An absolutely fascinating place, with exhibitions that illuminate the way that ordinary Irish country people lived and worked between 1850 and 1950.
There are regular demonstrations, music and dance performances and special events, all of which bring the past to life and are worth watching out for. A fascinating exhibition shows how Irish people in a pre-industrial age used the raw natural materials around them not just for food but to build houses and create the tools of everyday living.
Main Image: Museum of Country Life by carbide
Kids will love the various exhibitions on childhood, learning how children in the past dressed, played and ate and what school was like for them.
The effects of rapid rural development in the 1950s, including the arrival of electricity, better roads and transport and faster communications, changed a way of life that had continued pretty much in the same pattern for hundreds of years. This period of history is dealt with in an audio-visual presentation, Forces of Change, where people who lived through it talk about their experiences and how their lives were affected.
The house at the centre of the museum grounds, Turlough House, is a highly decorated and rather forbidding looking Victorian building, once home to the Fitzgerald family.
The drawing room and library are decorated as they would have been in around 1900, but the rest of the building is now given over to exhibitions, and it’s frankly quite difficult to imagine that anyone ever lived here.
They had a great garden though, and it’s still beautiful with wide stretches of grass and good planting leading down to a lake and a lovely old greenhouse which has been well restored.
In contrast, the new museum building , which is set beside the lake, is sleek and modern but sits very well in the surrounding landscape.
Visiting the Museum
The museum is open year round, from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday and 2pm to 5pm on Sundays. There is a good cafe.
Workshops for both adults and children teaching old craft skills are organised throughout the year but especially in summer and are very popular.
The shop here sells the work of today’s Irish craft workers and is a cut above your average tourist trap shop and a good place to buy quality souvenirs.
Allow at least 2-3 hours for a visit, but you could easily stay longer.
We chose this as a rainy day destination and a found it to be a wonderful place to learn about Irish history, especially interesting for those with Irish heritage, no doubt. The exhibits are well done and there is plenty to see.