Overview – Soldiers and Chiefs Exhibition, Collins Barracks
Acknowledging the need to collect, preserve, exhibit artefacts and material associated with military heritage, and noting the need for centres of research and learning, the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust encourages the establishment and funding of national, regional and local museums, and museums falling under the auspices of the Defence Forces, Veterans’ Associations and Regimental Associations. The Trust has developed a close relationship with the National Museum of Ireland and with museums in Northern Ireland in advancing military heritage. Examples include the Trust’s association with the Soldiers and Chiefs Exhibition in Collins Barracks, Dublin, and links with the Enniskillen Castle Museum – the Inniskillings Museum, County Fermanagh.
Military Galleries – Collins Barracks Dublin
From its inception in 2000, the Trust recognised that military museums are one medium through which the story of the Irish soldier can be told. Despite Ireland’s rich military tradition, the country did not have a dedicated national military museum accessible to the public. In contrast, such museums were in existence in Armagh, Belfast and Enniskillen.
Following the closure of Collins Barracks as a Defence Forces installation, the Government decided to hand over the vacated barracks to the National Museum of Ireland. In parallel, it was decided that the Defence Forces would provide a significant military component as part of the proposed permanent exhibit galleries reflecting Irish military history and heritage.
During the preparatory stage of establishing a permanent exhibition, consisting of Military Galleries in Collins Barracks, The Military Heritage of Ireland Trust established a close and enduring relationship with the National Museum of Ireland.
The Trust succeeded in obtaining the co-operation and support of the military museums in Northern Ireland for the development of the military galleries within the National Museum of Ireland in Collins Barracks, Dublin.
The National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks Dublin is home to a major award-winning exhibition on the Irish military experience. Encompassing an all Ireland approach, the exhibition tells the story of the Irish soldier. Opened in 2006, and titled “Soldiers and Chiefs: The Irish at War at Home and Abroad from 1550”, the exhibition consists of a number of galleries which explore the topic from an Irish perspective both thematically and chronologically.
The Exhibition won the award for the best exhibition in Ireland 2009 – 2010. The museum awards were jointly hosted by the Heritage Council in partnership with the Northern Ireland Museums Council.
Using original artefacts, letters, replicas and audio accounts the Exhibition shows how soldiering and war have affected the lives of Irish people.
These themes are explored through the eyes of the soldier and through those of civilians caught up in war and conflict both here in Ireland and overseas. The Exhibition consists of appropriate artefacts from the National Museum’s Arms and Armour, Costume, and Historical collections, with selected items from the Defence Forces extensive holdings of twentieth century equipment and memorabilia.
Original artefacts, such as the Stokes Tapestry, letters, replicas and interactives show how soldiering and war have affected the lives of Irish people over the centuries.
Military artefacts on display include unusual items such as the sword of one of Napoleon’s soldiers, playing cards taken from a pirate ship, Christmas cards and chocolate boxes from the trenches, a child’s gas mask, uniforms, rifles and the flag of the Irish Republic. It is hoped these will bring alive the military and social history of the Soldiers and Chiefs.