I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Celts: Art and Identity (edited by Julia Farley and Fraser Hunter); British Museum Press, 304 pages; 275 colour illustrations, £25, ISBN 978-0714128368 The British Museum, in partnership with National Museums Scotland, heralded the show that this publication accompanied as “the first major exhibition to examine the full history of Celtic art and identity … over 2,500 years, from the first recorded mention of ‘Celts’ to an exploration of contemporary Celtic influences”. The British Museum had already mounted original, revisionist exhibitions of “The History of the World in 100 Objects” and “Germany: Memories of a Nation” before “Celts”. In an interview in the Financial Times with Simon Schama, the museum’s outstandingly successful director, Neil MacGregor, who conceived this exhibition as the last before his retirement, was quoted as deliberately wanting his next blockbuster to raise questions about Ireland “within our own history” by “facing hard truths through the eloquence of objects”. In his catalogue foreword to this publication, he reiterates that the show was intended to explore “how the name ‘Celts’ has been used and appropriated over the last 2,500 years. ‘Celtic’ is a cultural construct that has changed its meaning many times … a word with a purpose: to label oneself or another as different”, a word that “still resonates powerfully today, all the more so because it has been continually redefined to echo contemporary concerns over politics, religion and identity”. He concludes: “This word continues to strike a resonant chord both nationally and globally among the populations of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and their diaspora communities around the world.” Because the Celts left no written records of their society, over 250 exhibits were intended to represent these widely dispersed people through the highly skilled, abstract, linear objects they made, as well as to “raise questions about Celtic identity” throughout Britain, Ireland “and the global Celtic diaspora today”. Thus, “profound cultural connections across Europe” might be revealed, and explorations made as to who the elusive people known as “Celts” may have been around 300 BC, when elaborately decorated ornaments used by their owners to transform their identities and denote power and status are found across a “mosaic of communities, connected but locally distinct” from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, in which Romano-British culture affected Ireland and northern Scotland much less than those parts of Britain conquered by the Romans in AD 43, “a distinctive…



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