By Juliana Adelman
After more than 150 years in the same home the Dublin Natural History Museum is on the move. Due to the deterioration of their building on Merrion Square and the postponed project to rehabilitate it, the Dead Zoo has moved part of its collections to the Decorative Arts and History department in Collins Barracks (Museum stop on the Red Line Luas). I visited it yesterday and although it is a very nice exhibit and an excellent way of keeping the museum’s collections available to the public, I despair at the thought that the museum may never be reopened in its original building. Everyone has heard the ‘museum of a museum’ tag given to the collection, but does the public or the government for that matter really understand the significance of the treasure that it owns? With few exceptions the Dublin Natural History museum looked, when it was open, EXACTLY as it had looked at least 100 years earlier. This is not simply an out-moded museum, it is a time capsule. There are few opportunities for studying so complete a specimen of the material culture and display of the late nineteenth century. Natural history museums which were expanded around the same time, such as the Agassiz Museum at Harvard, have been altered in order to appeal to the supposed tastes of a modern audience. If you ever had the pleasure of visiting the old Dead Zoo you know that children do not care for interactive computer screens nearly as much as they absolutely love looking at animals. If you want a taste of what you have missed or are missing, please go and support the temporary exhibition in Collins Barracks. Many original cases have been transported and some specimens from its extensive stores are on display. Interestingly enough it was initially government neglect after the establishment of the Free State that caused the museum’s preservation and we can only hope that the current neglect has such a benign impact.