Brian Walsh has been the curator at the County Museum in Dundalk for nearly 20 years. Originally from Galway, he now calls Dundalk his home
Tell us a bit about yourself? Where from? Family background? etc.
I’m a Galwayman originally but have been working here in the museum for nearly 20 years.
My mother is originally from Dundalk and I would have spent many an enjoyable holiday here when I was growing up and thankfully I still have family here.
Tell us a bit about what you do?
I’m the Curator at the County Museum here in Jocelyn Street which means I’ve one of the best jobs in the country!
We have such a great collection of items which tell the story of how the county has developed over history - a Heinkel motor car; beautiful archaeological pieces handcrafted maybe 5,000 years ago; the first Olympic medal won by an Irishwoman; Viking artefacts; Oliver Cromwell’s shaving mirror. We collect items that we will use to help future generations understand the way we, our parents, our grandparents and all those who went before us lived our lives.
We do this in a way that is relevant, informative and thought-provoking. Ideally visitors will enjoy their visit and have some greater understanding of why our ancestors chose one direction over another at key moments in their lives.
What is your average day like at the museum?
That’s the beauty of this job, there’s no such thing as an average day. There’s just so much variety to be had.
One day we might be on site looking at an archaeological discovery; the next someone might be giving us an item as a donation. These occasions are particularly rewarding because the donor is looking to ensure that someone’s life’s work, passion or collection will be remembered forever. It could be a wife, husband, mother, father, son or daughter. This is an act of such generosity that in many way defies description - in many instances these transactions can be emotional, it is a formal recognition that a loved one might have died but it is an affirmation of someone’s life and ensures that that person’s life will be remembered.
There’s our interaction with schools be it Christmas or Halloween or whatever part of the year it is. It’s so rewarding to see teachers and children supporting us and appreciating the event. Then, there’s the simple preparation of an exhibition in which we hope to ensure that visitors leave with a greater appreciation of the past.
What has been your best memory of working at the museum, so far?
There are too many to name; the 1916 Exhibtion was memorable because of the nature of the artefacts on display; as was our Olympic exhibition. The exhibitions on Peter Rice and explorer Francis Leopold McClintock were memorable because these were great inspirational stories that deserved to be shared with as wide an audience as possible.
As I say though sometimes it’s the quiet moments that are the most striking, the conversations with donors or guests who simply have fascinating stories to share, each story elevates an incident or an item into something that has a greater relevance than one might expect and it’s this aspect that continues to give us a buzz.
What do see the future holding for the County Museum?
I see a great future. The Museum is one of the finest in the country, I’ve often been told by others just how good it is.
I’m blessed to work with people who have a passion for their work and, I think, this is reflected in the service that we provide. Next year our priority will be about the maintenance of our standards and accreditation. Over the coming years we’ll continue to develop exhibitions and projects that are relevant and interesting.
How would you describe a typical Dundalk person?
Forthright, passionate, dry wit.
How do you like to relax?
Watching sport particularly rugby, soccer or GAA - be it live or on the television. (As a lifelong Connacht supporter the past few years have been very satisfying!) I think that there is something very interesting happening in many different sporting pursuits which are so positive. At a time when there is just so much gloom and negativity about we can see in our sporting heroes the value of true leadership, professionalism and positivity, it is inspiring and refreshing.