­­­­Heritage Week 2022: Suggestions for Objects for the Museum of Childhood Ireland

For Heritage Week 2022 the Museum of Childhood Ireland is asking members of the public to make suggestions of objects that they would like to see in the Museum.

Do you have an object that that tells a story about the history of children and childhood in Ireland?  Or can you think of an item that you think is essential for any museum portraying the experience of children and youth in Irish society in the past?

If so, let us know.  The Museum is looking for suggestions of items that should be included in its exhibitions.  Send an image of your suggestions to objects@museumofchildhood.ie with a few sentences as to why you think it is important (no more than 250 words).

To give you some ideas, we asked members of the History Team in the Museum to present short videos on an item or items that they believe reveals an important aspect of the history of childhood in Ireland.  The videos are now available on the Heritage Week 2022 website:  https://www.heritageweek.ie/projects/objects-for-the-museum-of-childhood-ireland-4

Professor Eileen Murphy chose a replica of a poignant medieval grave of a young girl and boy who were buried together in Ranelagh, Co. Roscommon.  Professor Murphy demonstrates how studying early burials from the perspective of the history of childhood can tell us a great deal about attitudes to children in the early history of Ireland.

Professor Mary O’Dowd selected a diary begun by an eleven-year old girl from eighteenth-century County Kildare to illustrate the importance of listening to voices of children in historical archives.  The diary of Mary Leadbeater tells us a great deal about the life of an Irish teenager who lived over one hundred and fifty years ago.  Her interest in fashion and boys had much in common with more modern teenage girls!

Dr Mary Hatfield presents a fascinating description of the invention of infant weighing scales in the nineteenth century.  The scales enabled mothers to chart the weight and, hence, the health of their infants.  The increased sophistication of the weighing scales also contributed to the development of paediatric studies on children’s health.

In her presentation, Dr Marnie Hay stresses the significance the uniforms worn by young people who joined organisations such as the Boy Scouts or Girl Guides.  Uniformed organisations for youth flourished in early twentieth century Ireland.  Some were expansions of groups founded in England while others emerged from the Gaelic revival of the period. A museum exhibition might trace the ways in which the uniforms changed over time as the  militaristic image gave way to a more casual and, most importantly, affordable look.

Dr Richard McElligott continued the emphasis on youth organisations and identifies as important objects for the museum the publications produced by the nationalist/Gaelic revival for youth, particularly young boys.  Historians have made use of these publications to trace the Gaelic revival but Dr McElligott is one of the first to explore what they tell us about the experiences of young people during this important period in Irish history.

Another source that reveals a great deal about the experiences of children and youth in the Irish past are photographs.  In her presentation Dr Sarah-Ann Buckley points to the large collections of historical photographs that survive in Irish archival institutions.  Her research explores the value of this material for a history of children and childhood.  They will make an accessible and attractive contribution to museum exhibitions.  She looks, in particular, at a photograph of three teenage sisters (the O’Hallorans) who lived in late nineteenth-century Co. Clare.

Lorraine McEvoy also selected a photograph for her item for the Museum of Childhood Ireland.  She chose a photograph of children who came to Ireland in the aftermath of war-torn Europe in the philanthropic project entitled Operation Shamrock.  Many of the children came from Germany and Lorraine traces their experiences in Ireland.  Operation Shamrock was an important development in post-war Europe and is a reminder that the history of childhood in Ireland includes children born in Ireland but also those who came to the island from different parts of the world.

Don’t forget to send us your ideas for an object that you think tells a story about the history of children and youth on the island of Ireland (email: objects@museumofchildhood.ie).