Hopes grow for the return of historical treasures from abroad

Calls have been made to repatriate Irish historical treasures held abroad in order to reinvigorate tourism and local economies in the country.

Earlier this year, the National Museum of Ireland pledged to repatriate artefacts looted from Nigeria by colonial soldiers in the 1890s.

Similar acts of cultural repatriation – bringing an object of symbolic value back to its place of origin – swept through European institutions.

Today in Ireland calls for the repatriation of our indigenous treasures held abroad are also on the rise – and the quantity of these artifacts is significant.

Pádraig Ó Macháin, Professor of Modern Irish at University College Cork (UCC), said: libraries in UK.

“Then if you take manuscripts written in Ireland, in Latin, a good number of them are in libraries across the continent. “

Last year, Professor Ó Macháin was instrumental in returning Lismore’s Irish book from England to UCC, in part proposing that the university would be “its natural home as it was written in Co Cork” .

The UCC plans to make the book accessible to the public in a new gallery which “will serve as an attractive destination for visitors to the region”.
However, despite the impetus given to the UCC, he saw little reason to repatriate other manuscripts to Ireland.

“We lost a lot in the Middle Ages, most of it during the wars of the 17th century, so we tend to be grateful to libraries, wherever they are, for the care they give to our heritage,” a- he declared.

“Once they are in public institutions, then they are accessible and safe.

“If we were to repatriate material from Oxford or Cambridge, I don’t understand what that would be for.

In contrast, Daniel Curley, archaeologist and director of the Rathcroghan Visitor Center in Roscommon, believes the repatriation of cultural material could greatly benefit local communities.

“When we inserted display cases in the museum here in Tulsk, it resulted in a complete increase in the number of visitors,” he said.

“I can think of many Irish artifacts that have pride of place overseas, which if relocated to Roscommon would attract a significant volume of tourism and boost the economy of the local rural area. Especially in the aftermath of Covid-19. “

Mr. Curley sets his sights not only on treasures held abroad, but national museums too.

“If you had the 15th century Book of Ballymote exposed in Co Sligo, in its local context, it would be of huge benefit to the region, ”he said.

The book is currently hosted at the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) in Dublin.

The Mayo Táin is particularly important to the residents of Erris, Belmullet and northwestern Co Mayo. They try to continue this as a visitor experience based on accounts in two manuscripts, the oldest now in the RIA.

“The local community places great importance on these books in trying to inspect their heritage.”

Mr Curley also believes that redistributing cultural material to museums near Indigenous sites would ensure more history is accessible.

“Dublin’s museums are sorely lacking in resources. If an artifact is not on display at the National Museum of Ireland, it is in storage and locals are not able to see what their great-grandmother found on the ground, ”he said. .

Barbara McCormack, librarian at the RIA, said she welcomes requests for exhibition loans from regional museums.

“However, one of the main hurdles we face is the lack of proper storage and exhibition facilities to ensure the safety and security of the original artefacts.”

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