Saturday Selection: A History of Ireland in 100 Objects (App)

As may be evidenced from the historical details I’ve thrown into my upcoming novel The Trials of Hercules, I’m a bit of a history nerd. I also have a fair amount of obsession with my iPad mini, so when my two passions come together, a Saturday Selection is born.

The Selection

This week I discovered the app “A History of Ireland in 100 Objects.” A small “squeee” escaped my lips when I saw it was free, and I downloaded it as fast as I could tap in my password.

A History of Ireland in 100 Objects

About the App

The app is an interactive version of the entire book of the same name of 100 objects from ancient to modern times that explain the history of Ireland. Yes, the 100-Object concept has been done before – I believe the British Museum’s The History of the World in 100 Objects was the original version. (I bought the book while at the museum this spring and it too is quite good.)

When you first open the app you’re greeted with a stylized animation of the prows of ships bobbing in water. A short swipe away gives you the introductory chapters to the book/app. At any time, you can access the menu to jump to a page that displays all the objects or just jump to an object itself.

The object pages have some fantastic features. Of course there is a description of the object and what role it played in Irish history, but some also have videos/photos of the object’s discovery, maps of where it was found or where you can go see it, and, my favorite, a zoom option to get a close up look at the intricate details of the object.

What’s so Great About It?

I don’t expect much from free apps. The ones that are done well (as in nice to look at and non-buggy) are typically full of pop up ads or are trying to sell you something to enhance or continue using the app.

I kept scrolling through objects expecting to come to a wall that I had to pay to get through to see all the other objects. Thankfully, my expectations have been completely bashed against the Giant’s Causeway: All 100 object descriptions are included in the app. And not a single pop-up ad.

I’m also impressed at how gorgeous the app is. Everything is beautifully done: The text is clear, images are crisp and the navigation is super smooth. (My only complaint is you can’t increase the size of the text…not good for tired eyes at the end of the day).

Finally, I can’t gush enough about how much I love being able to zoom in on the objects. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a museum, hoping to see something I’ve always wanted to see only to find crowds and protective cases (with reflecting glare from display lights) making it impossible to get a REALLY good look at the museum specimen. So thank you, Royal Irish Academy, for creating this feature on the app!

So, if you enjoy history and the ease of touring museum objects from your own tablet, add this app to your collection.

For Those of You Without Tablets

Don’t despair if you haven’t succumbed to the tablet/smartphone lure, The History of Ireland in 100 Objects is also available as a book and the website provides quick glimpses and summaries of all the objects.

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