After our Dublin castle visit we set off on our ‘Stroll with me’ tour with the lovely Grainne Finn to hear about the history, culture and architecture of Dublin. I’ve never done a walking tour of Dublin before, even though it’s usually the first thing I do on city breaks, and most of my visits to Dublin have been for shopping and leisure so it was lovely to get a cultural perspective on the city. We walked from Dublin castle down to Trinity as Grainne outlined the history of Dublin, pointing out bullet holes from the 1916 uprising, and talking about the architecture of the Central Bank building in Dame Street. I was glad to finally get more information about Dublin castle, Grainne was very knowledgeable about the two statues either side of Bedford Tower that had been puzzling me. I thought it was quite amusing that the scales on Lady Justice were weighed down by heavy rain landing on the ‘British’ side of the scale because of the design of the statue, and that people took this literally to mean that justice was tipping in favour of the British rulers.
When we were visiting Trinity I spotted the Henry Moore sculpture ‘Reclining Connected Forms’ in Library Square, just past the Camponile. It’s believed to be bad luck for anyone who hasn’t graduated from their Trinity course to walk underneath it, so when I went back to see the sculpture the next day I took the long way round just in case it was a bad omen for my Masters! Grainne took us past the Long Library to see the Arnaldo Pomodoro sculpture of the ‘Sphere within a Sphere’. I had already seen the one in the Vatican courtyard, but this one seemed bigger in comparison. As we only had limited time Grainne gave us a shortened version of her full walking tour and I was left intrigued and wanting more so will be returning to take the full tour.
The next afternoon, after I’d explored the public sculptures in St Stephen’s Green we met at the Little Museum of Dublin. It was in a beautiful Georgian building right opposite the park, and I was really looking forward to seeing the museum as I knew it had only been open a couple of years. We had a tour of the museum, our guide was really funny and encouraged audience participation to keep everyone paying attention. I was impressed with the way political history was dealt with, it was mentioned and discussed but was not the focus of the tour. I enjoyed the focus on social and popular history, with events that everyone could remember and the familiarity of many of the objects, posters and photographs. Even though I didn’t grow up in Ireland I recognised many of the people in the photographs, several of the letters encouraged interaction because the frames could be moved to read the back. Above all the museum felt very homely, as if you were in someone’s living room because of the comfortable furniture and the period fireplace. I liked that the museum allows people to touch the collections, the majority of items are protected in frames so there’s no damage concerns.
After the tour we had a chat with Sarah, the Director of Development, who explained how the museum came about after a public appeal for historic artefacts, and how the museum is generously supported by the Friends of the Museum. I was particularly interested in the schools programme that the museum offers free of charge to local schoolchildren called ‘I love Dublin’. The workshop focuses on civic pride, encouraging children to think about why they love Dublin, and provides worksheets to stimulate discussion and learning about history and heritage. I felt really relaxed in the museum and really enjoyed my visit, I intend to return next time I’m in Dublin to take another tour and get a different tour’s guide perspective on the collection to see how it differs and whether different objects are highlighted.