• Cyril McAree

Recycle, Repurpose, Reimagine: Transforming Objects in Kilmainham Gaol

This innovative new exhibition looks at the ways in which fifteen objects from the Kilmainham Gaol Collection have changed, evolved and transformed throughout their history. Many of the artefacts featured were made by Irish political prisoners in the 1910s and 1920s from items they found during their captivity, such as a bone harp made from the hip bone of a cow which was carved in Tintown Prison Camp in 1923. Others were repurposed from their original use, such as a set of blades made from some garden shears for use during the 1916 Rising.

Not all changes to the objects featured in the exhibition are physical: among the displays are a handful of seashells which were given by Muriel MacDonagh, the widow of the 1916 leader Thomas MacDonagh, to her infant daughter Barbara on the beach in Skerries on July 9th, 1917. The significance of these sea shells was utterly transformed by Muriel’s tragic death later that day when she was swept out to sea while swimming. They became a precious and poignant memento which Barbara treasured all her life.

A number of objects in the exhibition have never been on display before. Among them is the unremarkable pen used by the last Governor-General of Ireland, the 1916 veteran Domhnall Ua Buachalla, to sign the legislation which removed all mention of the British crown from the Irish constitution in 1936. As he was the officially the representative of the British monarch in Ireland, when he signed this bill, he also abolished his own office and immediately became a private citizen once more.

With its emphasis on reusing and recycling scarce resources, this exhibition is also a response to Ireland’s declaration in 2019 of a climate and biodiversity emergency. The objects featured offer inspiring examples of the ingenuity people have shown in recycling and repurposing scarce materials. They also encourage us to think about the things that are truly precious and important to us.

The exhibition will be opened on Tuesday 4th February at 6.30 by Pat Cooke, Director of the MA in Cultural Policy and Arts Management and former Director of Kilmainham Gaol and the Pearse Museum.

For further information and high res images, please contact Brian Crowley, Kilmainham Gaol Museum at 086 8079071 or at brian.crowley@opw.ie.

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