History groups look to future of County Museum

The need for a County Museum to showcase Kilkenny’s heritage was discussed at the first meeting of representatives of Local History Societies in Rothe House on Saturday last.

The need for a County Museum to showcase Kilkenny’s heritage was discussed at the first meeting of representatives of Local History Societies in Rothe House on Saturday last.

Such a meeting had been mooted for some time as the number of groups had increased in recent years with the growing interest in local history, the advances in communications and the improved access to history sources.

A common theme amongst the groups was the absence of a County Museum in a county that prides itself on its heritage buildings, its role in Irish history and the large range of artefacts in collections in Rothe House and elsewhere, including in private ownership and in the National Museum, much of the latter in storage and not publicly available.

During the building boom, planning permission was often conditional on prior archaeological investigations, and many artefacts were unearthed as a result. In Kilkenny City alone in the excavations for MacDonagh Junction and for the restored 17th-century garden in Rothe House there were significant finds that excited much interest in the county and nationally.

There is no place in Kilkenny where locals and visitors can see these finds, however, and the local history members felt strongly that the county deserved better, especially as they see other counties progressing in the provision of local museums.

There was speculation that the future of St Mary’s Church in the city, now in local authority ownership, might have a role to play when the economy allows for improved public capital investment. If that were the case, now is the time to be planning and consulting so that a scheme would be ready when funds become available, the representatives felt, as the areas that “have their homework done” are the ones that will have an advantage when the time is right.

The representatives from the seven societies who met last week also discussed the opportunities for co-operation in research, education and publication, including press, radio and television.

Of particular interest was the presence at the meeting of the newly formed Youth Heritage Group, which will be having a coffee morning in Rothe House and Garden on Saturday next at 11am, featuring delicacies prepared from medieval recipes from as far back as the 14th century.