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Kilkenny, Ireland

Tullaherin Folk Museum and Round Tower

A collection of housewares from recent Irish history adjoined by a tower from ancient Irish history. 

The small Irish townland of Tullaherin has created a contiguous material history in the Tullaherin Folk Museum, conspicuously located near an even more ancient Round Tower.

The Tullaherin Heritage Society maintains this small but engaging museum in an old parish rectory which collects everyday household items from the region’s recent history. Instead of just tossing old disused items and clothing into the trash, local families donate their historic objects to the museum, which now illustrates what rural Irish life was like decades or even a century ago.

From even further back in their history is the adjacent ninth-century Round Tower, a type of tall medieval stone structure unique to Ireland and some of the surrounding countries. As many as a hundred and twenty of these tall stone towers are thought to have dotted the Irish landscape when they were still in use as church bellhouses, but now only fifty or so survive, and not even half of those remain in good condition.

For decades locals in Tullaherin would have contests to throw their walking sticks up into the top of the roofless tower, despite it being 22.5 meters tall. During recent renovations, they maintain that several walking sticks were found at the top. Whether or not this is true, visitors to the Tullaherin Folk Museum and Round Tower can’t throw a stick without hitting something of historical importance.