On Wednesday 28 January 2015 Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, opened a new exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts and History, Collins Barracks, entitled Recovered voices: the stories of the Irish at war, 1914-15. The exhibition explores the complexity of the Great War and its remembrance in Ireland by showing the huge variety of ways in which Irish men and women were personally involved. It looks at the social, economic and political reasons for Irish soldiers to join the British Army and what happened to them, acknowledging that more than half of them were dead by Christmas 1914. In particular, it looks at the Irish regiments that went to the Western Front in 1914 and to Gallipoli in 1915. However, the exhibition does not confine itself to Irishmen who fought in the British army. Irish emigrants fought in the Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African armies. At the same time, many Irish women supported the war effort by working in shell factories or volunteering as nurses at the front. The exhibition has been installed in two galleries, covering the years 1914 and 1915 respectively. Text panels mediate the bigger picture by shedding light on critical events and themes, while 21 personal stories linked to the exhibition objects will be used to engage the visitors and facilitate easy access to the topic. Recovered voices is being launched in conjunction with ANU Productions’ Pals —The Irish at Gallipoli, and the launch of the exhibition included a preview of the production.
Speaking prior to the launch, National Museum director Raghnall Ó Floinn said that ‘we hope visitors will get a different sense of the engagement of Irish men and women in the early years of the war effort’. Minister Humphreys observed that ‘the Irish experience of World War One was complex and varied. Through a series of personal stpries, this exhibition highlights how Irish men and women were involved and brings to life the difficult choices and extremely harsh conditions they faced throughout 1914 and 1915. The second element of the exhibition focuses on the Irish at Gallipoli. Four thousand Irishmen who went to fight at Galliploi never returned home. I am pleased that some of the PALS performances are being specifically targeted at transition year students, as it is important that we educate our young people about the devastating realities of war’.