{Ireland} Dublin Writers Museum

May 7, 2016

Ireland

100 Museums Challenge: Museum No.39

There are a couple of museums and exhibitions in Dublin dedicated to a single Irish writer, such as the W.B. Yeats exhibition at the National Library, or the James Joyce Centre. But if, like my, you want to get a broad overview of the Irish literary scene, then the Dublin Writers Museum is a good place to start.

Dublin Writers Museum 01

The museum opened in 1991, and was established to promote both interest interest in Irish literature as a whole, as well as in the lives and works of individual Irish artists. It specifically focuses on the view of Irish literature from a Dublin perspective, i.e. featured writers have all made an important contribution either to Irish or international literature or, on a local level, to the literature of Dublin.

Dublin Writers Museum 06

On the ground floor, there are two rooms holding the museum’s permanent exhibition. Room 1 presents the history of Irish literature from its beginnings through to the end of the 19th century. Here you fill find, for example, the oldest printed book in the collection: ‘The Works of Edmund Spenser’ from 1679. Of Jonathan Swift, of Gulliver’s Travels fame. Did you know Gulliver’s Travels was originally written for adults, a biting satire on politics, society and humanity in general, which was “purged of its savagery” to become a children’s classic! You will follow the emergence of Irish playwrights such as William Congreve, George Farquhar or Oliver Goldsmith, and learn about Maria Edgeworth, the first Irish person write a novel about Ireland, then travel from 19th century romanticism to horror, with a first edition of Dram Stoker’s Dracula on display, before the well known literary giants George Bernard Shaw and Oscar wild lead you to the Literary Renaissance at the end of the 19th century, which also marks the end of Room 1.

Room 2 then picks up the story from there, and is entirely devoted to great Irish writers of the 20th century: from well known names such as W.B. Yeats, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, to lesser known ones such as John Millington Synge or Oliver St John Gogarty. There are also specific features on short story writers and poetry writers. Living writers, even those who have already established their place in history, are not included by the way.

Dublin Writers Museum 02

A beautiful stairwell takes you to the upper floor, to the Gorham Library, where the museum’s reserve of books are housed, including rare and first editions, as well as displays of volumes from special collections. Next door to the library, the ‘Gallery of Writers’, which is used for receptions and special occasions, presents portraits and busts of writers, the portraits being reproductions of originals in the National Gallery of Ireland. The annexe at the back of the house includes a cafe, shop, and additional rooms for temporary exhibitions.

Dublin Writers Museum 07

Dublin Writers Museum 05

Dublin Writers Museum 03

I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of audio guides, but since it was included in the admission price I took it round with me and actually ended up listening to the whole thing. The text provided alongside the exhibits was all very wordy and dense, and the audio provided the most important information in a much more succinct and – to me – accessible way. There is no photography allowed in the museum rooms but, as you can see above, it is permitted in the library and gallery upstairs. The museum doesn’t seem to have its own website, as you always get redirected to the Visit Dublin website instead, but that does have the opening times. Admission was around 7 Euros, if I remember rightly.

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