Dublin University Museum

This museum contained a large diversity of collections: botanical, engineering, ethnographical, geological, and zoological. In 1864 the naturalist Robert Ball was appointed its first full-time Director. He expanded the collections and encouraged others to donate material. Among those who did were the Earl of Enniskillen, Sir Richard Griffith, Baron Cuvier, and J.D. Hooker.

Engraving of the Dublin University Museum (in 1819) situated in Regent House, above Front Gate. Drawn and etched by W.B. Taylor; engraved by R. Havell and Son.

In 1857 the Museum collections were dispersed throughout College: most were housed in the purpose-built Museum Building; the botanical Herbarium found a home in the basement of House No. 40.

Interior of the Geological Museum
Interior of the Geological Museum, early 1900s

The floorplan of the museum in the Museum Building is shown below. The room measured 88 feet long x 38 feet wide and contained 44 free-standing display cases, as well as many wall-cases, and four deer skeletons (two skeletons of the Giant Irish Deer are now in the entrance hall of this building, and one Red Deer skeleton remains in the collection). In 1953 the Geological Museum was sub-divided into three laboratories and the collections were moved to a smaller room on a newly built floor sixteen feet above the former Museum (by contrast, that room contained 16 display cases).

Floor plan of the Geological Museum in the Museum Building.

Today the collections are further scattered: the Geological Museum has moved to TTEC; the Zoological collections may be seen in the Zoological Museum; the Herbarium has its own building connected to the School of Botany, while the Ethnographical Collection was transferred to the National Museum of Ireland.

The Geological Society of Dublin Collections

In the 19th century geology became increasingly popular and many regional Geological Societies were established throughout the British Isles. In 1831, the Geological Society of Dublin (later to become the Royal Geological Society of Ireland, by Royal consent in 1864) was founded for the ‘purpose of investigating the mineral structure of the earth, and most particularly of Ireland’. Membership reached 200 fellows in the heyday of the Society and included many eminent scientists: J.E. Portlock, Richard Griffith, Samuel Haughton, the Lloyds – Bartholomew and Humphrey, J.B. Jukes, W.H. Baily, G.H. Kinahan, and M.H. Close. By 1890 a decline in interest lead to the Society being disbanded.

geol_soc_dub_stampFor much of its existence the Geological Society of Dublin was associated with Trinity. In the early years the Society was peripatetic, meeting in various locations: the Royal Irish Academy, Grafton Street, and Sackville (O’Connell) Street. By 1841 the Society moved to more permanent rooms in the Custom House where a large Library and Geological Museum was arranged. The first Curator of this Museum was Thomas Oldham (later Professor of Geology at Trinity). In 1848 the Society began to meet in the Engineering School of Trinity, and the contents of the Museum were transferred to the large Dublin University Museum to be under the care of Robert Ball.

Some specimens from the GSD collections are still extant: a collection of Ichthyosaurs (see below), about 100 fossils, some minerals, as well as a representative selection of zeolites from County Antrim.

Icthyosaurus platydon Jurassic (Lias) Lyme Regis (now known as Temnodontosaurus platydon)

Additional Reading

Wyse Jackson, P.N., 2006, The Honorable George Knox (1765-1827), parliamentarian and mineral collector: His collections in Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, Mineralogical Record, 37, (6), p543-5517.

Wyse Jackson, P.N., 2004, Thomas Hawkins, Lord Cole, William Sollas and all: casts of Lower Jurassic marine reptiles in the Geological Museum, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, The Geological Curator, 8(1), p11-18.

Parkes, M. A. and Wyse Jackson, P. N, 1998, A survey of the state and status of geological collections in museums and private collections in the Republic of Ireland, The Geological Curator, 6, p377 – 388.

Wyse Jackson, P. N., 1996, Sir Charles Lewis Giesecke (1761-1833) and Greenland: a recently discovered mineral collection in Trinity College, Dublin, Irish Journal of Earth Sciences, 15, p161 – 168.

Wyse Jackson, P. N., 1992, The Geological Collections of Trinity College, Dublin, The Geological Curator, 5, (7),p263 – 274.