Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 11 Jun 1970

Vol. 68 No. 8

National Museum of Science and Art: Report of Board of Visitors: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann notes the Report of the Board of Visitors of the National Museum of Science and Art for the year 1965-66.

This report is entitled on its cover in the same manner as specified in the motion. Inside the cover, on the title page, it is described as the Report of the Board of Visitors for 1966-67. That is a discrepancy which is an eloquent enough comment in itself as a microcosm of the general conditions surrounding the museum.

The report, if it is a report for 1965-66, appeared four years late and the time lag is adverted to by the compilers of the report on page 4:

The publication of our Annual Report has increasingly lagged. The 1965 Report of the Board is still not in print, though it was submitted in Summer 1965: that of 1966 was submitted in July of the year and is still unavailable. We are unable to see how reports of this sort, brought to light only years after preparation, can be more than dead letters and in fact there is nothing to suggest that points raised in them have received any serious consideration. Their recurrence this year, in the following text, only spotlights the matter.

This report appeared in January and its appearance was followed almost immediately by a statement from the Government Information Bureau which adverted to the delay in publishing the report and gave as the reason for the many years delay in issuing the report that other and more urgent reports had to take precedence.

This report is eight pages long. I know a little about printing, I am the editor of a journal which appears in a format not unlike this report, and I can make a guess at the cost of its printing. The approximate cost, with eight pages, would be about £3 10s a page, which, let us say, might run into a thousand copies. I do not know how many appeared, but let us say a thousand. It would cost £26, £28 or perhaps £30 to produce this report, and yet the Government Information Bureau stated that other and more important reports had to take precedence. There are no illustrations in this report. It is a straightforward business of typesetting which even the most inexperienced compositor in Ireland could perform.

Last June, two weeks before the general election, a most expensive document, running to 40 or 50 pages, entitled Ár nDaltaí Uilig—All Our Children—was circulated free to every household in Ireland. That was something which I do not think requires comment. The coincidence of that expensive piece of printing delivered to the households of Ireland and the general election is something which again requires no comment but it casts, to my mind, a ludicrous light on the assertion that any objective precedents of any kind are recognised in the Department of Education when it comes to printing or publishing. How can the Department say that a report of this kind which is important and which was compiled by people with a serious national duty to perform, who do not want to waste their time producing something which will not be read for five years, must take a low priority in a programme of publishing in which this thing—“All Our Children” which nobody asked for and which nobody wanted and the patent purpose of which was to produce electoral results for the Government could be produced, an infinitely more expensive job and running to an edition of at least a quarter, more likely half a million?

The Government Information Bureau on the same occasion issued a statement in regard to the National Museum. I do not know if it issued it only to the Irish Press but it certainly appeared only in the Irish Press. I must say for the Government Information Bureau that I never knew it was selective in its issuing of statements and I do not want to make that allegation now but it certainly is the case, so far as I know, that this report appeared only in the Irish Press and it was entitled there, by the sub-editor of that paper, “Facelift for the National Museum”. This statement by the Government Information Bureau contains—and I quote from the Irish Press of March 31st, 1970—references to what are called “alternative arrangements” in regard to part of the botanical section. It also says:

Investigations are currently being made to find a home for the geology collection...

Possible alternative accommodation for the Natural History Division...

Normal arrangements have been made to fill staff vacancies...

Improvements have been effected in the storage arrangements...

No details, no timetable, no programme was given for this and in the following issue of the Irish Press an archaeologist who is on the staff of University College, Dublin, Dr. Herity, was reported as saying:

... the statement seemed to make a virtue of what in similar organisations would be regarded as routine.

It was making a virtue out of developments which, in any other museum in any other country in the world, would simply have been routine but the routine even had been neglected here for years and years. It is no answer whatever to the complaints made by the Visitors of the National Museum of Science and Art that these arrangements were being contemplated or even carried out. That is no answer to the charge of persistent, sustained neglect which they have been making year in year out, for which they have been getting no attention and in fact in regard to which it is not too much to say attempts have been made to silence them by keeping their report out of people's hands.

This report is provided by a board of visitors. I will say who these visitors are because this will be relevant to something I have to say later on. The board consists of 12 members of whom four are appointed by the State, three by the Royal Irish Academy and five by the Royal Dublin Society. The reason why the academy and the RDS are represented on this board of visitors is an historical reason. I cannot claim to speak for the RDS but I have the honour to be a member of the academy and I can tell the House—some Members may already know it—the reason why the academy has a status in the museum's affairs. It is because the core and nucleus of the national collections in the museum originally came from the academy. The academy ceded these collections to the National Museum when it was first set up and an arrangement was made which had legal force in 1881 between the Department of Science and Art, as it was then called, the Commissioners of Public Works and the RDS and the academy, which provided for this board of visitors with the representation that I have described. In other words, the RDS and the academy are not simply busybodies when it comes to the museum's affairs; they have a legal right and a legal duty to take an interest in it. That duty is actually spelt out by the agreement of 1881:

The duties of the board of visitors shall be to make annual reports to the Department on the condition, management and requirements of the Museum and to advise on points affecting the administration and a copy of such report shall be laid before the Parliament by the Department.

They are not, therefore, just busybodies; they have a serious public duty in this regard and, as I shall show the House, they have been treated, in their attempts to perform that duty, with very little attention or respect by the Department to which they are in the first place responsible.

I am sorry if the nature of the case and my own temperament lead me to sound aggressive or offensive in dealing with this topic. Let me say, before I detail some of the deficiencies in the arrangements of the museum, that a genuine hope is entertained by the people who work in the museum that the present Minister will be, in this regard, an improvement on his predecessors. He is the first Minister that I know of who has taken the trouble to come and talk to the museum staff. That may seem a small thing but it is something to which the museum staff attach importance and for which they are grateful. So far as I have been able to discover they entertain strong hopes that this Minister will take more of an interest in the museum than his predecessors have done. I say that in order to reassure the Minister that the criticisms which I shall voice are not directed at him personally but are simply directed at the policy of the Department which he now leads over the years and for which in some measure his predecessors must take responsibility.

I propose to deal as briefly as I can with aspects of the museum arrangements which the report criticises, and in dealing with this report I will have to advert to another and far more comprehensive report on the conditions in the National Museum of Ireland compiled by the National Museum branch of the Institute of Professional Civil Servants in December, 1969, and which I have reason to believe is in the Minister's possession or procurement as I understand that a copy was sent to him or to his Department. This is a far more detailed report than that of the Board of Visitors. I intend with the Seanad's permission to refer to it frequently because I am not a museum expert and I am doing my best to represent in as public a place as I have access to the point of view of those who are museum experts.

One of the main difficulties and grievances with regard to the museum is shortage of staff. The present establishment—by which I mean the present number of staff officially provided for —in the keeper and assistant keeper grades, in other words in the senior professional grades, is smaller than that which was recommended by a commission of inquiry set up by the first Government in 1927. In that year not at all as much was expected from the National Museum as is expected today. The possibilities of the National Museum for supplementing the educational efforts of the schools were not as fully understood then as they are now. Dependence on the museum for advice in regard to industrial design or planning was not as fully comprehensive in 1927 as it is now. The crucial part the museum can play not merely in the purely educational but in the industrial and economic spheres was not understood in 1927 as fully as it is now. Nonetheless that commission of inquiry 43 years ago recommended an establishment in the National Museum of keeper and assistant keeper grades substantially higher than that at present in operation.

Even the establishment which at present has official force has at no time within the last ten or 15 years been up to strength. There have been occasions when that establishment, defective though it is, was very much under strength. I have to say in this regard that while vacancies in the assistant group to which the reports of the visitors adverted in December, 1969, have since been advertised and I understand that the process of filling those vacancies has reached the interview stage and they may shortly be filled, I repeat that even when they are filled the establishment in the museum in the keeper and assistant keeper and assistant grades is far smaller than it should be. It is smaller than was thought proper 43 years ago when the duties and aims of the museum were nothing like as great or as widely understood as they are now and a fortiori are hopelessly insufficient in 1970.

One or two words in regard to the question of staff need emphasis here. I am citing for example one short paragraph from the Report of the National Museum Branch of the Institute of Professional Civil Servants:

Most aspects of Museum work call for experienced staff. Therefore, to carry out its functions properly the Museum must not only recruit but must also retain adequate professional staff. Not only should the five vacancies on the present establishment be filled immediately but it is estimated that the establishment should be increased by the creation of at least nineteen extra posts.

Now the question of staff is not simply a question of the number of people who are employed. They must be happy in their jobs, they must regard themselves as able to make their career and their vocation out of the museum and intend to stay there for a long period. A man in a job like that or in any kind of job which calls for independent scholarship and research is not going to be happy unless the conditions are ones in which it is possible for him to work, and if they are not he will certainly not be able to work to the best of his ability and will necessarily be on the look-out for some other job. This is something which has been happening in the museum over the years. People have come there, have stayed for a few years and gone away again. They did not make a fuss, they have not written to the papers or made speeches or caused trouble, but the reason that they went was that the conditions in the museum are impossible. I will say something about the working conditions by quoting from the Report of the National Museum Branch of the Institute of Professional Civil Servants, pages 8 and 9:

As study of the material is one of the prime functions of the Museum, proper facilities for this should be provided. Since the members of the Museum professional staff are the obvious and best-qualified persons to carry out this study, it follows that conditions in the Museum should be such as to attract the best and most suitable persons to undertake this work and to retain their services in the institution. The knowledge which is the fruit of Museum research must be won from the material itself. There is no shortcut to winning knowledge from the material. It will yield its quota of knowledge only by the protracted and patient study of a series of specimens in the light of experience built up over years of familiarity with it. This familiarity must extend, not merely to the material itself, but to its social, archaeological, botanical, zoological, geological or historical background, as the case may be, a familiarity to which again there is no short cut. It is imperative, therefore, that the persons carrying out research should be contented to look upon their career in the Museum as a permanent vocation. There can be no worthwhile programme of research if there are repeated changes of staff. The longer a person is in the institution, the more valuable he is to it.

The staff shortage, by which I mean the fact that the establishment is not up to strength, makes itself felt and is in turn affected by other conditions and other jobs which the museum is expected to carry out. One of these is the excavation of archaeological sites. One very important one which attracted a great deal of favourable attention was the work done by the museum staff in High Street, the site of the earliest city of Dublin, which is still going on and has been going on over, I think, the last four or five years. That makes heavy demands on the museum staff. I may cite page 25 of the civil servants' report——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Perhaps I could interrupt the Senator to ask whether the document which he is quoting from is available to other Members of the Seanad?

I am not sure whether it is or not, but I will do my best to make arrangements for its distribution. Senator Alexis FitzGerald has a Xeroxed copy which he is very kindly making available in the mean-time. I quote from page 25 of the report which reads:

The greatest potential source of new material is the scientific excavation of habitation sites, burials, ecclesiastical sites, etc. The Museum considers it has an obligation to carry out excavation on archaeological sites which are threatened with destruction. However, due to shortage of staff, sites which should be investigated have not, in fact, been investigated. In consequence of this, information and material are lost forever to the Museum, and the nation.

Further on there is the following comment:

Due to staff shortage in the Museum the direction, supervision and archaeological research work which the excavation entails have been carried out by one professional officer of the Irish Antiquities Division. The excavation entails constant field work over a period of 6-9 months every year which, as can be appreciated, puts a considerable mental and physical strain on the officer involved. Due to the present deplorable staff shortage, no provision can be made for continuity of expertise and direction of this work in the event of the absence through illness or otherwise of the officer currently in charge of the excavation.

All the work resulting from the excavation such as surveying, planning, description, registration of finds, is carried out by temporary staff who are unattached to the National Museum. Here again there is no provision for continuity and experienced staff members are lost from year to year because of the temporary nature of their employment.

Another matter which bears very heavily on the staff shortage is the amount of work for outside interests and I quote from page 12:

Due to various causes and for various purposes, an increasing number of outside researchers are becoming interested in museum material and services and more and more time is spent in facilitating them. In the present year—

that was 1969

—25 numismatists alone have been so facilitated and over 300 coin queries, some involving considerable time and research, have been answered. The result of this is that, by and large, the Museum is being reduced to the provision of a short-term public service with its consequent depressing effect on the staff. This situation should not be allowed to persist for the Museum cannot live by mediocrity. Even with regard to acquisition alone it needs experts to identify and evaluate. It is clear that if the Museum is to serve this public, and it must, its staffing must be such that the incidental Museum service should not be detrimental to the essential Museum function.

The last comment I wish to make in regard to staff is to point to one particular and very serious lack, namely, the lack of proper photographic staff. The entire photographic staff consists of one photographer. That photographer is on call in all divisions of the Museum. He is so overburdened with work that there is only very limited possibility of his doing outside field word. A lot of his time is taken up in supplying photographs to people outside. I cannot believe that the Minister will be prepared to describe this situation as being other than totally unsatisfactory.

The second part of what I wish to say but on which I must be more brief than I intended is concerned with the question of accommodation. The accommodation in the National Museum is unbelievable. First of all in regard to the location of the museum, Senators may be under the impression that the National Museum is housed in the building in Kildare Street which opens on to Merrion Street but we are told in this report:

Museum material is accommodated not only in the Museum buildings proper but also in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham; the Fernery, Earlsfort Terrace;

I have been connected with Earlsfort Terrace for 20 years but I still do not know where the Fernery is. The report continues:

the basement of the Department of Industry and Commerce building; a store in Fenian Street; a store in Schoolhouse Lane; Military Barracks, Kilkenny.

That is the compository of the collection of the National Museum of Ireland. If these premises were suitable for the reception and preservation of these collections no great objection could be made but they are not so suitable and the evidence that I have been able to get from this report and from conversations with people who are aware of the situation indicates that in nearly all cases these buildings except for the Museum buildings proper are totally unsuitable for the reception of these materials. Where organic material, in particular, is involved conditions of temperature and humidity are of the utmost importance. Unless the proper temperature and humidity are preserved a collection will deteriorate and that is what is happening. There are frightening references to such deterioration in this report. I remember seeing some of these collections when I was a child but they are now rapidly rotting. I am using a stronger word than that used in the report but this is what is happening. The jumble in some parts of the museum must be seen to be believed and I am sure the Minister will facilitate any Member who would like to go and see it for himself.

The working conditions of professional staff are deplorable. There are rooms occupied by senior professional men who, if they were working in a university, even in Earlsfort Terrace bad as it is, would have a room to themselves but these men must share a room with two or three other people of a similar profession or with assistants who are doing a different job so that they are interrupted by the telephone or by callers. These are not conditions for research or study or even for a job of indexing. The jumble of surplus material, books, papers, materials, old cabinets and so on must be seen to be believed. About two years ago I was conducted through the basement under Merrion Street and I saw there in dust and cobwebs items which I recalled having seen as a child when my father took me to the museum. They are now relegated to the basement. I had a good list of them in mind at the time but I cannot remember any now except for a pennyfarthing bicycle that was on view in the 1930s. These items cannot now be seen except by somebody who has a key to the cellars of Merrion Street.

The report continues:

In almost all cases the accommodation is overcrowded and, in the case of that outside the museum buildings proper, it is damp, dirty, badly heated, poorly lighted and inadequately ventilated. In these conditions it is most difficult to properly conserve or study the material.

In some exhibition rooms limitations of space are such that the exhibitions are grossly overcrowded and are virtually meaningless to the average visitor.

Then there is what I regard as being the most incredible reference of all and that is that a section of the botany department has more than 50 leaks in its roof so that the collections have to be covered with polythene sheeting every night to protect them from the rain. Would a motorcar be treated in that way? Yet, these collections which represent, in some cases, the lifework of scholars are treated in this way.

Another collection which is almost forgotten for the obvious reason that it is not on public view is the collection of coaches. The museum has them but they are stored in the Military Barracks, Kilkenny and at Kilmainham as well as at the Fernery in Earlsfort Terrace. In the reference to coaches, the report reads:

Though the collection is small, each specimen represents a different type of vehicle. Its significance may be judged from the fact that recently a film company was obliged to borrow some coaches for the filming of nineteeenth century scenes.

The collection is then listed and the report continues:

All are accommodated under conditions of damp and dirt and are continuously deteriorating. The bodywork in some cases is over-dry and brittle; wooden wheels are cracked, joints open, iron wheel-bands rusted; rubber bands are loose or have fallen off; windows are broken and upholstery is fading, tattered or rotting. In addition, the locations in which these vehicles are kept are not adequately secure against theft and recently two inscribed car lamps were stolen from one coach.

I had hoped to say something about the geology and botany sections. The geology section is largely housed in Kilmainham and many of the items from that collection have disappeared during the years. They have been lent and never returned and the geology section has not been on public view for nearly half a century. I am not a geologist. I get no great pleasure from looking at rocks, rock samples or anything of that kind but I am not so barbarian as to suppose that other people are similarly ignorant. I realise that geology is a subject of industrial as well as educational importance and it seems to me scandalous, to use a word as strong as that, that this collection not only has been frittered away and items have disappeared from it over the years but has not been capable of being properly consulted for nearly half a century. I heard, and I do not know whether the Minister is in a position to confirm this, as it may be a malicious rumour, that one of the geological samples was an extremely big one, a meteorite for all I know or something like that, and it would not fit into one of the Department's crates in Kilmainham, so they sawed it up in order to make it fit and they put the major piece into one crate and the remaining bits into another one. I do not allege that as being the truth. I do not know whether or not it is the truth but I certainly have heard it. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us whether it is true or not.

There are other things about the folk museum which I would like to say but my time is running out and I do not want to hold up the House. I will end by referring, as briefly as I can, to one episode in the history of the museum which has not yet reached the public attention but which deserves to reach the public attention. It concerns the Minister and his predecessor, more his predecessor than the present Minister. In 1968 the two bodies which I mentioned before, the academy and the RDS, feeling concerned as they had been for so many years about the terrible condition of the museum, asked the then Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to receive a delegation which proposed to make suggestions to him about the museum. He did in fact receive the delegation on 28th August, 1968. I was a member of that delegation and I am able, therefore, to give a first-hand account of what transpired. The Minister received us with courtesy. He did not disagree. I have got my own minute of the proceedings, but I will not read it to the House.

My first-hand recollection was the Minister did not disagree that something needed to be done. He asked the delegation to provide him with a list of outside experts from which a small committee could be selected to advise the museum on long-term development because it is not simply a question of advising the museum on day to day problems, for which really no advice should be required if things were properly conducted. You do not need outside experts to tell you you need more staff, that you need clean rooms, that you need proper ventilation and temperature regulation. The two bodies concerned, which were not busybodies, as I already explained, felt something more was needed, that it was time outside experts were asked to give a view on the long-term function of the museum and on long-term development. It was possible, for example, that some of the collections which the museum has housed ought to be given away because there was no hope of adding to them and they were of only limited interest, such as the Burmese or the Japanese collection which might be better assimilated with the Chester Beatty collection. That would have been a possibility. We were not presuming to lay down the law about this but we thought the Minister should take outside advice. The Minister did not agree to do so but he seemed sympathetic to the idea. He asked for a list and we agreed to provide him with a list.

We sent him a list on 4th September of ten outside experts from nearly every country in Europe. That letter went to the Minister on 4th September, 1968. The rest was silence. On 22nd January, 1969, nearly five months later, we were bold enough to write to the Minister and to ask whether he had got any further in regard to the representations which had been made to him. That letter was replied to with a brief six line acknowledgment on 30th January, saying the Minister had received our letter and would write to us as soon as possible. He might as well have sent a pro-forma printed card of the kind which are sent to people making representations of other kinds because no other information whatever was included in that letter written nearly five months after the delegation had arrived.

On 21st August, 1969, in other words seven months later, we still had heard nothing and the four people who were on that delegation wrote again on that date to the Minister and asked if we could have the courtesy of any kind of reply or any kind of indication about his point of view in regard to this suggestion made not by busybodies but by people who had a legal duty to take an interest in the museum and whose advice concerned him. That was on 21st August, 1969. On the 26th we got a reply—Deputy Faulkner had become Minister by then —which was virtually the same as the previous brief acknowledgment. It was to the effect that the Minister was looking into the matter and would write to us again as soon as possible. That was in August, 1969.

On 9th April, 1970, we still had heard nothing. We then wrote again and our tone on this occasion was understandably somewhat exasperated. We said that we wanted to know now whether our suggestion was going to receive serious consideration or not. The House will scarcely believe me when I tell them that that letter written on 9th April of this year, in other words two months ago, has not yet even so much as been acknowledged by the Department. I hope the Minister will not be offended if I say that if I were one of his constituents looking for a grant to repair a pigsty I would have been treated with more consideration than the academy and the RDS have been treated in this matter and more attention would have been given to my problem. It would have been regarded as of greater national importance.

My experience is that you can scarcely open the paper those days without seeing a Minister lecturing school children on the quality of Irish life and on our priceless heritage. Two weeks ago in this House this party protested in the only way open to them against the way in which the quality of Irish life was being made ridiculous by a barbarous procedure in regard to the adoption of designs for the new coinage. I hope the House will not disagree when I say the history of the national museum and of the attempts which people have made to remedy that history over the last few years amply demonstrates that the point of view which we took up two weeks ago is one which this party is well entitled to take up again today.

I formally second the motion.

I am disappointed to some extent, although I appreciate his position, that Senator Kelly had to begin and end with political sniping because it seems to me, in discussing this question, anyone who looks into the matter thoroughly will realise that in fact none of us is blameless. I say none of us meaning even Senators sitting in the House because I am sure Senator Kelly realises, as he enjoys his roast beef in the restaurant at lunch time, that he is in fact eating it on the site of what was the fossil hall of the museum and a substantial section of the geology department of the museum, which is no longer on show.

This situation dates back to the foundation of the State when the Oireachtas moved into those premises in 1922. Then for the first time the museum collections were split in two because Parliament entered those buildings and the communication between the history section and the natural history section was broken. Much of the decay dates from those days. None of us is guiltless in this matter. In the same way, too, I appreciate it is convenient for Professor Kelly to be able to cite a report which was presented to the Government in 1927 to show how the staff of the museum today is inadequate but he could just as easily have pointed to the situation in the museum in 1911 to show that the position in 1927 was unsatisfactory. The burden of this particular decay must be spread broadly on the shoulders of the nation. Our best approach is to look at the contents of the report before us and to make constructive suggestions for the assistance of the Minister in dealing with the situation in the future.

May I say that it is very easy for us to talk as if it has long been accepted in the community that the Government should have a policy on cultural matters generally? It is quite a new thing to feel that governments have major responsibilities in this regard. I was encouraged to find a sentence which I am about to quote in the Third Programme for Economic and Social Development, about the spirit which is necessary for this nation to advance towards full employment:

For this there must be a common conviction that our society possesses a distinctiveness and individuality that is worth developing and in which all members of the community have a right to share.

I would suggest that this type of sentence in Government thinking is something new, something of our time and something we may hope to be spelt out in detail in the future. In the same way, under the heading of social objectives, in the Third Programme we find:

The fostering of cultural and artistic values and the preservation and development of our national heritage.

It is only in the last year or so that we are receiving advice and suggestions from numbers of bodies as to how this type of cultural development in the field of social policy can be pursued. In this respect I am thinking particularly of the Foras Forbartha Report last year which suggested that we need a national heritage council to pursue matters of this kind. I think also of the Devlin Report published later in the year which suggested that a Department of National Culture could coordinate a programme of this kind in which the museum would have a substantial part.

In pressing for the improvement and development of the museum we must look at the way in which education in our society has changed. In complimenting the Minister on the introduction of the new child-centred curriculum in the primary schools, which will start in September next. I notice a section in this curriculum will be dealing with environmental studies. This is a new departure in our primary schools. This sort of new thinking in our education will underline the importance of our museum collection and the need for developing it in such a way that the collection will be both accessible and helpful to the schools in the Dublin area and that parts of the collection will also be available for use in the country at large.

When looking also at the position in the museum we must realise that some of the neglect, particularly in the natural history section, is neglect which has been reflected in our educational system where, for whatever reason, science and art were neglected in our secondary school curriculum. When looking for improvements in the museum it is only in the recent past that we are seeing the need for provision of facilities for practical scientific work and field-work in our schools. I am confident that the Minister, who has been introducing these new steps, will realise that the National Museum can make an important contribution to these educational developments.

I would suggest as a first step towards integrating the National Museum into a full pattern of cultural development, and also in making it the instrument which it should be in our educational system, that the Minister should consider taking up one of the suggestions in the report before us. This is the recommendation that an independent governing body should be appointed to the museum. Many people, including the Commission on Higher Education, recommended this step. It is one which would not only lift a burden from the Minister's shoulders but would place at the disposal of the museum and the country a body of specialists with expertise in the museum field who could lay down plans and formulate policy for the future.

I had no idea how complicated the situation is. The Minister's recent comment on the museum situation was in the Dáil on 9th April of this year when he indicated that it was proposed to alleviate some of the accommodation problem by developing the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, and the 22 acres there for the purpose of establishing a folk museum, and transferring a portion of the collection from Kildare Street. There is reference to this at column 1216, Volume 245 of the Dáil Debates. As a layman I thought that suggestion was fine and I looked forward to its implementation. When I sat down to discuss this with people with an interest in these things I found that they raised all sorts of problems which I had never thought of. They said that Kilmainham may not be the most suitable place for a folk museum. There is a folk park to be established at Bunratty. They suggested the best use that might be made of Kilmainham might be to use the rooms there to show off furniture, glass and other articles. This shows the sort of contention there can be about even a forward-looking new provision for the museum, and underlines the benefit which the museum and the Minister would have from having an independent board of governors to assess the situation.

Senator Professor Kelly has been over much of the ground. I would like to refer to some other specific points in the report before us. Senator Professor Kelly talked about the space problem. It is a severe one particularly because it is not possible at the moment for the people to see any part of the geology exhibitis or the geology collection. The Senator also referred to the problem facing the botany section in the museum. My understanding is that provision is being made for the botany museum at Glasnevin under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture. I would urge that the space which is to be made available at Glasnevin should be adequate for the museum and it should be made available as soon as possible to prevent possible damage to the collections from the leaking roof to which Senator Professor Kelly referred.

The Senator referred also to the role of the staff in the museum. I would like to suggest that a museum has many functions. Senator Professor Kelly referred mainly to the research and preservation/conservation aspect of a museum. I would like to underline that a museum has a job of educating and informing the community at large, and also should give pleasure. In looking at the staff requirements of the museum we must realise that it may be necessary to go beyond the traditional posts as keeper, assistant keeper and other assistants, because posts of this kind are intended mainly for specialist research work and I accept that specialist research workers should not be expected to spend a great deal of their time dealing with matters of display, the production of guide books, making collections available to schools and so on.

I urge the Minister when he is considering the staff position to consider the appointment of people like an education officer and a publicity officer to the staff of the museum and that he would also see if there might not be a role for voluntary guides who could help with museum work purely from the point of view of showing tourists around. This is something which might be within the skill of gifted amateurs.

I might also suggest that even in the research field we are lucky to have in the community many highly-skilled biologists and entomologists of international repute who, when retired, would be prepared to become available if they were given even honorary assistantships. They would be glad of the honour. Many scientists in the US, in places like the Smithsonian Institute, do such work. Men of international repute, for the sheer joy of having an honorary post with an institute of international repute, are prepared to do great work in connection with the technical side of museums.

In discussing those aspects of museum work other than research I should like to emphasise that it is an area from which one small but obvious thing is missing at the moment. It is that a visitor turning up at the natural history museum may well go inside before he discovers that the botany section is apart, in Kildare Street. That is just a small thing and it indicates that adequate signposts indicating what is in each part of the museum, now that it is so divided, would be extremely useful.

We can all accept the recommendation in the report that there is an urgent need for popular and general brochures. Although criticism has been made about the shortage of staff, the photographic section is one place where praise is deserving. There is an excellent collection of coloured slides available for purchase by visitors.

In discussing those things I am merely extending the range of the discussion to other aspects of the museum apart from scientific and research aspects. I feel confident that the Minister, in looking at the situation, will be keen to take action because, as I have said, we have the first indications that the Government may be reaching the stage of having a cultural section in their programme of social development. The Minister has before him at this time a mountain of memoranda and suggestions of all kinds from many interested parties. Many of those people whom I have talked to are in the position that they feel "blessed are they who expect not, because they will not be disappointed". Now they have a right to expect something because of the changes taking place in our educational system.

I therefore feel that the Minister will find it hard to resist, for example, the appeal which went to him, signed by a range of people and it is worth putting them on record: the Agricultural Science Association; An Taisce; the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland; the Dublin Naturalists' Field Club; the Geographical Society of Ireland: the Institute of Biology of Ireland; the Irish Geological Association; the Irish Science Teachers' Association; the Irish Veterinary Association; the Irish Wildbird Conservancy; the Irish National Teachers' Organisation; the National Committee for Geology and the Society of Irish Plant Pathologists.

That shows the interest there is from a range of people in the problems of the museum and that any step towards the improvement of the situation there will be widely commended and applauded. Knowing the Minister's interest in the new developments in education, I have every confidence that progress will be made in this region.

I was delighted to hear Senator Professor Kelly's tribute when he said that the Minister has been on a visitation to see for himself the situation in our museums. Apart from the setting up of an independent governing body, a first move which would achieve widespread support and applause would be the appointment of an educational officer or a full schools loans service—the type of service provided by a comparable museum, the Museum of Wales.

I understand from people I have talked to that the Museum of Wales does tremendous work in this field. This would be worth examining, particularly as we have so much in common culturally with Wales. We may have a lot to learn there. I hope the Minister may find some of these suggestions helpful.

In making these appeals I should like to say that they are personal appeals. Senator Professor Kelly spoke about the impact the museum had on him as a boy. I feel I gained a great deal from visits to the museum. One too easily underestimates the impact a museum can have on the life of the country. It can contribute to the material wellbeing of the country. For example, we have not nearly enough research into the flora and fauna of the country. Many of our small animals and plants can, for instance, make a great contribution to agricultural development. The museum has a great tradition in research in this field and this should be continued.

It is important that any vacancies on the museum staff should not be left unfilled for any length of time because in this work continuity is all important. I understand there is much that must be passed on from worker to worker and even in the present geological and entomological collections, there are people recently retired who may be the only people who recognise the handwriting on the labels of some of the specimens. Those labels state that the items belong to particular collections and in using those labels one can go on to study the catalogues and find out the areas from which the collections came.

That is an example of the need for continuity and it also emphasises the need for people newly appointed to be able to visit retired members of the museum to get from them any examples they have before they are buried with them. This seems unscientific but this type of work is needed where there is cataloguing, listing and so on, with consequent pressure on staff.

I am sorry that I have moved on so far but there is just one personal note I should like to add. The matters I have been discussing impressed me and influenced me in my interest in public life. For instance, I remember seeing in the ethnographic collection a shrunken head from South America. That brought home to me as a boy the barbarism of man to man. In the museum—it has been transformed because of the recent commemoration ceremonies—I remember seeing the ordinary white delph cup and saucer from which I understand Pearse drank his tea, so to speak, before going out to the Rising in Easter, 1916.

That is the sort of thing that brings home to young people that they are dealing not with some remote giants of history but with ordinary men and women who are concerned with the problems of their time, and it is important that we should have in our collections things that can have this type of impact, though again I appreciate that many museum people argue that this is unscientific and unacademic. It is an aspect of our collections that we have a duty to posterity to maintain.

In Merrion Square there is an anthropological collection where you can see a series of model heads of different tribes and races. As a small boy that brought home to me the feeling of the closeness of the races in the world, the feeling of the brotherhood of man. Those things were among the most valuable I learned in my time as a small boy and I urge the Minister to make the source of this impact as widely available as possible throughout the country.

This is my first opportunity to contribute to a debate of this kind. I should like to begin by expressing a personal word of thanks to the Leader of the House for his efforts on our behalf and secondly I should like to express my personal thanks to the Minister for his presence here this morning. I should like to think that this is an indication of how seriously he and his Department take this House and I look forward to the time when he will give us further evidence of this frame of mind when I hope we will discuss another motion which is on the Order Paper in the names of Senator Quinlan and myself.

Although I agree with many of the points that have been made so far, I feel that the object of this debate should not be the scoring of points but rather the discussion of national priorities, because I believe that what the museum is about is essentially a national question. What is at stake here is the role of the museum not only in the life of the capital city but in the life of the community as a whole. It is important to remember that what we are talking about when we talk about the museum and its role in the community is essentially knowledge— knowledge for the people. If knowledge is not used it is sterile, it gathers dust like any object in a repository. The whole point of having a museum is that the knowledge it contains should be used by the people for whom it is held in trust. We should always bear in mind when we are discussing the museum that we are talking not about things but about people. This applies not only to the more obvious branches of the museum's work like archaeology but also, and very strongly, to those branches which deal with, say, the flora and fauna of our countryside. We are talking in all these things not just about objects but about the interaction and the inter-relationship between the people who live in this country and the country itself—its physical, geological and other aspects.

I shall confine what I have to say to one particular point—the phrase in the report which refers to educating our younger generation. The educational aspect of the museum is, I believe, of vital importance. Senator Keery referred briefly to the emergence of environmental studies and said that this was something new, this was part of the evidence of new thinking in our educational system. With all due respect to the Senator it is nothing of the kind. I do not know whether the Minister is of that particular generation of national teachers—I am sure he is familiar with that generation of national teachers—who taught in this country up to the 1930s. In this period there was a subject called natural science. There was a travelling collection of the National Museum which went around to schools and to different localities. In the 1930s, for reasons which I do not know anything about, this subject and this collection disappeared from public view. This subject has now resurfaced miraculously as environmental studies and is being greeted as something very new. It is not something very new; it is merely a restatement of an attitude to education which has been practised by the best national teachers. I am very proud to know some of them, especially in my native county of Keery. Not only before 1930 but in the intervening period, when there was no explicit environmental studies on the curriculum the best national teachers have always used the countryside, its artifacts, its geological and physical qualities as a very necessary adjunct in the education of the children for whom they were responsible. I believe the National Museum can have, in this connection, a very vital role.

If we remember the establishment of the Folklore Commission and the marvellous work that was done by teachers, especially national teachers, throughout the country on behalf of the Folklore Commission, and that is still being done by those teachers, we can have some kind of idea of how the new National Museum, as I like to envisage it, can be integrated in the life of the country as a whole. It is not just a question of environmental studies. It is also very relevant to two of the vogue words we use rather a lot nowadays, the whole question of ecology and the whole question of conservation. I should like to see the museum operating in such a way that it will give back to the schools and through the schools to the children of Ireland something of the sense of discovery in education which is the most fundamental aspect of the whole educational system.

I should like to refer briefly to the whole question of the Folk Museum. As Senator Professor Kelly pointed out this is now in Kilmainham. I consider this disgraceful, even though I know that the subject is now under review. I would like to think that in the Department of Education attention is being paid to the work which has already been done in this area in Northern Ireland where the Folk Museum is one of the most excellent collections that I know of in these islands. The Folk Museum in Northern Ireland even has an exhibition at Aldergrove Airport in Belfast which is a never-failing source of attraction for anybody passing through. This is a way of bringing knowledge to the people that I think we should be emulating. The Belfast experience is based very strongly on the Scandinavian experience and we should be prepared to learn from that also.

I shall refer briefly to the question of staffing. The facts are as Senator Professor Kelly has traced them but I should like to refer to one aspect of the staffing problem and that is the opportunities for employment of people who are studying at the moment subjects which are connection with the areas of interest covered by the National Museum. There are at the moment, in archaeology alone, 200 students in Dublin; there are about 80 in Galway and possibly about 80 in Cork. It is no answer to criticism of staffing problems to suggest that if the jobs were created people would not be available to fill them. There are more than enough people for these jobs not only in the museum but in the schools and I hope that the policy of the Minister towards the museum will take this fact into account.

The present staffing arrangements in the museum are not only inadequate to service the collections as such but they are inadequate for the task of assisting other people who are also employed by the State—teachers—to fulfil their duties to the community.

It is obvious that there is among all the people of Ireland a very genuine, if rather latent, interest in the kind of service the museum can, should and, I hope, will be providing. People may find it difficult to express, but if we are going to be serious in this we will have to activate this interest and I believe that the museum and the agencies of the museum are the best possible instruments for activating it in this way.

I would now like to turn from personnel to the relationship between the Department of Education and the Department of Finance in terms of what the museum is up to. There have been many excavations over the last several decades, and some of them are still going on. Those excavations, which are very costly, are paid for by the Department of Finance. The artifacts and other objects from these excavations are put almost invariably into some kind of cold storage. I think that any businessman who invested in his business what the Department of Finance is investing in excavations of our national treasures and our national heritage and who failed to utilise the results of this expenditure would be in Stubbs before he knew where he was. It is almost the equivalent of buying a computer and putting it in a shed at the end of the garden.

I am not going to widen this debate into any question of the relationship between Education and Finance as has been discussed in the Devlin Report but I think that it is something that we must look at. It has been suggested that one possible step in the near future might be the formation of some kind of group called, say, the Friends of the National Museum. This, it is suggested, might take place in the same way as we now have the Friends of the National Library. This may or may not be a good idea, but I think it is probably good; but the first friend of the National Museum must be the Department of Education. If the Department of Education is not the first and greatest and most constant friend of the museum we cannot look forward to anything like decent progress in the future.

I have spoken already about the educational aspects of the museum and its integration into the life of the community. This is very valuable from two particular points of view, but I do not quite know how it can be organised. There is probably a very good case to be made for the establishment on a regional basis of submuseums, of smaller types of institutions working on a local level and with local personnel. This would all be part of a scheme to involve people in the country that they live in. It would be part of a scheme to enable people to shake off the cultural shackles to which they have grown accustomed and experience a rebirth of a sense of rediscovery of their own country. This is important for two reasons. The first is connected with tourism. Since the publication of works like the Shell Guide to Ireland we have a very interesting and at the same time rather dangerous situation. People now know where all our precious national monuments are, but we simply have not at the moment got a task force to protect those national monuments from possible desecration by vandals or by tourists who have no real idea of the value of the monuments they happen to be seeing. I would suggest that the kind of integration in the life of the community through the National Museum or through the smaller museums, established maybe in six or seven centres, throughout the country, could be highly valuable in awakening people to a sense of their own local heritage and in providing for that care and maintenance that is essential if it is not to be destroyed.

Secondly, it is important in the area of development. Far too many development schemes, especially in rural areas, take place without due regard for the natural and other amenities of the area. Some kind of local involvement sponsored by the museum which would look at specific things like national monuments and so on could also be energised to prevent the wrong kind of development in rural areas and to guide development in rural areas—and indeed in urban areas as well—along the lines which are most beneficial to the life of the community as a whole.

What we have been talking about here in regard to the museum is about involving people at all levels, national and local, in their historic heritage and culture. This is about people, not about things. If we talk about objects we will miss the whole point of the exercise. In this task the word "museum" to my mind has a kind of smell of decay about it. I would like to see these regional museums described as exhibition centres or something like that, but above all we must look again at the whole concept of a museum. It should not ever again be a warehouse full of fusty and dust-covered objects, but a national powerhouse of imagination and discovery for the use and benefit of the people of the country.

Is é rud atá á phlé againn ná Tuarascáil Bhord na gCuairteoirí 1965-66. Chomh fada is a bhaineann sé liomsa, ba mhór an míbhuntáiste é gan an tuarascáil bheith agam go dtí, mar adéarfá, an nóiméad deireanach. Theip orm cóip a fháil in aon áit lasmuigh de Leabharlann an Oireachtais agus táim thar a bheith buíoch don Leabharlannaí as ucht an chóip seo a thabhairt ar íasacht dom ar maidin.

Caitfidh mé tagairt a dhéanamh don mhoill a rinneadh maidir le foilsiú na tuarascála. Ba cheart féachaint chuige go ndéanfaí gach tuarascáil, is cuma cad leis a bhaineann sí, a fhoilsiú a luaithe agus is féidir. Is lúde tairbhe tuarascála an mhoill a déantar.

Níorbh fhearr liom rud ar domhan ná an tuarascáil a phlé sa Ghaeilge ach ar eagla aon mhí-thuiscint a bheith sa scéal, leanfaidh mé i mBéarla.

One of the difficulties besetting anyone who wishes to speak on this subject this morning is the fact that this report was practically unavailable to us. I made several efforts yesterday to try to get a copy of it. I finally succeeded in getting the copy in the Library and through the kindness of the Librarian I have a loan of it again this morning here. It is entitled: "Report of the Board of Visitors of the National Museum of Science and Art, Dublin, for the year 1965-66". I, too, was of the opinion that a considerable length of time elapsed from the actual dates of the visitations and the publication of the report. Senator Professor Kelly offered possible suggestions as to why that should have happened but while we do not accept those suggestions, we would be of the opinion that when any report is made the least possible length of time should elapse between the submission of the report to the proper authorities and its publication.

On page 2 of this report there is a reference to the duties of the visitors, 12 visitors in all. I quote:

The duties of the Board of Visitors shall be to make annual reports to the Department on the condition, management and requirements of the Museum and to advise on points affecting the administration and a copy of such report shall be laid before the Parliament by the Department.

In this report the visitors have certainly remarked on matters which they thought were wrong. I suppose they got in as much as they could in eight pages but I wonder if these visitors were cognisant of the real purposes of a museum and, in particular, of the purposes of the National Museum which, so to speak, is in the very street in which we live. I have here a reprint from an article which appeared in Oideas, Volume 1, published in 1968 and written by the Director of the National Museum, Dr. Lucas, who is a very fine old friend of mine. Complimentary references to the role of the national teachers and to conservation were made by Senator Horgan. I am proud to say that both Dr. Lucas and I were students many years ago at the De La Salle Training College and it is with great pleasure that I quote from his opinion of what a museum should be and from his opinions as regards the role of the National Museum in our life.

There are two points about a museum in this connection. First of all, what is a museum? A museum is a kind of omnibus word which can mean so many things to so many people just as the word "school" can mean so many things to so many people. I suppose the two main functions of a museum must be, firstly, to preserve every scrap of evidence that has come down to us through the centuries and which would be of benefit in establishing our growth and our progress from the earliest times.

In the same way, the National Library has, or should have, everything that was ever written concerning the people, the animals, the birds, the fish, the landscape, the rivers, the trees and the fauna and flora of this island. It should have as many original documents as can possibly be obtained. In other words, it should be a repository of the written word in so far as it pertains to this island and to its people. In like manner, a museum should store all the things of which I spoke. It should store all the antiquities of natural history. Perhaps that is the first obligation devolving on a museum.

Secondly, there is the question of some of those things being placed on exhibit. I quote from this article by Dr. Lucas:

Superficially, too, museums seem to differ only in size since they all have one feature in common: an exhibition of material. In the case of a small local museum, however, the exhibition is everything and the museum has no function other than to keep it on display. In the National Museum, on the other hand, the exhibition is very considerably less than the tip of the iceberg in relation to the vast body of material in its possession which is never exhibited. Because the exhibition is the part of the Museum open to the public, many people are under the impression that its work and purpose virtually begin and end with the display of material when, indeed, the Museum would still retain its importance and could exercise many of its vital functions even if it had no exhibition at all. To see the Museum only in terms of its exhibition is completely to undestimate the role of the institution and to fail to grasp the real significance of its collection.

This is particularly true of Ireland for two reasons. We lack continuity in so far as the written word is concerned regarding our mode of life down through the centuries. There are various historical reasons for that. If we go back to the early Christian period about which we would expect to find that quite an amount had been written we will find that the monks of the time, because of their complete dedication to the message of Christ, spent all their time copying the Gospels, illuminating them and giving their skill in that way, unparalleled as it is while, apparently, there was no question of giving detailed accounts of how people lived or of what they wore in those times. There are short accounts here and there but by and large we lack such accounts in our literature.

The same applies in relation to painting. I spent some short time in Amsterdam and it was most enlightening to see life through the centuries, particularly life in the 17th century; vividly portrayed as by the Dutch Masters. Perhaps nothing projects as clearly and as vividly as the illustrated book or picture, or better still, the original painting.

Every object, every artifact one can lay hands on, is of the utmost importance. It must be remembered also that most of those artifacts worked in bronze, wood, flint, stone, et cetera, were made by craftsmen. They were not made by mass production and for that reason each tells its own particular tale. A colossal amount of information can be got from those things. Serious scholars can work out a story from them.

I want to make another point here. We have advanced considerably in technology and I believe it to be true that the story of our people and of our island will be more clearly told in the years to come when with the advance of science more skilful, more methodical, more scientific treatment will be given to the examination of those objects. I heard the point made lately that we may come to a stage when as a result of super-scientific examination of our gold objects, for example, we will have to adjust our beliefs a little. We always accepted that gold objects in this country were mostly found in County Wicklow. I believe there is a possibility of discovering that those objects in fact did not come from County Wicklow but from certain parts of the Continent of Europe. That is just a theory I heard from people who should know. However, the future I am sure will be very exciting when ultra-modern methods of examination come into operation.

Three things are necessary: space, staff and of course, at the root of all evil, money. I suppose if you have the money you can get the space and you can get the staff. It would be a nice thing if all this side of the street here could be given over to the National Museum of Science and Arts and the other side given to the National Library with ourselves here in the middle.

The greatest show of all.

We possibly take up where the written word has ended and the objects in the National Museum cannot go any further. It has often occurred to me that it is a great pity that all this street on my right could not be available to the National Library with a tunnel under the road right across into the library of Trinity College. If those two places could, so to speak, be unified we would have a national library worth talking about and something we could be immensely proud of.

Let us take space first. I was very impressed when during a long hot summer a couple of years ago I spent every moment I could doing some work in the British Museum. I have very pleasant memories of it apart from the great heat. The first thing which impressed me was the space, the room and the facilities there, not that they could not be improved because at certain times during the day in the library itself it was almost impossible, unless one had been there early in the morning, to get a seat on a bench to work on. Even the British Museum with all their resources are short of space. In a place like a museum or a library one cannot anticipate what the growth rate will be and in any plans which are being made to deal with this great problem I would suggest to the Minister not to look at next year or the year after, not to look ahead five years or ten years, but to look ahead in terms of half a century or a century. Difficult and all as it is to get space now, it will be far more difficult then.

One of the greatest contributions the Minister could make during his term as Minister for Education would be to face up to this problem of the National Library and the National Museum because in view of various things which have come into existence we will have to extend our scope as far as the museum is concerned. Not alone should we have the artifacts stored, labelled and classified, not alone should we have to provide the spoken word as well. It is very sad for us who are interested in those things when we cannot hear the voices of the past speak again.

What a wonderful sensation it would be if we could definitely prove to ourselves exactly how Brian Boru pronounced his words. It would be fascinating to hear this. Maybe we can do a certain amount. Actually to hear the voices down through the ages would be a wonderful thing. How did St. Patrick speak, how did he pronounce his words, what were the inflections in his voice, had he any particular accent? We have means of recording voices now. We can, by means of tape recorders, recording machines et cetera, preserve the spoken word. That is something we will have to face up to. We will have to store such records. Accents and ways of speaking peculiar to various places will gradually change. A record should be kept of voices which would involve still further storage space.

There is then the question of photography. The countryside is changing. We do not require the expert painter to deal with it as we can get photographs which will give true pictures of places.

I would like to say a few short words on the question of staff. The National Museum is absolutely under-staffed. In this particular report I counted 15 names and there were 12 visitors. The visitors almost outnumbered the staff. There is just one further matter I will mention, that is, the acreage at Kilmainham. I believe 22 acres are available there. Let us make a good job of whatever we do.

I am informed that on average 10,000 objects come into the National Museum annually. That is a colossal amount and as time goes on the number will not decrease. It will increase because, thanks be to God, people are becoming more aware of the value of those things.

I should like to conclude with a quotation from this article by Dr. Lucas, which sums up the position:

The course of history has, unfortunately, left us without many of the means of information about the past which are so abundant in other countries. To make good this deficiency there is left to us one— and only one—source to draw upon: the material in the museum. History has, thus, thrust up its collections an importance unparalleled among the national collections in any other country in Europe. This enhances further the vital role which the museum has to play in the life of the nation in preserving the documentation in kind of the country and its people.

The Seanad is performing a very useful function this morning in highlighting the problems and the deficiencies concerned with the National Museum of Science and Art. It is obvious, reading the report, that the whole position is pretty desperate and, like all desperate situations, requires desperate remedies. I interpret this lateness in presenting the report three years after as just a measure by the Department to try to leave this aside or to avoid facing up to a gigantic but nevertheless inevitable task and one we will have to face up to. I do not think we need to spend time over the fact that the structure and so on is totally outmoded. This is no job for the Department to run and control in the way in which it does today, in which not even a roof can be repaired without getting the sanction and money from the Department of Finance, and so on. That is outmoded and we could waste time on it. Obviously the museum will have to be put on an independent basis, with much greater finance than it has.

We have got to look at this whole question of the preservation or the recording of our heritage. We have to consider on the one hand, recording and preserving it and, on the other hand, making it available both for the education of our own people and for the benefit of visitors who come here. When we look at that task we find we could spend the whole national income on it and still would not satisfy many of the keen specialists. We have only got to look at some of the wealthy countries, such as the United States with its great museums, Britain or any of the European countries to see the gigantic cost involved in their museums and the great extremes to which they go to preserve every scrap of the past, to recreate the past, and so on.

Anybody here would like our past to be preserved as successfully and on as grand a scale as is done in England or America but of course we cannot afford that. The future opens up much greater and more costly problems than in the past. Senator Cranitch mentioned recording the spoken word, and so on. Why not? The spoken word would in many cases convey a great deal more than the written word. I can still go back to an item which we listened to on RTE at the end of my secondary school days when the President, who was Taoiseach at the time, replied to Mr. Winston Churchill who in a moment of gloating attacked the Irish Government for its part at that time. That was surely one night when Irishmen were united in pride at the content of Mr. de Valera's address and the manner in which he spoke.

The visit of President Kennedy and the whole emotional setting for his visit and his magnificent address to both Houses are surely priceless and should be available in recorded form in some centres for the edification of our people and particularly for the edification of the younger generation.

The problem is a gigantic one. It is a problem in which selectivity and planning must be the keynotes. We must spend a great deal on it and we must do it prudently.

We must look at the situation here and the dual role of the museum in our community as quoted by Senator Cranitch who referred to it as a repository of the priceless treasures of the people and also an exhibition of a certain fraction of those. I suggest these are two very distinct problems. I would appeal that in the approach to this we should have the idea of decentralisation. I have no ambition to see the whole centre of this block taken over for this purpose. I realise the immense cost which would be involved in that proposition. If we can afford to spend money of that order then the nation will get far better value in having the items decentralised. They are not the property of Dublin alone; all the country can share in this treasure. If there is a case for sending the Department of Education to Athlone—I do not know whether that move is still on or not—there is certainly a greater case for decentralising the various sections of the National Museum. We house the historic section of the National Museum very inadequately. I suggest there should be a centre for the Irish history section alone. The rest should be decentralised to more suitable locations. The Natural History Museum must have a part to play. I should have thought that, in the reorganisation of the universities, whatever place is given the task of being the main biological centre should play a big part in that work and carry the responsibility for it. I was shocked to hear that the botany section was to be sent to Glasnevin under the Department of Agriculture. Is it going to the cemetery there? I can think of no less suitable guidance for that section than the Department of Agriculture. That section is not in any way the concern of the Department of Agriculture with its day-to-day involvement in practical agriculture and its development. The Department are not the custodians of the botanical section or directors of that section.

I feel that display is in many ways the most important function. The storing of material from the past is valuable. The real task is to present this material for display and to bring it to bear on the younger generation. The one characteristic of all museums is the sheer indigestion they cause. One goes to visit a museum but has not time to look at anything in a proper fashion. A tour of the whole museum is done. One spends three or four hours trudging around and is exhausted at the end of it and does not care what he has seen. Very few people going to museums, and certainly none of the young schoolchildren or even the more advanced students, will plan their visit on a systematic basis, saying they will spend a month visiting the museum, six days a week, and following a system every day, taking in all sections methodically, thereby doing a thorough study of it.

The whole method of exhibition is outmoded. We should break up the exhibition sections. This is where the value of decentralisation becomes apparent. If there were a museum in Galway with one section containing priceless relics of the past that information should be publicised. School excursions would go and study that very restricted area, listen perhaps to an authoritative talk from the keeper and go away knowing something about the place. Having looked at the position of the local museums and display centres it is clear that they have an important role to play. At Kinsale there is a little-known museum which has been built up over the past 25 years as a labour of love by an engineer attached to Cork county council, Mr. Mulcahy, who has put all his spare time into it. It is a wonderful exhibition of Kinsale and Ireland around 1600 AD when Kinsale was Ireland and when we had a confrontation with the hope of Spanish help and ultimate defeat. A magnificent job has been done with practically no resources. Any group interested in gleaning a little of the history of that period and getting to appreciate it vividly could scarcely cover the exhibition in a day. They would find it necessary to go back again.

There is a museum also at FitzGerald Park in Cork. It is an excellent effort due mainly to two very dedicated Corkmen, Professor Seán P. O'Riordan and Professor Michael O'Kelly, both of whom spent long hours in recreating many facets of the past especially relating to the Cork area and the Irish history associated with it. Little or no publicity is given to this museum. Many visitors are amazed when they just stumble on this priceless treasure. Little or nothing is known about it. When we face up to our responsibility of providing the maximum money we can afford for all this work, I suggest that that has to be put on a national basis and that small amounts should be invested in those centres where you have got dedicated local people interested in it and prepared to give their time. That would produce much greater results than bricks and mortar, especially in this extensive area of Dublin.

I am not saying you should not do both, but I am appealing to the Department not to overlook the integration of local centres into this work. I can speak of a small parish named Kilmurry as an example of what local enthusiasm, backed by voluntary local subscriptions can achieve. All of those places provide material for a full day's visit by any group, whether schoolchildren or adults, and for tourists they provide a most rewarding and enlightening day.

By contrast, what is the memory of a day spent rushing through the National Museum? Those who do it have not been able to spend long enough in any section to get real value from that section. I suggest therefore there should be a national council for this and that they would look on the problem as a whole and involve in it both the specialist authorities and the local community effort. By that means we would be able to do the job and keep the budget within what the nation can bear. Also, we must realise that this is surely a realm which should not be placed within Civil Service territory. The Devlin Report suggested the idea of the creation of a Department of National Culture. Such a Department would be a useful unit within the Civil Service but I do not for a moment suggest that the Department should run the effort: such a Department would be there to assist and to encourage what is necessarily an independent type of voluntary community effort to preserve the past and to communicate it with enthusiasm to future generations.

Also I appeal for the necessary effort in regard to co-ordinating and giving publicity to local museums. I do not think Bord Fáilte have done anything like the job required in this matter. In the future I suggest that groups coming from abroad, people with Irish connections, people interested in the culture of the country, would spend a 30-day visit here. They could start with a tour of Kinsale and its museum, go somewhere else the next day, thereby criss-crossing the entire country savouring all that is made available to them in this connection.

I do not think it is impossible today to suggest that the resources of those local centres might be augmented each year by a type of loan arrangement through which the national centre would send certain of their main national treasures to those centres for six months or a year. That, coupled with modern aids—film strips and recordings, slides and so on—could do much to make sure that we are presenting the national picture as a whole and not merely taking the lazy man's way out by saying that what is required is several million pounds and to keep everything in Dublin.

I think I am right in stating that this is the first time the Minister for Education, in his capacity as such, has visited the Seanad. If I am correct I should like to welcome him. The fact that he is a corporation sole here will not prevent me expressing my hopes for the museum because his successor in office will be and his predecessors in office were also corporations sole.

In this House I cannot be accused of being naturally disposed to making political observations. I hope the Minister will allow me to say what I have to say as somebody who would be making the same speech from the other side. I find it difficult to maintain the ill temper I was reduced to by the observations of Senators Keery and Horgan throughout the very different contributions of Senators Cranitch and Quinlan. I do not think things cease to be true because they have political impact or significance, and I do not think it is right that people should talk about political sniping without accepting the fact that, like the man who talks of love is engaged in making love, the man who engages in political sniping is engaged in politics. Senator Keery was.

Senator Horgan, if he will forgive me in his absence—may the record contain these words—seemed to adopt a somewhat sanctimonious approach which seemed to argue that here you have a politician who is looking for a different kind of vote from that which the ladies and gentlemen of this House have to look for.

Some of them do not need votes.

I am happy to hear that some people do not need votes. I am not among those, I never have been and never will be. It is important for independent Senators that it be put on record from time to time that they object to political points being made.

Talking about successive governments, during 32 of the past 38 years, this State has been governed by one party. Thirty-eight years ago I was 15 years of age and I engaged in much political sniping at 15, probably more than I am disposed to engage in now. However, I do not see why it ceases to be a valid point that there are five telephone lines looking after the National Library, the College of Arts and the museum, and that that is not the responsibility of the Government who have been in power during the past 13 years.

I do not see why that point should not be made or that it becomes unworthy because it has been made by somebody who has the heavier burden of carrying obligations which people on the other side know are being carried and which are far more extensive than the burdens carried by the independent Members of this House. I do not see that it is wrong for me to point out that the fourth established post in the art and industrial division of the National Museum has been vacant, according to the information been referred to by Senator Professor Kelly, a copy of which I furnished to members of the Fianna Fáil Party, or to point out that that is the responsibility of this Government, not the personal responsibility of this Minister because he has not been so long in office that he can be burdened with that responsibility in any peculiar way, but it is his responsibility now to correct it. I do not think the point becomes untrue because it has a political bearing.

According to this report six important pieces of Irish silver which are not represented in the silver collection and which could have been acquired for £10,000 were not acquired during the period when the party now in Government were all the time in Government. I think there is a dishonesty involved in saying that one is obliged in some way not to make a point against a Government because one is independent, that I am obliged to abstain from pointing out that the stamp collection has not been registered or listed or indexed for 30 years.

I do not think it is wrong of me to point out when making a speech which has, unlike other speeches I have made in this House, a political bearing, that there has been no geologist in the National Museum since 1968, if my information is up to date, being based on information provided by the National Museum Branch of the Institute of Professional Civil Servants in December, 1969. I do not think it is wrong of me to point out that shorthand facilities, extraordinary to relate, were withdrawn from the museum in 1947 and have not since been replaced and that for 13 years the Minister's predecessors have been responsible for that position. I do not think it is wrong of me to point out that a dictaphone machine was installed in 1954 and withdrawn.

There is some point in having political parties whose duty it is to make political points when they are in opposition and whose duty it is to point out what the responsibilities of Government are and who have the further duty of presenting themselves as an alternative to that Government. I do not think it is wrong of me to point out that in the Irish antiquities division, according to this report, never once in the last 30 years has there been an adequate staff.

I have not particularly wanted to make the kind of observations I have just made but I have in fact maintained my ill-temper throughout Senator Cranitch's speech and throughout Senator Quinlan's. I have maintained my ill-temper, with some control thereof, and with a sense that I was perhaps doing something that may well be of benefit to the members of the Fianna Fáil Party who are also aware that they are not merely Senators but have obligations to their brothers and sisters in their party and have to do a lot more work than independent members of this House or the independent Member of Dáil Éireann.

A rather annoyed member of my family years ago came into the house with a book which he threw on the floor and he said: "This is the history of your family". It was entitled: The Growth of the Fungi. It seems to be a remarkably accurate account of the manner in which, as Parliament has grown at the expense of the National Museum, it has deteriorated in quality, deteriorated in the respect it enjoys among the community, deteriorated in its ability to provide the leadership which the country sorely needs to lift itself out of this very grave and serious position in which it finds itself.

I do not want to say this, but honesty compels me to say that if I were an enemy of this State, and if I were concerned to prove that the enterprise of self-government had not been a success, the first document I would look to in presenting that case would be this report. This is the most serious and damning indictment of our self-government. Here I throw in, for the pleasure of Senator Keery or anybody else, members of my party who had such a degree of responsibility as they were able to discharge during two short periods of office in the last 38 years, when they had many other cares —as indeed I recognise the party in office now has, but has not had so many of in years previous to this year.

This is a document which is related to the human caravan going forward through time to its destiny, whatever it may be, from whatever pre-history we can gather about it. May I direct the Seanad's attention to page 10 of this report. In relation to the art and industrial division it says:

From the point of view of Museum research acquisition is of primary importance. Material cannot be studied and conclusions cannot be drawn from it until it is first acquired. As regards formation and growth, the Irish collections mentioned above——

This relates to silver, coins, furniture, musical instruments, clocks, watches, Indian art, Burmese art, Tibetan art and so on.

——are at various stages of development. Very seldom, if ever, can a collection be said to be final for changes of emphasis and the emergence of new avenues of approach to historical situations are continuously making new demands on the material.

Then there is a reference to the appreciation by the guys with the money of the value of silver and how they got into it and how well they have done out of it. This was recorded of our National Museum not by the Fine Gael Party, of which I am an active member, and some would say a nuisance:

And yet in 1968 six important pieces of Irish silver not represented in the collection and valued at about £10,000 could not be purchased because of inadequate funds.

We have had a stallion valued at £2 million recently. Would somebody look through the records of the Estimates for the year 1968 and tell me what fraction of the national expenditure would have been involved in providing the people in the museum with £10,000 to get pieces which are not represented in the silver collection in the museum at the moment?

In relation to furniture the report says:

The number of pieces of furniture believed to be Irish possessed by the museum is forty—

I do not know at what point one would start identifying an article as a piece of furniture but I am sure there would be 40 pieces of furniture of my own house. I do not imagine that there are 40 Irish pieces, and certainly there are not 40 antiques, and certainly not one of them would be suitable for putting into the museum if, with my children around, it would be lucky enough to survive. It would have been impossible, says the report, to construct a room as it would have been furnished at any time during the 18th and 19th Century.

I wonder whether the Academy made a great mistake in the 1880s, that they should have made their presentation to the museum. I do not think that this objection would have been there if they had maintained these possessions in the Academy.

Less than a quarter of our known silversmiths in the 18th and 19th Centuries are represented by their work in our museum.

Senator Cranitch referred in his speech, which I admired and enjoyed, to the fact that we might have to think in terms of 100 years to make certain achievements. I accept that, but the report says "At the present rate of acquisition, the work of half the number of now known clockmakers, disregarding clock types, would not be represented in the museum by the year 3,000." That is 1,000 and I think 29½ years off. "With regard to furniture, musical instruments and clocks", it says, "acquisition is of particular urgency since many areas of these collections are poor and, as wood is perishable, there is likely to be a continuous loss of pieces which could form valuable historical links."

There are other areas of deficiency. At the moment, for example, or in December, 1969—and I am not aware of any revolution since then which has touched the National Museum at least —according to the report:

There are only about two dozen pieces of Delamain pottery and yet this was the only pottery made in Dublin during the 18th Century. Carrigaline pottery and many important articles of Belleek ware and Irish glass as well as Donegal and Dun Emer carpets are not represented. Of approximately 300 known Irish gunsmiths, only about 30 are represented in the collections. There are no uniforms depicting Irish service in Continental European Forces or in the Americas, north or south.

With regard to the natural history division we are told:

Material for the Zoological collections is acquired by donation from zoologists or other members of the public, by exchange with foreign institutes and by purchase where necessary.

And then there are these two significant and terrible sentences—if ever there was an argument for the application of the visitors' report here is the argument:

Formerly much material was acquired through fieldwork by members of the staff, often in their own time. Now, however, no fieldwork is being carried out due to staff shortage.

These sentences show the deplorable failure of the Department of Education in fulfilling its responsibilities. This important source of acquisition has dried up due to a lack of appreciation of the needs.

I do not like using a word like "Philistines", but, damn it, it is the word to use in a case like this. It means that the whole scale of values is wrong. The affluent society—be damned to the affluent society when its affluence does not benefit culture in any degree and in fact has no impact whatever except a depressing impact —the affluent society has made it more difficult, not less difficult, for our National Museum to keep its stock.

We have heard from Senator Keery —and he is here to correct me if I am wrong, that we were now, at the beginning of 1970, half-way through whatever it is—the Third Economic Programme: no, that was corrected at a certain stage when certain people got wise to some of the facts of our life and it became the social and economic programme or the economic and social programme—I imagine that "economic" came first, but I do know that it is still first in the actual application. He said that we were at the beginning—listen to this wonderful stage we have reached in 1970—we were at the beginning of the stage of having a cultural programme within the Government's social programme. My God, what an achievement. Congratulations to Senator Keery for this great suggestion.

Would the Senator recognise the practical reality that it is one thing for people of an academic bent to appreciate the need for a cultural programme of this nature but it is quite another thing for the Government to present this to the people and have the support of the people? This is the problem facing the Government of having this programme acceptable, as regards the need for it, and we have at least reached this stage.

When Senator Keery has finished his second speech I will continue mine. In fact, of course, Senator Keery, when he was making his first speech, was in a position to tell us all about the tremendous efforts that the Government have been making to inform the people of the desirability of this—not answering even by a postcard a letter delivered to the Department two months ago by a learned body.

Two learned bodies.

Two learned bodies, I am informed by my more learned colleague. It was not even acknowledged. Where is the sense of strain on the faces of Ministers of this Government from the worry that they are feeling?

There are not enough votes in learned bodies. That is the trouble.

Do they worry because they have failed to convert our people who are still willing in spite of such success as has been achieved by the affluent society, thank God, and are wide open, I would say, to support any efforts to benefit by appropriate measures the museum?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I would be glad if the Senator could bring his remarks to a conclusion owing to the limitation of time.

The pleasure which the Chair will enjoy on that will only be exceeded by the pleasure that I will enjoy in concluding my remarks by quoting—it may be not the complete sentence derived—I have no immediate access to the writer thereof— from a German writer called Adam Mueller who talked about the spiritual capital of a country and made a very profound remark. He was criticising liberal economists and was saying that there was much more in life than was involved in mere material possessions. He said that if you are going to have these material possessions preserved you must have spiritual capital as well —a national heritage which is understood and appreciated by the people, a national spirit which can be appealed to in time of crisis. I believe that we have now as occupier in this Department at this moment someone who will appreciate that. I believe that this is the only true appreciation and that without it this country could very well move into a very much worse crisis than that which is at the moment facing it. I will end with that warning.

Ba mhaith liom, i dtús ama, buíochas a ghabháil le Bord na gCuairteoirí, as ucht na hoibre atá á déanamh acu chun gné thábhachtach dár gcultúr agus dár n-oidhreacht a chaomhnú.

Sílim go bhfuil an ceart agam tús a chur le mo chuid cainte ar an ábhar seo i nGaeilge, mar sé mo bharúil gurb í an Ghaeilge an stroighin lena gcomhthataítear gnéithe eagsúla den chultúr le chéile. Nuair a chuireann saineolaithe suim ar leith i gné áirithe dar gcultúr ta an baol ann nach bhfeicfidh siad an tabhacht atá baint le gnéithe eile, ach an duine go bhfuil suim aige sa Ghaeilge feiceann sé ár gcultúr uilig mar aonad. Sé mo bharúil gurb i an tsuim a bhí agam féin sa Ghaeilge ba chúis leis an suim atá agam sna gnéithe eile.

I repeat that, first of all, I should like to pay a well-deserved tribute to the Board of Visitors for their continuous, zealous and painstaking work over the years in the interest of the advancement of increased public awareness and appreciation of the functions and of the cultural importance of the museum as part of our national heritage and, indeed, as part of the educational fabric of our society. I consider their reports to be extremely valuable as an independent assessment of a situation at a particular time by a competent group of people who, while interested to a very particular degree in this field of cultural activity, seek to make a balanced appriasal of the position while having due regard to the financial considerations and the competing claims of other cultural and educational sectors.

If it might seem at times that the strictures and criticisms of the visitors were over-severe or perhaps unbalanced, we might remember that, like Goldsmith's village schoolmaster, if somewhat over-severe it may be the love they bear their own particular subject which may be at fault. There are other factors also to be taken into account in this respect. It may not always be possible for them to have a full knowledge and appreciation of all the circumstances and difficulties involved or at times, be aware of proposals already being contemplated to meet the difficulties to which they draw attention in their reports. Their independence and their non-involvement give particular value to the reports, based on their own objective assessment.

The real problems facing the museum in recent times stem from difficulties of accommodation. I propose to give information to the House in relation to the present proposals for the resolution of these difficulties. Before doing so, however, perhaps I might refer briefly to some other matters to which attention has been drawn in the report and about which observations have been made by Senators in the course of the discussion.

Firstly, in relation to the exhibition which is the aspect of the museum with which the public is most familiar, a considerable number of items have already been redisplayed to the best advantage within the limits imposed by the design and the space afforded by the museum. Anybody who has visited the museum recently will recognise this and it is something for which we must express our appreciation. The rehabilitated displays include the greater part of the collection of Irish antiquities together with collections of ceramics and recent historical items. The redisplay of the collection of Irish silver has begun. Plans for the reorganisation of the remainder of the exhibition envisage the alleviation of overcrowding by the retiring of a significant percentage of the exhibits to the reserve collection and the redisplaying of selected items in a more spacious format and in improved conditions of lighting and arrangement.

I might also mention that a revision of the labelling system is planned with a view to providing fuller and more interesting information relating to the individual items.

In the course of a meeting with a deputation which I received recently reference was made to the question of guide books. I should like to inform the House that it is intended to cater for the visiting public by the provision of additional guide books to various collections. A number of these are at present in the advanced state of preparation. They include guides to the collection of Irish silver and glass, and the series will be expanded to cover the major collections on exhibit. It is also hoped to augment the series of more specialised publications produced by the museum for the benefit of research workers and advanced students. Of course, there is already available a number of such specialised publications. These include lists on Irish fish, Irish birds, Irish butterflies, Irish marine crustacea and Irish decapod crustacea.

Senator Quinlan mentioned film strips. Visual aids for teaching purposes in the form of film strips dealing with the various educational aspects of museum material is to be produced and two are already available.

There was considerable play made here in relation to the delay in the publication of the report. I do not intend to spend very much time on this matter except to say that some confusion appears to have arisen in relation to the classification of the reports. The report with which we are dealing is dated 30th May, 1967. The next report was dated 17th June, 1968. This one is almost available from the printers. A further report dated 19th December, 1969, is also with the printers and will be available without delay. The sequence of these reports would be 1965-66, 1966-67 and 1967-68. I understand, however, that the visitors now desire that the last two reports—that is, the one of June, 1968, and the report of December, 1969—should be classified as reports for 1967-68 and 1968-69. This revision of the classification will have the merit of bringing the position up to date.

Reference was also made here during the course of the discussion to the Herbarium. I am glad to be able to tell the House that satisfactory arrangements have been completed for its transfer to the Botanical Gardens. That the arrangements took longer to complete than was originally anticipated was unfortunate but was unavoidable in the circumstances. It was fundamental in the view of the two Departments immediately concerned—the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries—and also of the Department of Finance that the transfer should take place on a basis which was fully acceptable to the officials affected and to their professional association. I am glad it has been found possible to make such satisfactory arrangements; and if it took longer to achieve than might have been desired at the outset, I feel the eventual result more than compensated for the delay.

Reference was also made here to staffing. There has been a greater number than usual of vacancies on the staff recently. This fact was partly related to the protracted proceedings in regard to the transfer of the Herbarium and it was also due to a number of vacancies arising in unusual circumstances within a relatively short period. Such vacancies as were to be filled by way of promotion have now been filled and arrangements have been made for the recruitment to the entry grade posts. I am hopeful that the situation will be back to normal in the very near future.

I might also add that an additional post of technical assistant has recently been approved for the Natural History Division.

The difficulty in regard to the supply of electric power to operate the apparatus in the museum laboratory has been rectified. The matter of more suitable arrangements for the accommodation of the philatelic section in the art and industrial division is at present under consideration.

I believe the observations made in the report under the heading of Irish antiquities division regarding the inadequacy of funds allotted for the acquisition of material is misconceived. No special funds are earmarked for any particular division but there does not appear to have been any case in recent years where the museum failed to acquire objects of Irish archaeological interest due to lack of funds.

I do not want for one moment to deny the seriousness of the situation for the museum resulting from the lack of adequate accommodation at the present time. I have myself inspected the premises and I have accordingly first-hand knowledge of the difficulties confronting the staff in the matter of maintaining appropriate standards of exhibition, research and administrative work. I have had discussions with the staff in regard to this matter once in my Department and then in the museum itself, so I can say I have got first-hand knowledge of the problems. I am doing what I can to alleviate the difficulties.

I feel, however, that there is a silver lining in the dark clouds hanging over the museum in this matter of accommodation difficulties. The answer in my view to the immediate and to the long-term accommodation problems lies in the work of restoration of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. This building with its 22 acres of ground is by far the largest and finest of 17th century buildings in the country and a national monument, I might say, in its own right. It is to be completely restored for museum use. Approximately one-fourth of it has already undergone structural reconditioning. It will in the first place be used for the display of the very extensive Irish folk life collection which is still constantly growing by very large annual acquisitions. I noted here some objection in one speech to this proposal but I feel it is necessary that we should have those things available in a situation where most people can benefit from being able to see them.

This exhibition will cover all classes of Irish rural civilisation; domestic life, farming, fishing, turf winning, transport, trades and occupations, games and pastimes, festivals, customs and so on. Some of the rooms will be utilised to reproduce the workshops of traditional craftsmen, complete with the full range of tools and equipment belonging to each trade. Those to be illustrated in this manner will include many of the various types of trades such as carpenter, turner, cooper, basketmaker, weaver, sawyer and so on. It is expected that the accommodation in the hospital will also provide space for the alleviation of some of the congestion at present obtaining in the existing building. It is anticipated it will be possible to transfer to the hospital a proportion of the collection in the arts division. It can there be exhibited more organically than is now feasible in a series of period rooms illustrating the various styles and tastes in furniture, furnishings and costumes prevailing at different periods in the past.

As I mentioned, there are very extensive grounds attached to the hospital. Those grounds will be developed to allow for the re-erection of specimen houses from different areas in the country to illustrate the regional types of traditional houses. In the case of farm houses they will be accompanied by the appropriate complement of outbuildings and sheds. The houses will be furnished so as to reproduce an authentic picture of the social conditions of the period to which they belong and the outbuildings will also be similarly equipped with contemporary tools and implements. The outdoor exhibits will include examples of activities which were peculiar to various parts of the country, for example, a mill for the crushing of anthracite for domestic fuel from the Carlow-Kilkenny district.

Would that not be more appropriate in its local setting, having regard to the fact that we spoke about decentralisation?

I noted the point relating to local museums. There is a limit to what we can do in any local area. While endeavouring to develop our National Museum and while doing anything we can to meet the case of local museums I do not want to be held to any commitment which might have financial implications in relation to local museums.

There is no need to put the farmhouses, et cetera in local settings.

In some instances it is necessary that we should have them in a national setting.

It is envisaged that a transport hall will also be erected in the grounds for the exhibition of the museum's collection of transport items. These include carriages, coaches, cars, carts and similar vehicles together with the collection of boats and currachs of different types. All these items are at present, as mentioned in the course of the debate, stored in a number of locations. They have not been available for public viewing for some years.

Would the Minister undertake to make sure that they will not deteriorate or decay any further?

The Senator can be sure that these matters are being attended to.

Some of the ancillary buildings of the hospital are ideally situated to provide laboratories and workshops for the conservation and restoration of museum material. The position has now been reached in relation to the scheme of restoration work on the Royal Hospital that a programme is envisaged on the basis of annual expenditure of the order of £100,000 over a number of years. I believe the necessary preliminary development design sketch plans will be completed in time to enable actual work on the physical restoration of the building to commence during the financial year 1971-72. The intention is that once such work commences it will constitute a continuous process until the scheme is completed. The proposal is that the east-west and south wings should be completely restored first in that way enabling material stored in other parts of the building to be transferred to these wings and put on display as the opportunity of doing so is afforded. The next stage will be the restoration of the master's quarters of the great hall and the chapel. The final stage will be the provision of the transport museum.

Senator Professor Kelly raised the matter of the deputation which met my predecessor. A joint deputation from the RDS and the RIA met my predecessor and made certain suggestions in regard to the museum. One of these suggestions was that a small independent commission should be set up to inquire into the state of the institution. I have given very careful consideration to this proposal. I am of the opinion that the most suitable arrangement would be to appoint in due course a consultant to make a survey of the functions and of the requirements of the museum and to report to me on the steps necessary to enable it to fulfil these requirements. Such an arrangement was made last year in connection with the National Library. I have already received an interim report which will be of very considerable value to me in connection with the examination of the problems affecting the library and related institutions. I consider that it would be premature to make an appointment in the case of the museum until the scheme of restoration of the Royal Hospital has progressed somewhat further. The time may be opportune to do this within a year or so.

Rinne mé dearmad, agus mé ag caint anois beag, fáilté a chur roimh an Aire agus é i láthair don chéad uair sa Teach seo, mar Aire. Ba mhaith liom é sin a dhéanamh anois. Tá súil agam go n-éireóidh go maith leis fad a bheidh sé in oifig.

Dúirt an tAire, agus é ag tosnú, má thuig mé i gceart é, gurb í an Ghaeilge a nascann gnéithe éagsúla ár gcultúir le chéile. Níor mhaith liom aon rud a rá a laghdódh tábhacht na Gaeilge; ach má cheapann an tAire go bhfuil baint dá laghad idir an Gaeilge agus a lán codanna den mhúsaem tá dul amú air. Más é sin an tuairim oifigiúil atá ag an Roinn, ní íonadh é go bhfuil praiseach déanta le blianta fada de chursaí an mhúsaem.

The Minister said a couple of things which I have to welcome. I particularly welcome the Minister's final words. I am glad he has decided to appoint a consultant. This is not quite what the Academy and the RDS were looking for. They wanted a small board or a body of consultants. Still this is an advance which I must recognise and welcome as such. I welcome the fact that the Minister has decided to appoint at least one consultant to make a survey of the requirements of the museum. I hope that it will now be possible for his Department to convey that decision to the Academy and the RDS who have been waiting for two years to get a reply from the Department.

I do not believe the Academy or the RDS will agree that it is necessary to wait until the restoration work at Kilmainham has been completed before appointing a consultant. I cannot see the point in that. A consultant appointed now might be able to make interim recommendations which will prevent mistakes being made at Kilmainham. He might be able to prevent material from deteriorating even further than it has already deteriorated. I would like the Minister to say why he thought the completion of Kilmainham was necessary before a consultant could be appointed. I do not think the two bodies will feel that the appointment of a consultant needs to wait for another two years.

What I said was that until we had made some little progress in relation to Kilmainham I felt it was not necessary to appoint a consultant. I said a consultant would be appointed within a year.

I will not pursue the point but I repeat that it might not be any harm if a consultant were appointed now, because mistakes might be made even while this very expensive work—it is very expensive—is going on at Kilmainham.

Earlier, the Minister referred to a couple of other matters which, because of time, I did not have an opportunity of dealing with in my opening speech. Neither did Senator FitzGerald. He mentioned the library. The Seanad ought to know that the report from which Senator FitzGerald and I quoted discloses that, except for periodical literature, almost no text books or monographs have been added to the museum library since 1914.

I understand that a small country with limited resources cannot have expensive books duplicated in places a couple of hundred yards away from each other, and I could understand it if it were urged that the National Library is the proper place in which to keep monographs of this kind. I do not have an opinion about it, because, not having to do the work, I do not consider myself fitted to speak about it. However, it requires attention, and quickly, and this is a field in which a consultant could advise. In my own obscure corner of the field of scholarship, I know that textbooks are expensive because they appear in limited editions, and, once they go out of print, they are difficult to come by. They are, of course, sometimes reprinted, but the reprints are then extremely expensive. It is not uncommon to see a textbook which in 1920 cost 30s being reprinted at £10 or £12. We must bear in mind that the arrears in the museum library go back to the year in which the first world war broke out, and it becomes more and more expensive each year to remedy this. I do not know whether the National Library has been directed to take up where the museum has not the resources to provide these things, and this is something with which the consultant to be appointed by the Department of Education should concern himself.

I should have liked if the Minister had told us where the workshops and laboratories are to be located and when they will be ready. Workshops and laboratories for the conservation of the museum are necessary. One little gem in the report which I have been quoting from is this:

Part of one harp, the earliest documented Irish harp in existence, is in an acute stage of decay.

If a playwright who was a foreigner, or one with the name of being a West Briton, were to write a play and to put it on at the Dublin Theatre Festival about how the earliest documented Irish harp had been allowed by the Irish state to fall into an acute stage of decay he would be accused of telling lies about us, and of having blackened us before the world, although what he had been saying would be no more than the truth. There should be no delay about the setting up of the workshops. It is not enough to have the intention to set them up. It must happen quickly, and I am giving notice that if we are here next year, on whichever side of the House—some of us may be in the other House and some of us may not be in either House—we are going to raise this matter again the next time a report from the Board of Visitors comes round, and we will expect something to have been done.

I should like to deal briefly with what other speakers said. Senator Keery has been adequately dealt with by Senator FitzGerald, but I too wish to say, without offending the Senator, that I object to his attitude that it is wrong for an Opposition to behave like an Opposition, that it is wrong for them to oppose, that it is wrong for them to outline the Government's failures and thereby to fit themselves to do the job better. That is what the Opposition are here for. If they do not do it they might as well not be here. To accuse me of political sniping because I am doing the job for which I was elected is outrageous.

I have not noticed that Senator Keery —I have a good deal of regard for his good attendance and his constant contributions—has been slow to make a political point when there was one to be made. I have heard him backslapping Ministers and paying tributes to the Government's performance. That is his job, and it is our job to point out failures, and we will do it whether it suits Senator Keery or not.

In regard to conditions in the museum, I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard Senator Keery say that the blame should be "spread broadly on the shoulders of the nation". If that is so, the credit for anything the Government may do successfully should also be spread broadly on the shoulders of the nation. Was anything more absurd ever said in this House, than that the nation should bear the blame because a function jealously guarded by a Government Department, for which the Minister and the Government must be responsible, has been disastrously and scandalously neglected over not years but decades? According to Senator Keery, it is something for which the blame must be spread on the shoulders of the nation. As one Irish citizen, I can say it is not my fault. It is not the fault of the nation but of the Government and of the Department responsible. There is no way out of that, and piously to say that we all are to blame, as if it were a large intractable social problem, for which no party had a solution, is outrageous.

Senator Keery said a couple of things with which I have to agree. So did Senator Cranitch. They pressed for the adoption of the recommendation for an indpendent governing body. Let me acknowledge, having spoken so harshly about Senator Keery, that he is capable of being independent and of occasionally saying things which might be embarrassing to the party of which he is a member. I believe that the people who work in the museum and those who advise them agree that the museum would be better off with an independent governing body than as a mere section of the Department of Education.

Senator Keery spoke also about the function of the museum being to educate and to inform the community at large, and that this is as important as its research role. Senator Keery works in a university and he should know that these things go hand in hand. Any member of a university, any teacher, will not be any good unless he has time to read, time to improve his learning. In the same way, a museum cannot instruct people unless it has sufficient staff to do research and to establish what is the right thing to instruct people with. The two are inseparable.

Senator Keery praised the museum for a public exhibition. It is true that a fine exhibition, the Rosc Exhibition in 1966-1967, was a source of pride to Irish people when foreigners saw it, but behind that operation, which took up two rooms together with the 1916 room, there was nothing visible but neglect, jumble and decay. I have said enough about it; I do not want to be offensive by referring to it as a public relations or a window dressing operation, but the Rosc Exhibition cannot be said to be an excuse, or even remotely to mitigate the way the museum has been treated. For instance, the very labels on the exhibits had to be written by the Keeper of Irish Antiquities. He did not even have an assistant who could so much as write a label for him. He had to do it himself. He has to type a lot of his own correspondence. These are things which there is no use glossing over. They are things that must be said, and I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to say them, and I will keep on saying them for as long as may be necessary.

Senator Horgan made a very fine speech in which he emphasised something which I had not referred to myself—the importance of the museum particularly in the modern world where the importance of ecology and conservation has at last been realised. He also referred to Northern Ireland and to what was done there in regard to museums. I feel that museum co-operation could be one of the most fruitful sources of cultural exchange and co-operation between this republic and the North of Ireland. I believe everybody was most impressed by and grateful for the fact that on an occasion when the museum did acquire and—to give credit where it is due— was enabled to acquire a valuable and important item, namely the little Killymoon hoard two or three years ago, through an arrangement with the Ulster Museum, the first thing that was done was to send that little hoard up to Belfast. That is the kind of thing that should be done every time such an opportunity arises in this republic. That was an isolated incident. It ought not to be an isolated incident. I believe that in this very area of the museum there is a fruitful place for increased co-operation and friendship with the North.

I do not disagree with the Senator's idea of creating a body of friends of the National Museum, it might be a good idea but it does not, as he said, take away from the prime duty of the Minister and his Department to be the principal friend of the National Museum.

Both Senator Horgan and Senator Quinlan and also Senator Cranitch referred to regional museums. Of course that is an excellent idea. I do not want to appear to be dismissing it by simply paying it these words of tribute, but, as the Minister said, of course, funds are limited. We must recognise that, and it may be that in these days of improved transport it is not such an effective a way of instructing the public to have collections scattered around in various places. There is also a question of security. It is not possible for some places perhaps to organise security in quite the same way as it would be organised in Dublin. I am reminded of the museum in Kilkenny, which was not a bad museum at all, housed in Rothe House, opposite the courthouse, which was robbed last year and a very large part of the most valuable material was taken. I do not need to tell the House that this is a serious problem in regard to regional museums. I do not say that in order to disapprove of the idea, but I regard it, I am afraid, with some reserve.

I am glad of the few crumbs which the Minister has given by way of a promise of the appointment of a consultant and the erection of workshops. These are things which should be done at once and which I do not think should wait for another year. I would urge on the Minister not only to do that but to consider seriously, as other Senators have suggested and as the Board of Visitors recommended, that the affairs of the National Museum should be taken away from a Government Department which has shown itself incompetent over the last 30 or 40 years to deal with it and should be entrusted to an independent board of governors.

Question put and agreed to.
Business suspended at 1.15 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.