The new Irish Silver Museum which is home to one of the largest collections of Irish silver in the world was officially opened this week by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.
The museum offers visitors a journey through Irish history using beautiful, intimate and personal objects as a guide to the fascinating story of Ireland from the arrival of the Vikings to Ireland’s entry into the EEC in 1973.
Commenting on the opening Minister Donohoe said: “As Minister for Finance I am delighted that Section 1003 of the Finance Act enables important elements of our national and much-valued heritage to remain in or be repatriated to the country, to be enjoyed not just by the privileged owners of old but all the people of Ireland and visitors to our shores. I know that many of the items in this museum have been repatriated from overseas and collectively they show the richness and diversity in the craft of silver that has been practiced in Ireland for over twelve hundred years.”
Museum Director Eamonn McEneaney says, “Since the Viking period in Ireland silver has been a prized metal and a means of exchange. Most of the objects in the museum feature the initials of their makers and the coat of arms of their owners which allows each beautifully crafted piece to tell its own story, thus giving us a remarkable window into the past.”
The new Irish Silver Museum is a showcase of the social, economic and political history of Ireland through silver while also celebrating the great craft and skill of the smiths who created these very beautiful objects. It showcases our desire to celebrate and impress and to create lavish ceremonies around tea and coffee drinking as well as fine dining that was once almost a theatrical experience.
Highlights include the Waterford kite brooch, a sword granted to the city by Edward IV, silver which belonged to Dean Jonathan Swift, pieces from the most famous houses and powerful families in Ireland’s history as well as medals and commemorative items associated with some of the great events in Irish history.
The Mayor of Waterford commented, “This is a marvellous addition to Waterford’s cultural offering and we can now boast five award-winning museums. I would like to thank the collectors and benefactors who had the foresight to gift their superb collections to the people of Waterford, Ireland and the world. I want to particularly acknowledge and thank Noel and Stephanie Frisby for their civic-minded generosity in sharing their collections but also for underwriting the costs of developing the two magnificent museum galleries.”
Located at ‘The Deanery’ building in Cathedral Square, Waterford the museum stands above a medieval wine vault dating to the 1440s. The medieval building was originally the property of James Rice, a wealthy wine merchant and eleven-times Mayor of Waterford. Mayor Rice generously gifted the building to Dean John Collyn of Christ Church Cathedral in 1468. Collyn used it to house the priests who said Mass for the souls of the dead in his newly-built chantry chapel adjoining the Cathedral.
The Irish Silver Museum offers examples from the most talented Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Youghal, Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir silversmiths of the 1700s, including Ireland’s rare female silversmiths. In addition, Waterford-based goldsmith Paul Sullivan hosts his workshop and shop on the ground floor so that visitors can enjoy watching pieces of jewellery being created during their visit.
Welcome additional pieces on display are the Cheltenham Gold Cup won by ‘Minella Indo’ and the Randox Grand National trophy won by ‘Minella Times’ in 2021, presented by Henry de Bromhead on the day.
The Irish Silver Museum forms part of the Waterford Treasures Museums suite and is now the fifth museum within the Viking Triangle of Waterford City. It is open to visitors daily, tickets are €5 per person and available at www.waterfordtreasures.com and at all of the five museums.
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