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Cobh was the main transatlantic departure port in Ireland up to the late 1950s.

This exhibition features a variety of small souvenirs of travel spanning over 60 years and ranging from a jigsaw from the Cunard/White Star Line to a memento from the Orient Express in 2006.

Also on show are souvenirs and mementos bought in Queenstown by emigrants including an Irish Lace collar c. 1912.


An unusual trunk complete with drawers and hanging space, which crossed the Atlantic twice between Cobh and New York circa 1930.

Well travelled trunk

Souvenirs & Travel

Since the beginning of history humans have always needed a reminder of people, places and events in their past. Bringing home Souvenirs is a practice which spans the centuries and the continents.

Archaeological excavations have found that as far back as c.3000 years ago people were carrying objects from one place to another - often over great distances. Amber beads dating to this period, found near Coachford, Co. Cork, most likely came from Scandinavia (as there was no amber in Ireland). While a gold bracelet of Irish type dating to the same time, was found near Bremen in Germany. These may have been trade items - or they may have been the first souvenirs brought from place to place or from one group to another.

More than two thousand years ago Alexander the Great needed 3,000 camels and mules to bring back souvenirs from the Persia (modern Iran) to Macedonia, which lies to the north of Greece.

OGUN [God of War]

Mask Representing "OGUN" [God of War]. Carved by local craftsmen and used in festivals of the Yoruba Tribe [Ekiti, West Nigeria]. Brought back to Cobh c.1963.

Souvenirs or Mementos

Souvenirs and mementos are important instruments of memory - they remind people of a person, a place, a journey, an event, an encounter or an experience.

A souvenir is a commercially produced, universally recognised, purchased object. It is designed to trigger instant recognition of a place or event. It is not necessarily a functional or useful object. It is merely a token of remembrance, a general reminder of the past.

Orient Express Souvenier Sweets
Orient Express Souvenier Sweets
RMS Carinthia Powder Compact RMS Carinthia Powder Compact

A memento is a more personal object kept or found by an individual or given to them, which creates a particular or fond memory of a place or experience or the affection of a faraway family or friend.

Mementos are not only objects brought home, they are also objects carried by a person or family when they move away from home to a new life. They represent a cultural identity.

A memento can be anything, e.g. a photograph, a programme, a ticket, a piece of turf or a handmade item, often a family treasure.

horizonal break with red doors