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Ceramics & Glass at Galway City Museum

This collaborative exhibition of ceramics and glass from the Irish American Cultural Institute’s O’Malley Collection with Galway City Museum marks the celebration of forty illustrious years since the founding of the University of Limerick.

The medium of ‘ceramic’ is one of the oldest expressions of human creativity and thanks to its high-fired substance much has survived the millennia. This makes it a vital aspect of material culture that is both familiar through everyday use and exotic in its many different cultural forms worldwide. The objective of the collector, Helen Hooker O’Malley, was to acquire imaginative forms with interesting colours. The objects span three continents and range in date from the 7th century Chinese piece to the 17th century Korean centre-piece to the many 20th century European examples from Denmark, England, France, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Sweden as well as the United States. This eclectic collection is diverse in culture, chronology and geography but uniform in the senses it evokes and in the space it shares.

Helen Hooker O’Malley (1905 – 1993), was born and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA. She attended the Wabanaki School, founded by the naturalist Edward Seaton Thompson. The school was based on Native American traditions, including the arts and crafts. Helen was impressed by the ‘Great Spirit’ of the Wabanaki, a tribe based in Maine. She was particularly drawn to their craft work comprising intricate design. In 1933 Helen met Ernie O’Malley, a former senior commanding officer during the Irish War of Independence and Civil War. They married in 1935 and lived in Dublin before finally setting up home in Co. Mayo. Exposed to the creative arts early on, Helen favoured sculpture and drawing. Ceramics was among her many interests which developed later. On her many travels throughout her life she built up an international collection of ceramic works destined for display in Ireland to inspire Irish artists. Ceramic bowls were of particular interest to Helen following her acquisition of some fine Japanese and Chinese examples in the 1930s.This collection serves as a forum for the further exploration and education of art.

The catalogue, Ceramics & Glass from the Irish American Cultural Institute’s O’Malley Collection, produced by the University of Limerick is available in the gallery.


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