At the beginning of November, the Husband and I went on a last minute weekend trip to Dublin. We took in various sights and I consumed an entire pint of Guinness (the waiter claimed that it doesn't come in half-pints). We bought DoDublin cards for the duration, which got us access to all of the Dublin buses, plus a bus tour and discounted entry to several museums. I didn't think we'd get a huge amount from the tour, but it took us through parts of the city and surrounding areas that we wouldn't otherwise have seen and the drivers were highly entertaining.
One of the highlights for both of us was the National Museum of Archaeology, the architecture of which reminded the Husband of visits to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in his youth. The museum is free to enter and is open to the public every day except Monday. Set aside at least half a day for it if you plan to visit. There are a wide range of exhibitions to tempt the eye, as well as the beautiful building in which they are housed. The first exhibition that you will come to is Gold Collection, dedicated to Irish Bronze Age gold artefacts. Some of the workmanship of the pieces is absolutely stunning and would be impressive even if handmade with the aid of modern conveniences like magnifying glasses and artificial light. The original use of some of the objects remains a mystery, so we had fun coming up with our own far fetched theories.
Most exciting to me were the textiles and textile production tools, particularly the tablets in the Viking exhibition. I don't see tablets or tablet weaving “in the wild”, so to speak, very often. I may have been slightly over enthusiastic about them, especially the tablet that showed wear marks from extensive use; wear marks exactly like the ones on my favourite set of cardboard tablets. The tablets I make for my own use are generally 5cm/ 2” as they fit comfortably in my hands and I can work with quite a few at once, so to my eyes the 3cm tablets in the glass display cases looked tiny. They were mostly made of bone, although a few were wood, so I suspect that their size may have been due to with the characteristics of the materials as much as the weavers’ preferred size. Several had an extra hole in the centre in addition to the holes at each corner. Collingwood describes bands woven with a cord carried by a hole in the centre of each tablet to give added strength, thickness and rigidity to the finished textile. It’s not a technique that I’ve tried yet, but it’s on my to-do list.
If you ever get a chance to visit Dublin (I definitely want to go back, for some more Guinness if nothing else) do make time for the National Museum of Archaeology. It has inspired me to start several new avenues of research and to look into the pattern techniques required to weave Celtic knots. The Little Museum isn’t half bad either.
(Originally published in the December 2017 edition of The Baelfyr)