Indefinite closure of Dublin Writers Museum

25 Aug 2022

An article by Pól Ó Conghaile (August 04 2022, Irish Independent) has highlighted the indefinite closure of the Dublin Writers Museum, following an assessment carried out for Fáilte Ireland in 2020, who are now considering options for the building and collection.

The Dublin Writers Museum opened on 18 November 1991 under the management of Dublin Tourism, and aimed to promote interest in and knowledge of Irish Literature and Writers from a Dublin perspective. Occupying an original 18th-century Georgian townhouse in Parnell Square, the building features 18th-century plasterwork by Michael Stapleton, spectacular neoclassical columns and a gilded frieze contributed, in the 1890s, by the architect Alfred Darbyshire and, on occasion of its opening as a museum, a stained-glass window by Michael Judd with images of Swift, Wilde, Joyce, and Yeats, among others. It's current neighbours include the Joyce Centre, Poetry Ireland, and the new site for Dublin City Library, along with the Gate and O'Reilly theatres and the Hugh Lane Gallery,

The collection held by the Dublin Writers Museum and Fáilte Ireland (who acquired the museum following the merge of Dublin Tourism into the National Tourism Development Authority in 2012) includes several thousand items including first editions, theater programs, portraits, manuscripts, and artefacts that range from correspondence to reading glasses. Its collection emphasises deceased writers from Dublin's literary heritage, according to former curator Robert Nicholson.

In 2011, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, an article in the Wall Street Journal (by Julia M. Klein, November 15, 2011) indicated plans were afoot for "a major refurbishment of its cramped, old-fashioned galleries" that would expand its mission to include established living writers, open up more rooms, make exhibits "more accessible," improve climate control and perhaps allow for temporary exhibitions.

Following closure of the museum in March 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, and has remained 'temporarily closed' since then. During this time, according to the National Tourism Development Authority, two members of staff retired in 2020 and a further two were redeployed within Fáilte Ireland.

The professional assessment carried out for Fáilte Ireland and approved in July 2020 noted that the Dublin Writers Museum “no longer meets the expectation of the contemporary museum visitor”. In a statement shared with the Irish Independent, it indicated its plans to explore options for the building and its collection, stating “As standards of heritage conservation and interpretation have advanced considerably over recent years, [it] concluded that the building at No 18 Parnell Square ‘no longer meets the expectation of the contemporary museum visitor in terms of accessibility, presentation and interpretation’”. The future plans are set to be revealed “by the end of the year”.