries are being made everyday.

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Cork Public Museum places a particular emphasis on the trades and crafts of Cork and this is reflected in the magnificent collection of Cork silver on permanent display in the museum with pieces dating as far back as the late 18th century. Some of the more recent pieces include a fine collection of Republican silver, so called because of the period during the War of Independence when any silver made here could not be sent to Dublin to be assayed and so were given a special Cork hallmark. The wealth of Cork’s lace making tradition is beautifully represented in our collection of Yougal Lace.

From a historical point of view, the museum focuses on Cork’s own contribution to the fight for Irish Independence. In our 1916 to 1921 exhibition we commemorate the special role that Cork men and women played in the War of Independence. Particular attention is paid to the parts played by Tomas MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney , first and second Republican Lord Mayors of Cork who both died in 1920. The museum also holds a large archive of 18th and 19th century documents pertaining to important historical events of those centuries. Of particular note in these collections are the illuminated address presented to Parnell by the Corporation of Cork and the Cobh Famine Relief Book.

2005 is a very exciting year for Cork Public Museum. In addition to celebrating Cork’s designation as the European Capital of Culture, we are celebrating the inauguration of our new extension, a state of the art, modern museum, worthy of Cork, European Capital of Culture 2005.

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The extension has increased the amount of exhibition space currently available to us. This will allow us to exhibit, finally, many of the fine artefacts that have been kept in storage unseen over the years. The collections previously on view at the museum have been embellished with new innovations and artefacts never seen before. The permanent exhibition is housed at ground floor level, while the first floor holds our temporary exhibition galleries, named The Dalton and O’Kelly Galleries in honour of the museum’s first curators. These temporary exhibition galleries have been purpose built to international criteria, they are air conditioned to guarantee a stable environment of 20-25 ° c and 50-55% Relative Humidity. The lighting system is also highly specialised and we will be able to adjust the light levels to suit the appropriate conservation requirements of any object or artefact. This will enable us to mount temporary exhibitions of the highest standard.

Among the material that will be on display for the first time ever is our ethnographic collection of native artefacts from such diverse places as Australia, Africa, New Guinea and the South Sea Islands. We also have a selection of objects from the classical world of Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome on display. We also have an exhibition devoted to the Cork International Exhibition, Cork sport, including a Roy Keane Manchester United UEFA Cup Jersey and singlet belonging to Sonia O’Sullivan. Our new costume case displays a Regency dress, 19th century wedding dress, Huguenot costume as well as Hooded Cloaks from West Cork. Various accessories such as a fan, a dressing case and hand made shoes are also on display.