I have been following the Irish Times series “A History of Ireland in 100 Objects” with horrified amusement since it started. Most of the series (now almost ended) has followed the standard National Museum model in which Irish history has three strands: The Big House and the folk that did be living in it, or their predecessors who could afford gold stuff; the peasants, who lived in rural parts and engaged in animal husbandry and turnip-snagging; the killers, who liked dressing up. It’s the physical manifestation of the bastard offspring of W B Yeats and George de Valera, a right pair of nutters. As I wrote elsewhere:
The National Museum is not worthy of the name. It is a random collection of collections: a scrapheap of whatever happened to find its way into the taxpayer’s care. It does not present any sort of coherent picture of national life, past or present, and such picture as it does present is of an idealised rural lifestyle that few ever followed. It omits the modern, the industrial, the urban and, in so doing, it distorts the picture of Irish history that is presented both to natives and to visitors.
The Irish Times series has been following the same model. But last week’s issue [which will probably disappear behind a paywall at some stage] finally admitted modernity, industrialisation, light by featuring a washing-machine — and, with it, electricity generation and Ardnacrusha.
And where is the featured washing-machine to be found?
In an agricultural museum.