'Particles of the Past' Exhibition Now Open

On 28 February, Particles of the Past - Phase Four of our interactive multimedia exhibition Discover your National Library at 2/3 Kildare St was launched by Minister Jimmy Deenihan . Celebrating Dublin City of Science 2012, the exhibition showcases a fascinating selection of science-related gems from our collections.

Visitors can also look forward to dicovering how can science is used here in the NLI in our conservation deparment,  to protect treaures in our collections and keep them safe for future generations.

With topics ranging from 17th century home remedies to the engineering feat of Ardnacrusha, from a handwritten journal recording Captain Cook’s second voyage to early photography, the exhibition is as eclectic as it is interesting. “Even though we’re predominantly a humanities library, we have pieces that reflect what was going on in the scientific world hundreds of years ago. A lot of the material we’ve chosen would have been very popular science at the time” says co-curator Riona McMorrow.

Robert Boyle is considered by many to be the father of modern chemistry. Alongside his seminal work ‘The Sceptical Chymist’, another gem on display in the exhibition is a book containing an interesting collection of home remedies for everything from sore throats to piles. “Some of the cures are just amazing” says Co-Curator Aoife O’Connor. “In the 1700s they were doing things like crushing up earthworms, powdering them and feeding them to people; the powdered earthworms were generally served with white wine it seems! Another remedy involved the use of human faeces to cure eye complaints."

Eighteenth century archaeological drawings in the exhibition include sketches by Gabriel Beranger and Austin Cooper, who travelled around Ireland drawing historic monuments and buildings. Many of the buildings they recorded no longer exist, which is why their work is so important.

Booklets and postcards of Ireland’s first hydroelectric scheme at Ardnacrusha were selected because they highlight the significance of the project in 1920s Ireland. “Ardnacrusha was a tourist attraction at the time” says Aoife. “You could buy collector’s item images of it! One of the books on display at the exhibition describes Limerick as ‘the Mecca of Ireland’. That’s how highly thought of Ardnacrusha was. Nothing like that had been seen in Ireland before. It was a huge engineering undertaking.”

Particles of the Past is an interactive exhibition so, in addition to viewing items in their cases, you can examine them in greater detail by using our touchscreens. Each item also has an accompanying video where visitors can listen to an expert discuss the item in greater depth.

Discover your National Library: Particles of the Past runs from February to December 2012. 

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