Federation visit Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland

Recently representatives of the Federation of Local History Societies, Larry Breen and J.J. Woods, made an informal visit to the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland  at 63 Merrion Square, where they were greeted by the recently appointed Director Niamh Mc Cabe. The purpose of the visit was to explore the possibility of establishing closer links with the society and also look at the possibility of organising some joint event/s of mutual interest to both organisations. Larry and J.J.were given a very warm welcome by Niamh and spent a most interesting and enjoyable afternoon at the Society House in Merrion Square which has the added attraction of a beautifully restored Georgian Garden. The following is a short synopsis by Niamh on the work being done by the RSAI.


Larry Breen and Niamh Mc Cabe

The Society was founded in 1849 in Kilkenny to preserve, examine and illustrate all ancient monuments and memorials of the arts, manners and customs of the past, as connected with the antiquities, language, literature and history of Ireland.


As a result of it’s origins in 19th Century antiquarianism the Society is rather unique in terms of learned Societies in this Country in that it crosses several disciplines (Archaeology, History, Folklore, Local History) and is open to members with an academic, research or even general interest in all of these areas.


The Society is primarily a voluntary-run organisation, with two part-time staff, and is reliant on its members to fund its activities and developments. Together with the Director and Librarian the affairs of the Society are conducted by the president, officers and council.


As the owner and occupier of a fine Georgian House the Society takes great pride in Society House, and is constantly working to maintain, improve and upgrade the building. Projects over the last few years have included improvements to the structure of the house, the interiors of the library and office, and the most recent project the restoration of the Georgian garden.


Restored Georgian garden


As the Society was founded prior to the existence of a NationalMuseum it was a natural repository for artefacts of historic importance. Many of the artefacts which were donated to the Society were subsequently entrusted to the NMI and form part of its primary collection.


The Society’s goals are achieved today through the Society’s annual programme of lectures, talks and excursions and by the publication of its journal, received by all members. The Journal is an annual publication, which has been published since 1849. Membership of the Society also entitles all members to JSTOR access of the Ireland collection.


The library and collections:

Members are entitled to use the Society’s library, which contains books on Irish history, antiquities and archaeological and historical journals published in Ireland,Great Britainand on the continent.


Royal Society of Antiquaries - Library

Examples of collections:

Among the most historically significant of the Society’s holdings are the mid nineteenth-century sketch-books compiled by George Du Noyer, artist and employee of the Geological Survey.This collection consists of over 2,000 individual drawings.

Other important collections include

  • the numerous photographs of monuments that were compiled by the Clare antiquarian and former Society president, Thomas J. Westropp, in the 1880s to early 1900s
  • the photographs of Dublin slums in 1913 by John Cooke recently published in Christiaan Corlett’s Darkest Dublin book
  • the manuscript notes compiled by Francis Elrington Ball as preparatory work for his multivolume history of the county of Dublin as well as some of his notes on the life of Dean Jonathan Swift;
  • copies of all of the volumes of the Memorials of the Dead project, together with some of the original records and tomb-rubbings;
  • records from some of the post-medieval corporation books of the Dublin weavers’ guild;
  • Corporation books of some towns in Co. Kilkenny.

Talk and lectures:

The Society has an annual programme of varied talks and lectures.Lectures take place on the last Thursday of each month and talks on the first Monday of the month.Details of the calendar of events can be found here:


Society House also includes a fully equipped modern lecture room situated at basement level and directly accessible from the street, first floor meeting rooms and of course the  Georgian Garden, all of which are available for rent by groups for events.


On behalf of the Society I would like to welcome all visitors and new members!


JJ Woods, Niamh McCabe and Larry Breen at RSAI House Merrion Square



Niamh McCabe




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