Museums Awarded for High Standards in Collections Care and Management

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The MSPI “sets out to improve all aspects of Ireland’s museum practice and, in particular, to raise the standards of care for collections across Irish museums and galleries.

A museum dedicated to the memory of one of the 1916 Proclamation signatories, Padraig Pearse, and his brother, William, based in his former school at St. Enda’s Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin, has achieved the highest standard possible under a museum national standards programme run by the Heritage Council. The museum, run by the Office of Public Works, also achieved a longstanding ambition this year with the launch of a new permanent exhibition on the life of Padraig Pearse, and last year it held a total of 30 different events. 

And the programme, called the Museum Standards Programme for Ireland (MSPI), which started in 2006 with just 12 participants, now has 57 museums around the country, both North and South,  participating in it.

The Pearse Museum was one of seven of Ireland’s museums to be awarded the top standard of Full Accreditation, which requires complying with all 34 designated standards under the MSPI. It takes about five years to achieve all the standards and now, of the 57 participants in the programme, 29 museums have achieved full accreditation and 11 others have been awarded interim accreditation. 

Speaking at an awards ceremony today, in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, the Chairman of the Heritage Council, Mr. Conor Newman, said  the MSPI “sets out to improve all aspects of Ireland’s museum practice and, in particular, to raise the standards of care for collections across Irish museums and galleries. A voluntary programme, it has attracted involvement across the cultural spectrum, from national institutions to small, volunteer-led organisations”.

Today’s announcement followed an extensive assessment programme carried out by a team from the Heritage Council. Of the seven museums awarded Full Accreditation, four – Castletown House (OPW) in Co. Kildare; Donegal County Museum in Letterkenny; the Old Library, Trinity College Dublin, and the Pearse Museum – retained Full Accreditation that had been previously won, while three others – Athy Heritage Centre-Museum, Co. Kildare; the Louth County Museum in Dundalk, and Fota House, Irish Heritage Trust, in Co. Cork – were achieving Full Accreditation for the first time.

Two other museums – the Irish Agricultural Museum, Co. Wexford, and the Michael Davitt Museum, in Straide, Co. Mayo – were awarded Interim Accreditation.

Additional Information on Individual Winners:

Pearse Museum, OPW – Maintains Full Accreditation under Museum Standards Programme for Ireland (MSPI)
Originally awarded Full Accreditation in 2012, its Assessor commented: “The curator is to be congratulated on the exemplary fashion in which he manages and animates a museum which, for many, presents a complex story, dealing with concepts and ideals, matters which are difficult to communicate in any format, be they artistic or literary...”.

“The Museum continues to mount a very impressive educational and general activities programme….  including a series of lead-in exhibitions on aspects of the life of Padraig Pearse; [these are] innovative and of a high standard of interpretation and presentation, an achievement in a museum devoted largely to political and educational ideas and concepts as much as to the life and times of the Pearse family”.

Castletown House (OPW), County Kildare – Maintains Full Accreditation
Originally awarded Full Accreditation in 2012, its Assessor said that: “Castletown benefits both from an enthusiastic staff team and from recent investment by the OPW. The period since it achieved Full Accreditation has seen major developments, albeit primarily in connection with the estate and grounds rather than the core of the historic house and its collections. 

“Nonetheless, this investment has contributed to a substantial increase in the number of people participating in the guided tours that are the primary means of access to, and interpretation of, the historic house. Staff demonstrate a commitment to achieve high levels of visitor satisfaction….”.

Donegal County Museum, Letterkenny – Maintains Full Accreditation
Originally awarded Full Accreditation in 2011, the Assessor said: “Donegal County Museum is to be commended on its success during challenging financial times in maintaining all the core elements of the Museum, including a good programme of exhibitions, lectures, workshops and other events. This was achieved largely through successful grant applications from many funding bodies, and by developing partnerships with other museums, groups and organisations, thus tapping into further sources of support and funding.  

“An example of the latter is the PEACE III funded Plantation to Partition project of 2012/2013, a major initiative led by Derry City Council’s Heritage and Museum Service, and involving Donegal County Council and its County Museum as well as other District Councils in Northern Ireland.  

“Other exhibitions organized by Donegal County Museum on themes such as the Ulster Plantation, the Flight of the Earls, the two World Wars, and Donegal Sporting Heroes, are intended for touring…. Another noteworthy achievement is a grant in 2014 from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for digitizing the original records of Letterkenny Workhouse.  With Donegal County Museum based in the only remaining part of the original workhouse, this project is a highly appropriate one”.

Old Library, Trinity College Dublin – Maintains Full Accreditation
Awarded Full Accreditation in 2012 for the first time, the Assessor said that “as with the original application for Accreditation, the quality of the application and standards demonstrated during the site visit was extremely high, reflecting the continued professionalism and commitment of the staff at the Old Library. …

“The Old Library is currently facing a future where they are responding to rapidly increasing visitor figures and audience expectations for digital access to collections, whilst balancing these drivers with the needs of a nationally important collection. The Old Library has continued to provide a high level of collections care and access in a challenging environment. In particular areas of work, particularly collections care, preservation and training, the work of the staff continues to exceed current best practice and stands as an exemplar of high quality stewardship”. 

Athy Heritage Centre-Museum, Co. Kildare – Awarded Full Accreditation for the first time.
The museum entered MSPI in 2010 and was awarded Interim Accreditation in 2013. Its Assessors said the assessment process is challenging for such a small institution.  “The achievement of meeting all the Standards is, without question, a major achievement which has been made possible by the commitment and enthusiasm of the entire Museum team, including volunteers and Directors.

“The particular strength of the Museum lies in the fact that so much is achieved by so few staff.  This is due to a firm commitment to public engagement through the collections, in particular those telling the story of the locally-born Antarctic explorer Earnest Shackleton, and the 1903 Gordon Bennet motor race which was centred on Athy.”

County Museum, Dundalk, Co. Louth – Awarded Full Accreditation
The Louth County Museum in Dundalk is the seventh museum in the Local Authority Museums Network to achieve Full Accreditation under the Programme.

Its Assessors said that “County Museum Dundalk continues to offers an interesting and varied programme of events and exhibitions.  Behind the scenes, the collection is very well documented and looked after ...due to professionalism of its staff.”  County Museum Dundalk has been at the forefront in using new technology in museums and celebrated a European first with the installation of a virtual presenter.  The museum is also a ‘Stream Museum’ broadcasting on the internet.  It is currently showing ‘Their Story – An Exhibition on the Irish in World War One’.  

Fota House, Irish Heritage Trust, Co. Cork – Awarded Full Accreditation
The Assessors said: “There is a strong visitor focus with the provision of an excellent guided tour, an informative, lively and current website, high quality printed materials and a good range of formal and informal learning opportunities for schools, families and lifelong learners. The Irish Heritage Trust clearly demonstrates a strong commitment to the Fota House volunteers, with training, CPD and good communications. 

“Fota House is particularly strong on collections care and has very quickly established and implemented good practice from scratch.  Since applying for interim Accreditation, a new post of Museums Standards and Property Care has been established at Fota House which shows the Irish Heritage Trust’s commitment to attaining and maintaining the standards of the MSPI”.

Irish Agricultural Museum, Co. Wexford – Awarded Interim Accreditation
The Heritage Council has confirmed the museum meets all 25 standards required for Interim Accreditation. Its Assessors said it was a “wonderful example of how the dedication and enthusiasm of a few individuals can produce a varied archive of significance to the history of Irish agriculture. The commitment of the trustees is matched by the professionalism of the small number of staff and volunteers involved…. 

“The creation of an attractive and very welcoming entrance complex has done much to improve the visitors’ arrival, providing new shop and improved café facilities. The further extension of the museum displays by providing a new building in recent years has further enhanced the level of visitor experience and has given significant opportunities for the trustees, staff and volunteers to develop new displays”.

Michael Davitt Museum, Straide, Co. Mayo – Awarded Interim Accreditation 
The Heritage Council has confirmed the museum meets all twenty-five standards required for Interim Accreditation. This is a significant achievement for this small museum dedicated to the founder of the Land League, Michael Davitt; owned by a voluntary body, the Michael Davitt National Memorial Company, and operated by Foxford Development Association in a community employment scheme funded by the Department of Social Protection.  

Located in Straide village, it is housed in the pre-Penal church where Michael Davitt was christened.  Working through the standards the museum received grants from the Heritage Council to help install  UV filters on all the church windows and LED lighting to filter out light harmful to the collection.  The museum is currently showing an exhibition of Glasgow Celtic football jerseys, historic and contemporary: Michael Davitt was the first patron of Glasgow Celtic football club.

The Heritage Council and the museum’s Assessors commended the commitment and perseverance of the museum’s board, in particular its honorary curator, Nancy Smyth.  Much credit is also due to the manager supported by an enthusiastic team for the immense effort and commitment they have put into the accreditation process.