Take five: 5 fascinating objects on display in the Museum

The Museum of Science and Ecclesiology features an eclectic mix of objects relating to ecclesiastical art and the history of Irish science. Here are just some of the fascinating objects on display:

1. Death mask of Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847)

Death mask of Catholic Emancipator Daniel O'Connell on display in the Museum
Death mask of Catholic Emancipator Daniel O’Connell on display in the Museum

The Museum houses a wax death mask taken one hour after the death of ‘The Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847). O’Connell died in a house in the Via Ponterale, Genoa, on May 15, 1847. He visited Maynooth College just four months previously in January 1847.

For more information on O’Connell’s visit see the following article: Woods, Penny (2010) From the Russell Library: Daniel O’Connell in Maynooth. Síolta.

 2. Old Irish Harp

Old Irish harp on display in the College Museum
Old Irish harp on display in the College Museum

An old Irish harp decorated with Celtic interlacing is one of the most striking objects in the Museum. The harp was donated by college servant, John Flood.

There are two inscriptions on the harp, the first of which reads: ‘Made in Ireland, The Tara, No. 10’. The second inscription reads: ‘James McFall, Maker Reviver of the Irish Harp, – 22 York Lane, Belfast’.

Reference: P.J. Breen and Niall E. McKeith, A catalogue of ecclesiastical items spanning two centuries of the history of the College, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, 1995.

3. Callan’s Workshop

One particular section of the Museum is devoted to the instruments of Nicholas Callan, inventor of the induction coil. Many of the electro-magnets, electric motors and batteries which he used in his research are on display in the Museum.

Callan's great induction coil
Callan’s great induction coil

Professor Callan’s laboratory was originally housed in the basement of Stoyte House but was later relocated to the Museum where it serves as a wonderful tribute to the Maynooth Professor.

4. Phonograph c.1898-1905

Phonograph
Standard phonograph on display in the College Museum

American inventor Thomas Edison enjoyed success in 1877 following his invention of the phonograph, a device to record and reproduce sound. The ‘Standard Phonograph’ housed in the Museum features a black enamelled plate and gold decoration. The phonograph is housed in a wooden case with an arched lid. A silver-metal cylinder is mounted above. Unfortunately, the acoustic horn (which amplified the sound) is missing from this item.

Reference: Charles Mollan and John Upton, The scientific apparatus of Nicholas Callan and other historic instruments, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, 1994.

5. Harmonium

This 19th century harmonium was made by E.F. Walcker & Cie, Ludwigsburg and is tuned to the diatonic scale, which has major and minor semitones. It was once housed in St. Joseph’s Oratory at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where it was used in liturgies.

Harmonium (late 19th century)
Harmonium (late 19th century)

 Reference: P.J. Breen and Niall E. McKeith, A catalogue of ecclesiastical items spanning two centuries of the history of the College, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, 1995.

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