Ireland at the Movies: The Little Museum of Dublin

Last week, some relatives visited Dublin. They make it an annual affair, not just to see their nephews and nieces but to wander through a city and a country that has almost become a second home. They traipse through the capital’s streets without a map or an agenda and love to explore Dublin’s cultural and historic hub quite haphazardly.

Over dinner, they detailed this year’s most memorable jaunt with even more energy and excitement than we have come to expect. Having browsed the paintings and sketches of local artists on the gates of St Stephen’s Green, they crossed the road and came upon a museum – but not the sort that they are used to. The Little Museum of Dublin is an amalgamation of history, culture, costume and anecdotes, which in text could appear to be a fractured experience, but in reality, you leave feeling somewhat more adept at articulating what makes Dublin so special.

The primary focus of their excitement was a new exhibition, ‘Ireland at the Movies: Costume in Irish Cinema 1987 – 2015’. Visiting the emerald isle only once a year, their memories of the people, the landmarks and the ‘craic’ are sustained through film. They feel a tangible connection in their ability to recognise a location or to determine whether the actor has a country or city brogue. Their highlight in travelling home was their ability to show neighbours, friends and family members photographs of them standing beside Michael Fassbender’s head and Kate Hudson’s wedding dress – not your typical holiday album.

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Having heard that ‘Ireland at the Movies…’ would be curated and created by costumier, Eimer Ní Mhaoldomnaigh, costume historian Veerle Dehaene and fashion journalist, Jo Linehan, my expectations for the exhibition measured very high but I had some concerns.I was worried that in the cosy setting of the Ireland Funds Gallery at The Little Museum of Dublin, it would be difficult to portray a narrative that appealed to Irish film aficionado’s whilst simultaneously proving interesting to those who have yet to hear of either Adam or Paul.

However, it works. It works so well and is one of the few exhibitions that you should visit with family members of different generations and share where you were and who you were with, when you first experienced Cillian Murphy’s sequins in ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ or Bronagh Gallagher’s toughened leather jacket in ‘The Commitments’.

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My favourite aspect is that the exhibition is free of glass cabinets and permits you to engage all of your senses to reminisce and discover the importance of clothes in shaping a character’s personality, emotions and cultural positioning on film.

As Extraordinary Woman Jo Linehan says:

‘Irish film has always been revolutionary, and we’re proud of that as a nation. And the costumes that tell that story are poignant. This is an exhibition that allows us to connect with the most intimate part of the process.’

‘Ireland at the Movies’ is worth your time and the small entry fee. It will remind you of happy memories and assist in the cultivation of new ones too. I have been to see it three times already and with each visit, I find myself compelled by a different costume or see new details up-close. However, if I had one complaint, it is that I am greedy and want more.

The exhibition has collated a mesmerising number of costumes that have been preserved in private collections or in attics but it offers merely a glimpse into the craft, skill and creativity employed in costumes in Ireland’s history of film, television and theatre. Can you imagine how powerful it would be to showcase Tom Vaughan Lawlor’s infamous ensembles as Nidge alongside Peter O’Brien’s costumes for the Gate Theatre and Joan Bergin’s creations for Riverdance? It would be spectacular and if anyone can do it, it will be Eimer, Veerle and Jo.

‘Ireland at the Movies: Costume in Irish Cinema 1987-2015’ is exhibiting at the Ireland Funds Gallery at The Little Museum of Dublin, in collaboration with Irish Design 2015 until September 28th. At most, tickets are €5 each but entry will be free on Culture Night, September 18th. 

Written by

Sinéad Burke is an academic and a writer with an obsessive interest in fashion, education and 'Extraordinary Women'. She is an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the National Women's Council of Ireland.

2 thoughts on “Ireland at the Movies: The Little Museum of Dublin

  1. Hi Minnie, I just came across your blog and I love it. Your piece on our costume exhibition is so refreshing. It’s the kind of honest feedback we have been looking for! We are hoping to expand and tour the exhibition, so, we’ll keep you posted! Eimer 🙂

    • Eimer,
      Thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition but can’t wait to see how it flourishes over the next few years. If I can help, or if you require my Frankie Starlight coat, please don’t hesitate to ask. Congratulations on all of your hard work and I hope the final weekend is a huge success.

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