This week we went to Dublinia for Adventure Day, to experience Viking and Medieval life first-hand. We had been preparing for months by reading Chris Judge and Mark Wickham’s Brian and the Vikings and our Usbourne Norse Myth and Legends. We have been searching far and wide for an accessible non-fiction guide, but they tend to be geared towards older children.
Dublinia is laid out over three floors. The entry level display focuses on Viking life, the first floor focuses on Medieval Dublin and the second floor houses a display about the science of archaeology. We also climbed the 100 steps of St Michael’s Tower, which gives a fine panoramic view of the city.
Most of the historical material is presented through interactive scenes. We got stuck inside a Viking hut for a while, the boys eating sandwiches on the bench the Vikings used for sleeping. There is a lot of historical text displayed on the walls, which was a bit off-putting for my illiterate pair, but much of it was also narrated. There was good attention to sensory experience too, with displays that invited you to guess what goods were in the barrels at the Medieval port and a market stall was filled with scented spice drawers.
Highlights for Milo (4) were throwing balls at the prisoner in the pillory (above), feeling the weight of the Viking’s iron mail, and rubbing his name in futhark (below). He was very disappointed by the fact that many of the repro artifacts (in particular the weapons) were glued down, so you couldn’t really interact with a lot of the displays. He was also disappointed that there was no “living history” aspect, like at Dalkey Castle. Although there is a daily costumed tour at 2.30, it was pretty busy the day we were there, and my two small boys and a crowd is never a great idea. Highlights for Solomon (2) were the ramps and the display on death and disease. Both were also very taken, as usual, by the gift-shop, and its array of wooden and plastic swords.
Accessibility: This is a great family friendly museum, though ticket prices stack up once children are over 4 (Adults: €8.50, Children over 4: €5.50). We found it pretty busy, though we were there mid-week and off-peak, so that is definitely something to consider if you are planning a visit. There are good facilities for families, though you would not want to be in a hurry to use the toilets, as they are placed near the exit of the first floor, and there is no shortcut if you have a toddler emergency.
Dublinia host a Family First Saturday once a month, with historically themed workshops for children. They have just announced their new season, which includes storytelling and Viking Runes. http://www.dublinia.ie/category/events/