The Other Clare, Volume 24, 2000
By Erin Gibbons
The National Museum of Ireland houses an extensive collection of artefacts from County Clare. The core collection was assembled by the Royal Irish Academy, however it was transferred to the National Museum of Ireland when a purpose built museum was opened in 1890. In 1999, Clare County Council and Ennis Urban District Council commissioned a catalogue of archaeological finds with a view to selecting objects for exhibition in the recently established Clare County Museum which will open to the public in the year 2000. During a four-month period a six-volume catalogue was compiled. The following article is an edited and extended version of the introduction to the catalogue. Although this guide is County Clare specific, many of the sources discussed are applicable to all counties.
The primary source for this catalogue is the archives of the Irish Antiquities Division (IAD), National Museum of Ireland. Although various registers of finds were in use from the eighteenth century, it was not until 1929 that a standardised cataloguing system was introduced, based on Scandinavian and German recording models. This standardisation stemmed from a report prepared by a Government Select Committee under the chairmanship of Nils Litberg, a Swedish ethnologist and museum director. The committee made proposals to the Irish Government on the development and organisation of Irish Archaeology and matters relating to documentation, excavation and fieldwork of the National Museum of Ireland. The National Monuments Act of 1930 gave statutory effect to the proposals of the select committee.
The archive of the Irish Antiquities Division of the National Museum is user-friendly. Depending on which source is accessed, information can be obtained by reference to townland, county, object and material. In general, registers are arranged on an annual basis and there is an extensive index of correspondents. This has greatly facilitated the computerisation of the Clare material. Most of the individual descriptions and illustrations of objects contained in this work were compiled by the staff of the Irish Antiquities Division. Today the IAD use a computerised system for recording finds and have entered archival information back to 1975. This computerisation is continuing and covers the archives of all thirty-two counties. As it is work in progress, all earlier Clare archives are not yet entered on the National Database. This is the reason for the commissioning of this Clare dedicated catalogue.
The catalogue is presented in six printed volumes. The database contained in volumes I and II is generally modelled on the IAD Microsoft Access 97 system with the addition of cross-reference to descriptions and illustrations in the remaining volumes. The first two volumes consist of an alphabetical list of finds categorised under eighteen separate fields. These fields can be viewed over double pages.
The first volume is a list of objects arranged alphabetically according to the townland of discovery, followed by the following headings: Parish; Barony; Find; Registration Number; Description; Dimensions; Habitat; IAD File Number; OS 6”sheet co-ordinates; Bog Find (if applicable); Excavation Find (if applicable); Loan Details; Acquisition Details (Purchase/Gift); Published References; Slide Number; and page reference to Volumes III – VI. Various spellings of the names of villages and townlands occur throughout the six volumes as this reflects the diversity of spellings in the archives. For standardised versions of placenames the official townland index should be consulted.
The second volume uses the same eighteen fields of information but is listed alphabetically according to object type. A list containing eighty-seven excavations undertaken in County Clare up to 1998 is contained at the end of volume II (page 309). This is useful overview of the range of excavation work that has taken place in County Clare and contains the following headings: Excavation Number; Townland; Site Name; Name of excavator; Type of Excavation; Type of Site; Published Reference; NMI and Dúchas File Numbers; and finds (if recorded). Finds details from a small number of these excavations are to be found throughout the various volumes. The published reference list is a useful source but it is not a comprehensive list.
The third volume is the inventory of archaeological finds from Co. Clare arranged according to the year of acquisition (from 1785-1999), each entry being a transcript of the information contained in the original registers and logbooks. In the National Museum access to early registers is restricted to avoid wear and tear on fragile manuscripts as most of them are hand written, however most of the information is available on microfiche. Many catalogues of Irish antiquities have been published in recent years however the first published catalogues were compiled by the famous antiquarian Sir William Wilde in 1857 and 1861 respectively. These were pioneering publications in the field of Museum research as objects were arranged and classified according to the materials from which they were made. A number of County Clare finds are described in Wilde (1857) including some finds from the great Clare gold hoard at Mooghaun, while many other Clare finds are recorded in unpublished registers.
Since the completion of the Co. Clare catalogue in October 1999 a list of the manuscript registers in the IAD archive has been compiled and standardised by Assistant Keeper, Raghnall O Floinn. The list appears as an appendix to this article.
All the registers from 1929-1986 are in typed and bound form in the Irish Antiquities Division Archive Room. Information on recent finds is located in topographical envelopes that are in filing cabinets arranged chronologically by acquisition number. Recent finds are also documented in manuscript logbooks and in a computerised logbook. A useful cross-reference to the chronologically ordered registers is the Co. Clare topographical files. These are located in a Co. Clare dedicated filing cabinet and consist of a series of topographical envelopes which contain information (usually hand-written) on archaeological finds from Co. Clare, including descriptions and correspondence. The envelopes are arranged alphabetically by townland. Details of discovery, published references and photographs are also contained within the envelopes providing a useful source of extra information. A large body of information is also contained in the IAD Correspondence files, which are indexed by correspondent and subject.
Section 2 of volume III is a miscellaneous section which includes information on finds from Co. Clare in private possession; objects recorded by museum staff and others not acquired; registers of objects on loan from the National Museum as well as objects on loan to the National Museum; the X Register which lists objects from Clare with uncertain provenance due to loss of labelling or unclear labelling of finds; a published list of objects currently located in British and International Museums compiled by M. Avery and a list of unpublished Irish material housed overseas from a card index located in the Irish Antiquities Division archive.
Section 3 of volume III contains four appendices. Appendices I-III gives
information on finds from divisions of the National Museum other than those
of the Irish Antiquities Division. Information on registration number, provenance
and storage location is provided. These are computerised lists supplied by
each of the Divisions.
Unlike the information researched from the archives of the IAD they are not comprehensive lists but are useful indicators of the range of material within the various Divisions.
Appendix I lists finds from Co. Clare in the Irish Folklife Division.
Appendix II lists finds from Co. Clare in the Art & Industrial Division.
Appendix III lists finds from Co. Clare in the Natural History Division.
Appendix IV is an inventory of photographic images from Co. Clare contained in the IAD archive. These images mainly relate to finds and monuments. The photographic archive consists of various series of black and white negatives and colour transparencies. All the modern series of images are on an electronic database in the National Museum. This includes three series of large format black and white negatives designated as the L, KA and MA series. In addition there are three series of glass plate negatives designated as the A, B & C series and a collection of 35mm black and white negatives designated as the Min. series. These have not yet been placed on the National Museum electronic database but are registered in manuscript notebooks on index cards.
There is a large collection of black and white negatives known as the Westropp Collection which includes images of a large number of monuments in Co. Clare photographed around the turn of the century. These are indexed currently in a Modes database which is in the process of being converted to an Access database and they will then be available for consultation.
The N.M.I. also holds collections of negatives, both glass plate and nitrate formats, presented by important antiquarians such as Dunraven, Crawford and MacAlister. These are not yet fully indexed.
The archive also contains colour transparencies. The A series are 35mm slides and the CT series are large format transparencies. The A series is the only series which has been integrated into this catalogue.
Appendix IV is made up of lists of the L series, the KA series, the MA series, the CT series and the A slide series of images.
The fourth, fifth and six volumes contain a photocopied record of the card index of finds from Co. Clare located in the IAD archive. Each card contains a description and illustration of the object. Please note that in these three volumes, each card has been reduced in size by fourteen percent to facilitate binding. Volume IV is a general catalogue of find illustrations, ordered alphabetically by townland. Volume V is dedicated to River Shannon finds at Killaloe. It was necessary to dedicate this volume to Killaloe finds exclusively due to the large quantity of finds found during the Shannon Drainage Scheme in the 1930s. Volume VI is dedicated to finds from the excavations at Cahercommaun Stone Fort, Tullycommon. The practice of committing illustrations and descriptions to a card index has been discontinued in the Irish Antiquities Division, however seventy per cent of the Co. Clare objects are drawn on these cards and are reproduced (in reduced format) in volumes IV, V and VI.
Two copies of the catalogue are available for reference to the public. One set is housed in the Archive Room of the Irish Antiquities Division, National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin. The other is housed in the Clare County Museum, Ennis, Co. Clare. Hopefully this work will be a constant source from which interesting and innovative exhibitions can be developed in co-operation with the National Museum of Ireland and other institutions. Although the catalogue was commissioned for short-term exhibition development purposes its potential uses are wide ranging. Its availability in Clare will save an unnecessary journey to Dublin for Clare researchers and should help to ease pressure on the fragile primary manuscripts. From a planning perspective it will be of assistance to the staff of the Irish Antiquities Division, National Museum of Ireland and the staff of Dúchas, the Heritage Service in assessing archaeological licence applications relating to Co. Clare. It will also facilitate the work of the planning Division of Clare County Council in assessing the archaeological implications of planning applications. It will also assist archaeologists engaged in Environmental Impact Assessments; archaeological testing and monitoring work in the county.
This is the most comprehensive catalogue of artefacts ever produced for any county in Ireland. Given the fact that the primary information is now on data base and that Ennis is a European Information Age Town it would be interesting to merge these archives with state of the art technology by using this catalogue as the basis for the preparation of a C.D. ROM of Clare Antiquities. Many museums, Libraries and visitor centres in Ireland and worldwide are increasingly using expensive touch screen multi-media technology as an interpretative tool. Many of the presentations however are tokenistic, badly researched and become dated very quickly thus limiting their educational potential for the school child, the academic and the tourist.
Hopefully this catalogue will become accessible and useful at a variety of levels, from the schoolchild in exploring the townland, to the planner in protecting the past.
The project was co-ordinated by Erin Gibbons, Consultant Archaeologist. The catalogue and this article were compiled by Erin Gibbons, Felim Gibbons and Jackie Mac Dermott.
Wilde, W.R. (1857) A descriptive catalogue of the Antiquities of Stone, Earthen, and Vegetable Materials in the Museum of The Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 1857.
This work would not have been possible without the help and co-operation of the staff of the National Museum of Ireland and the people of county Clare. We would particularly like to thank Dr. Patrick F. Wallace, Director of the National Museum of Ireland and staff including Eamonn P. Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities, Mary Cahill, Nessa O’Connor and Dr. Andy Halpin of the Irish Antiquities Division. A special thanks is due to Raghnall O Floinn, Irish Antiquities Division, for the provision of the list of manuscripts registers, the staff of the Documentation Department, especially Susan O’Connor, the staff of the Irish Folklife division, the staff of the Natural History Division especially Ivor Harkin, and the staff of the Art & Industrial Division.
Thanks are also due to Dúchas, the Heritage Service, the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Clare County Council, Ennis Urban District Council. In Particular Dominic Egan, former Curator, and Danny McCarthy, Acting Curator, Clare County Museum, Ennis, Josephine Cotter-Coughlan, County Secretary, Noel Crowley, County Librarian and Bill McInerney, Carron, Co. Clare.
We would like to acknowledge the dedication of E.S.B. staff and Mr, A.B.Killeen and Mr. Sean Kierse who were responsible for reporting so many finds from the River Shannon.
List of the Manuscript Registers in the Irish Antiquities Division of the National Museum of Ireland. Compiled by Raghnall O Floinn
Royal Irish Academy Museum Donations Book 1785-1856 (previously entitled Account of Antiquities Presented to the Royal Irish Academy 1785-1856).
Royal Irish Academy Museum Register of Antiquities 1846-1853. Vol. I (AI-F950) (previously entitled Register of Antiquities in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy).
Royal Irish Academy Museum Register of Antiquities 1846-1853. Vol. II (F951-G551) (previously entitled Register of Antiquities in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy).
Royal Irish Academy Museum Register of Antiquities 1859-1886 (RI-R5081; 1872: 1-1886:28) (previously entitled R.I.A. Irish Antiquities Register 1859-86).
Royal Irish Academy Museum Register of Antiquities 1886-1928 (1886:29-1928:15) (previously entitled R.I.A. Irish Antiquities Register 1886-1928).
Royal Irish Academy Museum Index To Register of Antiquities 1859-1886 (previously entitled Index to R.I.A. Register 1859-1886).
Royal Irish Academy Museum Index To Register of Antiquities 1886-1928 (previously entitled Index to R.I.A. Register 1886-1928).
Royal Irish Academy Museum Register of Antiquities 1940 (RIA1940: 1-28) (previously entitled Register of Irish Antiquities)
Science and Art Museum Register of Antiquities 1898-1928 (SA1898: 1-SA1928: 871) (previously entitled Science and Art museum Irish Antiquities Register 1898-1928).
Royal Irish Academy Museum Inventory of Collection to 1878 (Gold to 1881) (previously entitled Royal Irish Academy Curator’s Office).
Catalogue of the Petrie Collection. Compiled by W.F. Wakeman 1867. Vol. I (previously entitled Catalogue of the Petrie Museum Wakeman 1).
Catalogue of the Petrie collection. Compiled by W.F. Wakeman 1867. Vol. II (previously entitled Catalogue of the Petrie Museum Wakeman 2).
Catalogue of the Petrie Collection. Compiled by W.F. Wakeman. Annotated Copy 1874 (previously entitled MS. Catalogue of the Petrie Museum W.F. Wakeman).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Catalogue by W.F. Wakeman 1894, Vol. I (Copy I) (previously entitled Wakeman’s Catalogue Vol. I).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Catalogue by W.F. Wakeman 1894, Vol. I (Copy 2) (previously entitled Wakeman’s Catalogue Vol. I).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Catalogue by W.F. Wakeman 1894, Vol. II (Copy I) (previously entitled Wakeman’s Catalogue Vol. 2).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Catalogue by W.F. Wakeman 1894, Vol. II (Copy 2) (previously entitled Wakeman’s Catalogue Vol. 2).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Case Inventory (commenced 1882). Vol. I (Copy I) (previously entitled R.I.A. Museum Inventory I).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Case Inventory (commenced 1882). Vol. II (Copy I) (previously entitled R.I.A. Museum Inventory 2).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Case Inventory (commenced 1882). (Copy 2) (previously entitled Royal Irish Academy – Register of Objects in Strong Room of Museum. Copy, 16th July 1891).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Inventory of Objects 1872 (previously entitled Museum Inventory R.I.A.).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Inventory of Bronze objects by G. Coffey? C.1883 (previously entitled MS. Catalogue of Bronze Objects in Museum Register Royal Irish Academy).
Portions of Manuscripts Catalogues by W. Wilde (previously entitled Wm. Wilde. Portions of Catalogue of Animal Materials and Bronze and lists of Articles from Crannogs, Iron Battle and Galloglach Axes, Iron Culinary Implements. Introduction to Metallic Materials Catalogue – Class V, order V – Iron. Silver Objects (part).
National Museum of Ireland. Inventory of Antiquities by W. Bremer 1925-6 (previously entitled MS. List Comparing Objects with their Registered Entries).
Rough Catalogue of Scandinavian Antiquities. By E.C.R. Armstrong c.1906 (previously entitled Rough Catalogue of Iron Swords Spears etc.: from Island Bridge, Kilmainham Rly Cutting &[&] near Kilmainham & Dublin).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Catalogue of Iron Antiquities by W. Wilde (edited with annotations by E.C.R. Armstrong 1910-1916) (Copy I) (previously entitled Crannog Catalogue etc).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Catalogue of Iron Antiquities by W. Wilde (edited with annotations by E.C.R. Armstrong 1910-1916) (Copy 2) (previously entitled Catalogue of Irish Antiquities, including some objects found in Crannogs).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Catalogue of Silver Antiquities 1906 (previously entitled MS. Catalogue of Silver Collection, 1906).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Catalogue of the Petrie Collection by RJ Mc Eniry 1874 (previously entitled Ms. Catalogue of the Petrie Collection of Antiquities in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy, 1874. RJ Maceniry).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Antiquity Dockets R238-R462 (Box 1) (previously entitled Royal Irish Academy – Antiquity Dockets – March 1860-April 1963, Nos. 238-462).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Antiquity Dockets R463-R1240 (Box 2) (previously entitled Royal Irish Academy – Antiquity Dockets – March 1860-April 1963.
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Antiquity Dockets R1241-R1751 (Box 3) (previously entitled Royal Irish Academy – Antiquity Dockets – March 1860-April 1963.
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Catalogue of Ecclesiastical Antiquities by W. Wilde (Nos. 1-302) 1856-66 (previously untitled).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Drart Catalogue of Ecclesiastical Antiquities by W. Wilde (Nos. 1-302) 1856-66 (previously untitled MS. List of Ecclesiastical Antiquities 1-170 & 171-302 by William Wilde).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Register of Antiquities. Copied by W. Wilde (R1808-R2739) (previously untitled).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Register of Antiquities. Copied by W. Wilde (Draft R.1802-R.2747) 1864-1866 (previously entitled Royal Irish Academy Ms. Registry of Antiquities Nos 1808-1826; 1808-2017; 2037-2153; 2154-2265; 2266-2550 & 2551-2747 Sir William Wilde).
Royal Irish Academy Museum, Draft Catalogue of Human Remains by W. Wilde (Nos 1-30) (previously entitled MS. List of Human Remains Sir William Wilde).
Royal Irish Academy Museum. Catalogue by W.F. Wakeman 1894, Vol. I & part Vol. II (copy 3) (previously untitled).
Royal Irish Academy Treasure Trove Register 1861-1872 (previously untitled).
Royal Irish Academy Treasure trove Register 1861-1867 (copy) (previously untitled).