Meet Me at the Fair

  • Maggie M. Williams
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In 1853, an enormous temporary pavilion was constructed on Dublin’s Leinster Lawn, adjacent to the Royal Dublin Society’s permanent home. The building, designed by one John Benson, was an innovative glass-and-timber structure, which catapulted the architect’s success to the level of knighthood.1 Within the vast open spaces of Benson’s building, a huge array of Irish material culture was on display, including many works of medieval art, such as the recently discovered Tara Brooch and a number of stone crosses that had been moved from their locations throughout the countryside. These rare antiquities were on view alongside plaster casts and replicas, and the entire eclectic collection was incorporated into a wider exhibition of industry, agriculture, and technology. A jumble of authentically ancient and reproduced items, the exhibition blurred the lines between original and copy in the eyes and minds of contemporary audiences, and it opened the door to a notion of Celtic Irishness that prioritized style over historical context.


Twelfth Century Ringed Cross Irish People Irish Culture Royal Irish Academy 
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© Maggie M. Williams 2012

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