Chairs (Surprise) at the National Museum of Ireland


Today began with a jolt. After a long morning at the Cliffs of Moher, Lucy and I hopped in our rental car to head to Dublin. But first we had to face Corkscrew Hill.

Just as I finished the last of the hill’s switchbacks, an oncoming lorry (semi) ran us off the road and into a berm. Price: One front tyre. I changed the tyre in the spitting rain, and we limped to a repair shop to get the car sorted and inspected.

This resulted in the best “bon mot” of the trip. We ended up in a Polish tyre shop in a small village. They replaced the tyre in 15 minutes (amazing) and charged us only 65 Euros. As I paid the bill I was shivering and sopping wet – my pants and shoes caked in mud.

“You are on holiday?” the owner asked, looking out at the rain coming down. I nodded. “You are in the wrong country.”

After arriving in Dubin, we each ate a quick sandwich, and I had my first pint of Guinness in Dublin – right across the street from the brewery. Not bad. Then we trekked to the National Museum of Ireland and stormed the furniture on display, including the Irish Country Furniture Exhibit.

When I entered the room, it was like having an eye exam. The lighting was intense and marked by dark slashes, and it bewildered me. After a few seconds, the main display came into focus: 10 chairs in little backlit stalls. The good news: You could get within a few inches of all of the chairs. The bad news, the backlighting was so intense that it was difficult to see (or photograph) the objects.

All of the photos below have been heavily Photoshopped so you can see some details.

I have tons of notes on each of the chairs, but those would bore most of you. So we’ll just look at the photos for now.

After that exhibit, the museum had a good number of other vernacular chairs on display with fairly standard lighting. Those are shown below.

Tomorrow, Lucy and I head to Slane in County Meath to meet with Mark Jenkinson, who runs The Cider Mill and is a long-time chair collector. This should be the highlight of the geeky chair segment of our vacation.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. For those of you who think I am abusing Lucy, we are doing lots of non-woodworking stuff. Don’t believe me? I have three words for you: National Leprechaun Museum. And yes, we’re doing the “after dark” adults-only tour. Pray for me.

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15 Responses to Chairs (Surprise) at the National Museum of Ireland

  1. Richard Mahler says:

    Guinness is only really Guinness when consumed in Ireland! It is a pretty poor shadow in the U.S. due to our import restrictions. Found that out at the Open in Port Townsend last summer, another worthwhile destination in Northern Ireland.


  2. Marc Stonestreet says:

    It’s an interesting juxtaposition, that first bunch of photos. Pretty cool.


  3. Rick says:

    Some interesting ones there. Am especially intrigued with the shallower (depth-wise) wide-body designs, such as f1954-44-hedge-chair-dsc01405.jpg above (also 4-47-89-armchair-dsc01333.jpg from the previous blog post). When I emailed you with pics several months back about a similar chair in a friends house in Georgia, the owner thought she was told that it was a spinning chair. Maybe just a coincidence, but the hedge chair does seem to be hanging out next to a spinning wheel in that museum. Thanks for sharing!


  4. pfollansbee says:

    that garish display is another example of my notion that no idiot works in isolation. Some pinhead decided that backlit nonsense would the way to display these chairs. Another pinhead said “yes, let’s do it.” Morons.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pascal Teste says:

    Too bad for the backlit display, however looking at the silhouettes of those chairs from a distance like on your first pic, is quite striking! Many interesting chairs. I like the Connaught chair, I’ve never seen one like that. Very cool. I’m glad you are having a good trip, and watch out for the crazy lorries!


  6. Klaus N. Skrudland says:

    That kitchen armchair that looks like a Gibson chair (but without the W stick arrangement) is a bit clumsy and weird, and from the side it looks like it has almost no leg splay. But still, I can’t stop looking at it, I think it’s really beautiful. I just want to hug it.


  7. Steven Vlahos says:

    Good to hear you are taking a diversion from woodworking and treating Lucy to a Leprechaun show.


  8. Jimmy McAleavey says:

    If you’re heading north I’ll buy you a pint. I am making my first hedge chair and have accomplished a leg. Needs a bit of work though.


  9. Leprechauns. The Irish may have been little people in the old country. But something happened when we got over here. We are not a little people.


  10. Danny says:

    There is a chair that was made in the US that I find worth building. I don’t like ugly looking chairs for what ever reason and am not nostalgic about them either. Although I am a huge fan of a couple of famous chair makers that put heart and soul into there designs. Here is an example of a design that I LOVE.


  11. chucknickerson says:

    The curator may have chosen the back-lit display to emphasize the architectural structural of the chairs. Since it’s difficult for one view to serve many masters, it would be nice if the exhibit also offered different lighting at different hours.

    This problem is more common than one might think. The lighting in Carlsbad Cavern’s Great Room was designed in the 50’s by Disney set designers. I would be wonderful if different lighting schemes were also implemented with a published schedule.


    • CRae says:

      Or better yet, an interactive component where the viewer could switch the lighting between different options on demand.


  12. gallerio says:

    Too bad you didn’t go into the Guinness Museum. There’s an old black-and-white film loop in the barrel exhibit of a cooper making a finished barrel out of raw logs in about twelve minutes. I watched it three or four times before my wife dragged me out of there.

    Plus, you can enjoy a great 360 degree view of the city while enjoying the freshest Guinness possible in the tasting center at the top of the building.


  13. John Sunnygard says:

    If you have time, and want to connect it all back to Kentucky – and the rest of the Southern US, check out the Ulster Folk Museum. It’s a living museum with fascinating connection to Protestant Irish immigration to the US. The political message is decidedly different from the Republic. They claim direct connections to all US presidents except JFK and Reagan who were Catholic.


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