OPW 185

20 October 16

To mark 185 years since an Act of Parliament in Westminster established the Office of Public Works [OPW], a number of projects have been instigated by the OPW185 Project Team.

From 16th October 2016 to 28th February 2017, an exhibition, OPW185, will be displayed at Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin. The exhibition attempts to demonstrate the breadth of public works and services carried out by generations of OPW staff over the 185 years. The range and breadth of this work includes the design, construction, maintenance and management of piers, harbours, roads, coast guard stations, schools, barracks, garda stations, housing, asylums, office accommodation, bridges, canals, courthouses, mines, quarries, prisons, railways, drainage, sewerage and water works, and post offices. The work of the organization also includes the provision of furniture and artworks, conserving and interpreting heritage sites, maintaining war graves, providing flood risk management and provision of visitor facilities.

A Timeline has been designed that is 18.5 metres long, which illustrates the Government Acts that have directed the work of the OPW; the main events in each decade; significant projects; the Chairmen of the Office Public Works and world events impacting on Ireland.

The items and artefacts exhibited were all proposed, submitted or loaned by OPW staff, both current and retired, following a process of staff engagement in June/July 2016. These items/artefacts have been categorized loosely in relation to the tasks involved, such as Drawing, Measuring, Conserving and so forth. Illustrated short stories/reminiscences of OPW staff are also included.

A programme of associated events is planned to coincide with the exhibition at Rathfarnham Castle.

In addition, a catalogue of selected files and drawings held by the National Archives relating to the OPW, and CD-ROMs of similar material held at the OPW Library, OPW Headquarters, Trim, Co. Meath, are available below.

It is hoped that this exhibition, and the availability of research material, will stimulate interest in the social history surrounding the provision of public works, and the work of the OPW.

OPW185 Project Team

  • Angela Rolfe – Chair
  • Irene Barry
  • Myles Campbell
  • Nuala Canny
  • Linda Connolly
  • Teresa Eddery
  • Mary Heffernan
  • Jacquie Moore
  • Marian O’Brien
  • Catherine O’Connor
  • Marie O’Gallagher
  • Jurga Rakauskaite

Indices to the Historic Files of the Office of Public Works