National museum makes virtual learning fun for children

National museum makes virtual learning fun for children

A DIY Samurai-inspired helmet, National Museum of Ireland. 

With Level 5 restrictions ongoing, the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) is inviting children and parents to bring the museum into their home this spring.

Children are a key audience at NMI, with approximately 90,000 primary and post-primary students attending its four museum sites in Dublin and Mayo annually. In light of Covid rules, the NMI has had to rethink how students can engage with the national collections. They’ve developed different online resources/activities as part of their ‘Museum in the Classroom’ and ‘Museum at Home’ programmes (

NMI’s head of education Lorraine Comer says the resources reflect the variety of disciplines in the museum collections covering archaeology, decorative arts, history, ethnography, folk-life and natural history. “They’re designed to stimulate children’s curiosity about the past, to stimulate their imagination as well as their historical empathy because they’re learning about how our ancestors lived and worked.”

When children engage with the museum as part of a family, Comer says it encourages intergenerational conversations between children and parents/carers. The emphasis is on fun – children can learn to write their name like an Egyptian pharaoh, explore extinct Irish animals and uncover secrets of Viking runes.

“Children love stories,” says Comer, citing as a particular favourite the ‘Proclaiming a Republic’ exhibition, suitable for children in fourth to sixth class. 

The virtual tour explores the roles of ordinary people during the Rising, in particular children, young people and women – the choices they had to make and what motivated those choices.

A key example, she says, is the memorial card for 15-year-old Charles D’Arcy, one of 38 children killed during the 1916 Rising. “He was part of a group holding the Henry and James clothiers store in Parliament Street. He was shot on the roof of the store on the evening of Easter Monday,” says Comer.

“We tell the story of what it was like to live at that particular time. Charles D’Arcy had to leave school and get a job at 13. His headmaster said he found him to be ‘an obedient and respectful student to his teachers, attentive to his lessons, always punctual’. It adds to the poignancy of his story.”

Comer says NMI’s virtual learning resources are a great chance for parents and children to come together to question and explore the past and see how it shapes the present.

Lockdown has seen NMI become more accessible to schools. “We’re engaging with primary schools that wouldn’t have visited us in the past. We hope to continue this blended approach in a post-Covid world – with as many virtual as on-site events.”

More details

  • Children can learn about the animals that lived in Ireland 30,000 years ago that are now extinct (hyena, wolf).
  • They can discover how the Ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphs, a series of pictures and symbols to write and about how the Egyptian gods were sometimes depicted with animal head and human body.
  • They can hear nature-based stories connected to NMI’s Fairy Trail.
  • Visit to find out more NMI’s online resources and live virtual workshop sessions

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