The Irish Wake Museum Officially Opens in Waterford Today

The oldest urban domestic building in Ireland is now home to Ireland’s newest museum which traces the customs, traditions and superstitions associated with death from the earliest times to the 20th century.
Photograph: Patrick Browne

The Irish Wake Museum was officially opened today by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien. 

The museum is located in Cathedral Square at what was the former Dean John Collyn’s Almshouse, a Retirement Home for old people, called “God’s People’s House” was founded in 1478 on All Souls Day, November 2nd (the Day of the Dead). The occupants of the former Alms Houses paid for their keep by praying three times a night for the souls of its patrons and the souls of the deceased citizens of Waterford. 

Commenting on the new museum Minister O’Brien said“I am delighted to support this imaginative initiative which celebrates how death has always been a community event in Ireland. I’d like to congratulate Waterford City and County Council on another remarkable conservation project demonstrating yet again their commitment to our heritage.”

Cllr. John O’Leary, Mayor of Waterford, said, “The Irish Wake is a unique and intrinsic element of Ireland’s heritage. It brings communities together, it is a time to grieve together but it is also a celebration of life. This distinct and historic act is one that holds an air of intrigue and the Irish Wake cultural traditions are held in fascination.

“The new museum is a distinct tourism proposition in a global sense and added to the award-winning collection of museums in Waterford City it re-affirms Waterford not only as Ireland’s oldest City, but an ancient City which celebrates its own heritage and that of Ireland for its locals and visitors alike.”

The Irish Wake Museum Waterford 6
Photograph: Patrick Browne

The new museum is the latest in the Waterford Treasures collective of Museums at the city’s Viking Triangle. It’s in addition to the Medieval Museum (the only purpose-built museum specialising in medieval history in Ireland), The Bishop’s Palace, The Irish Museum of Time, Irish Silver Museum, King of the Vikings virtual reality experience and the EPIC guided walking tour of Waterford. 

The Museum houses a remarkable array of objects associated with death in Ireland which the Waterford Museum of Treasures has been collecting for the last 10 years. It will offer visitors an opportunity to explore rituals that hold global intrigue and that are entirely unique to Ireland on an intimate guided tour experience. In addition, The Irish Wake Museum has partnered with the multi-award-winning Waterford Whisky and visitors will also be able to book tickets to an Irish Wake and Whisky experience.

The Irish Wake Museum Waterford 3
Photograph: Patrick Browne

Director of Waterford Treasures Eamonn MceNeaney said, “The Irish Wake is one of the iconic parts of our national culture and visitors will get to experience a sense of this at The Irish Wake Museum as we trace the customs, traditions and superstitions associated with death from the earliest times to the 20th century.

“At the new museum visitors first arrive at the area once occupied by a shop, the rent from which was used to maintain the almshouse, a new audio-visual showcase explores how the Irish landscape was etched by death over 6,000 years.

“Moving into the almshouse proper, visitors will experience storytelling through six rooms chronologically from the 15th to the 20th centuries, with different themes associated with death being explored. The exhibition ends by urging people as others have for centuries to Memento Mori—remember death—and to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, to rejoice in life for its own sake and understand that life is no brief candle but a sort of splendid torch which we get hold of for the moment, in order to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

The Irish Wake Museum Waterford 2
Photograph: Patrick Browne

The Irish Wake is perhaps one of the best-known funeral traditions associated with Ireland. The Wake, the glorious send-off of departed loved ones, is a prominent feature of Irish funeral traditions, but is seen less and less often in modern Ireland and is now almost unknown in the cities. But in many country areas, the practice of watching over the recently deceased from the time of death to burial is still followed and is an important part of the grieving process, which is why many Irish funerals, outside of the cities, are still preceded by a wake. Irish wakes are a show of strength in the community coming together to help a family grieve.

In keeping with the spirit of the founders of the almshouse, Waterford Treasures will donate €1 from each admission ticket to the Waterford Hospice Movement. The museum is now open to visitors. Further details and advance tickets can be found at

Irish Wake Museum Solace & Sustenance Experience 

To extend the quintessential wake experience and in addition to a guided tour at The Irish Wake Museum, Waterford Treasures has partnered with award-winning ‘The Reg Bar’ and the award-winning Waterford Whisky distillery to offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy various  ‘Solace and Sustenance’ experiences. 

Following a tour of The Irish Wake Museum, this experience includes the ‘Hospitality Rituals’ of the Irish Wake at Mrs Poole’s Parlour in The Reg Bar. Tucked away in this cosy parlour, with the stories of local people who lived exceptional lives adorning the walls, visitors are treated to a flight of the award-winning Waterford Whisky’s Arcadian range, or alternatively a traditional pot of Irish Breakfast Tea, on this self-guided experience.

This experience, and more, will be on offer from July onwards. The first to launch is this ‘Hospitality Rituals’ experience which will take place at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. daily. 

Costs start from €46 per person. Suitable for ages 18+

Bookings can be made online via

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