Heritage Council’s Museum Standards Programme for Ireland proves size doesn’t matter

Allihies Copper Mine Museum and National Museum of Ireland share the stage on day of recognition for the museum sector.

13 museums were celebrated at a ceremony in Kilkenny Castle today having achieved official accreditation under the Heritage Council’s Museum Standards Programme for Ireland (MSPI). Established to promote professional standards in museums, selection under the MSPI is a major accolade with accredited museums considered to have attained excellence across a range of areas.

Since its inception in 2006, the Irish museum sector has continued to embrace the programme with participation growing from 12 museum sites to 67 in 2022. Because no two museums are the same, the path to accreditation is different for all participants. Whereas museums with large collections may encounter challenges relating to storage and upkeep of large volumes of material, the volunteers in smaller museums may struggle to find the time or motivation to reach the MSPI standards.

Among the museums completing their journey to full accreditation today were the Allihies Copper Mine Museum (ACMM) and three National Museum of Ireland (NMI) sites; two very different museums which nonetheless share a sense of purpose and values.

*(Full list of accredited museums is available below)

Allihies Copper Mine Museum is a small rural museum located at the western tip of the Beara Peninsula in Cork. With an annual footfall of around 28,000, a collection of just over 300 items and run by a group of nine volunteers, their journey began in 1993 when a group of residents from the community came together to focus on Allihies’ mining heritage. Since then, they have had to contend with numerous setbacks and challenges.

“Mary McAleese officially opened the museum in 2007,” said Tadhg O’Sullivan, Chairman of the ACCM. “We had become very good at applying for and using capital grants to get to this point but it suddenly dawned on us that we didn’t actually have any idea how to run a museum day to day. In the early days, there were some very chaotic moments, particularly in terms of the café where nobody really knew what they were supposed to be doing. We hadn’t properly considered the interdependency between the various components of a museum that contribute to an overall great experience for the visitor.”

Tadhg and the entire staff learned from their mistakes and as has always been the case with the group, they have stopped at nothing to attain the highest standards. This commitment, coupled with participation in the MSPI, has resulted in the museum developing a formidable reputation both regionally and nationally.

The opportunities for funding and development that come hand in hand with this recognition have led to ACMM becoming one of the most popular attractions in the region, and a source of immense pride for the local community.

On the other hand, the National Museum of Ireland is Ireland’s largest and oldest cultural institution with around 200 employees, over 1 million visitors annually and a vast collection of items spread out over five individual sites. Ensuring that its approach to safeguarding its collections met the standards as set out in the MSPI was a hugely complex operation, but one which they have fulfilled with aplomb.

“From our point of view, the MSPI has provided a great opportunity to adhere to the best housekeeping standards for museums in the world,” said Audrey Whitty, Head of Collections and Learning at the National Museum of Ireland. “Even though it was logistically challenging for us, the way the programme is structured into the specialist categories of care for collections and visitors, governance and management standards, and education and exhibition programmes, made it as simple as possible for us.”

Both museums make valuable contributions to cultural life in Ireland and despite having taken different routes to achieving full accreditation, will share the stage today as equal members of a vibrant museum sector.

Commenting on today’s ceremony, Chairperson of the Heritage Council, Martina Moloney, said:

“The growing number of museums participating in the MSPI is testament to the regard in which it is held by the sector. It is wonderful to see representatives from so many different museums here today, all of whom have worked so hard to ensure the best possible standards are met; a commitment that has hugely positive benefits for cultural life in Ireland, for visitors to the museums and tourism in the country generally.”

Virginia Teehan, Chief Executive of the Heritage Council, said:

“It’s such a pleasure for me to welcome the award winners to this ceremony today to mark and celebrate the presentation of accreditation certificates under MSPI. This is the first live awards ceremony since 2019 after the online ceremonies held for 2020 and 2021’s award winners and so it is also only right that the certificate recipients from these years also be acknowledged today. These museums have worked very hard for their accreditation and richly deserve this recognition for their efforts.”

Press Contacts

Please contact Pearse Ó Caoimh to arrange an interview. T. 085-8590378 E. pocaoimh@heritagecouncil.ie

The museums receiving accreditation today are:

Full Accreditation

Allihies Copper Mine Museum, Beara Peninsula
Irish Agricultural Museum, The Irish Heritage Trust, Johnstown Estate, Co. Wexford
National Museum of Ireland: Country Life
National Museum of Ireland Decorative Arts & History
National Museum of Ireland Collections Resource Centre

Maintenance of Accreditation

Castletown, OPW
Clare Museum
County Museum, Dundalk
Heritage Centre: Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
Kerry Writers’ Museum
Pearse Museum, OPW

Interim Accreditation

Edward Worth Library
National Maritime Museum of Ireland, Dun Laoghaire

Read more about the Museum Standards Programme for Ireland