The Museum of Archaeology is home to the Irish Antiquities Division of the National Museum of Ireland. It is the national repository for all archaeological objects found in Ireland. The Museum holds in trust for the nation and the world a series of outstanding archaeological collections spanning millennia of Irish history and also holds extensive collections of non-Irish antiquities. The Museum houses artefacts ranging in date from 7000 BC to the late medieval period and beyond. On display are prehistoric gold artefacts, metalwork from the Celtic Iron Age, Viking artefacts and medieval ecclesiastical objects and jewellery, as well as rich collections of ancient Egyptian and Cypriot material.
The Building and its Collections
The National Museum of Ireland was founded under the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act of 1877. Previously, the Museum's Collections had been divided between Leinster House, originally the headquarters of the Royal Dublin Society, and the Natural History Museum in Merrion Street, built as an extension to Leinster House in 1856–7. Under the Act, the government purchased the Museum buildings and Collections. To provide storage and display space for the Leinster House collections, the government quickly implemented plans to construct a new, custom-built museum on Kildare Street and on 29th August 1890, the new Museum opened its doors to the public.
The building, designed by Cork architects Thomas Newenham Deane and his son Thomas Manly Deane, is an architectural landmark. It is built in the Victorian Palladian style and has been compared with the Altes Museum in Berlin, designed by Karl Schinkel in the 1820s. Neo-classical influences can be seen in the colonnaded entrance and the domed rotunda, which rises to a height of 20 metres and which is modelled on the Pantheon in Rome. Within the rotunda, classical columns – made of marble quarried in Counties Cork, Kilkenny, Galway, Limerick and Armagh – mirror the entrance. In the great centre court, a balcony is supported by rows of slender cast-iron columns with elaborate capitals and with bases decorated with groups of cherubs. On the balcony, further rows of plain columns and attractive openwork spandrels support the roof.