Wednesday 12 June 2019

Exhibition launch: Treasures of the Oireachtas Library

A new online-only exhibition has been launched today to showcase some of the historical treasures of the Oireachtas Library. The new exhibition is part of celebrations to mark the centenary of the First Dáil, which held its first public meeting on 21 January 1919.

1884 political cartoon: Erin demands that the
Lord Lieutenant Earl Spencer open a door
marked ‘Castle Secrets’.
The archive holds some 10,000+ items, many of them of national significance, including historical maps, political cartoons, prints, pamphlets and periodicals. They provide a unique perspective on Anglo-Irish relations and administration during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The items selected for this gallery include a 17th century pamphlet on the need for Ireland’s autonomy in law-making, an 18th century treatise on the same topic and a 19th century appeal to America to support Irish independence.

To create the new exhibition, guest curators were invited to explore the treasures in the Library and choose their favourites.

The Irish Times political cartoonist Martyn Turner selected from a 19th-century cartoon collection while Dr Aoife Whelan, lecturer at the School of Irish, Celtic Studies and Folklore at University College Dublin, explored Oireachtas items on the Irish language. John Lonergan, the former Governor of Mountjoy Prison, detailed the history of prisons and penal reform in Ireland, and Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Ceann Comhairle of the 32nd Dáil, chose items relating to Ireland’s journey toward self-governance.

The Treasures of the Oireachtas Library exhibition can be found on, itself a deep and rather addictive website well worth exploring by any Irish family historian looking to better understand the political, social and cultural references of their ancestors.