The National Museum of Ireland was founded in 1885. The foundation collections were drawn from the Royal Dublin Society and the Royal Irish Academy, both of which contained artefacts from Egypt. From its inception the Museum continued to collect material to build up its foreign collections through purchase and donations. One of its earliest Directors, Dr. Valentine Ball, travelled to Egypt in 1892 to collect objects for the Museum.
Other Irish travellers such as Lady Harriet Kavanagh, who toured the Nile sites in the mid 1840s, returned with collections of antiquities some of which now form part of the Egyptian collection of the National Museum of Ireland. Lady Harriet Kavanagh's collection was given on loan to the National Museum of Ireland by the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland in 1920.
The collection comprises about three thousand objects, the majority acquired from excavations carried out in Egypt between the 1890s and the 1920s and ranging in date from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages. During this period the National Museum received a share in several major divisions of finds from the excavations of the Egypt Exploration Fund (now Society), London, and the greater part of the collection derives from these relatively well-documented sources. Finds from sites such as Hieraconpolis, Deir el-Bahri, Ehnasya, Oxyrhynchus, Tarkhan and Riqqa, amongst others, were received.
For many years the Egyptian collection was exhibited along with material from the Greek and Roman collections. However, in 1996, a new exhibition 'Ancient Egypt', in which the finest and most important parts of the collection are displayed, was opened. While the National Museum of Ireland is no longer involved in collecting antiquities from Egypt, it continues to care for and facilitate access to the collections to both visitors and researchers.