If you like all things literary and historic, then you will love this unique little museum. It has no fancy gizmos and gimmicks, like most modern museums; it relies purely on great content in glass cases, just like traditional museums used to be. There is one modern convenience, though: we have the benefit of audio headphones, which makes for a more immersive experience, although you don’t really need them to enjoy the museum.
Established in 1991 as a celebration of Irish writing of the last three hundred years or so, the collection is housed in one of the great eighteenth century houses on Parnell Square in Dublin, so it’s very easy to get to.
It features authors who are considered to have greatly contributed to Ireland’s literary heritage, and to have impacted significantly on the literary world in general, such as James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett to mention but a few. However, it should be noted that the collection does not feature modern giants of Irish literature… it stops short at 1970.
It’s not just a dull and dusty collection of old books, though, if that’s what you’re thinking; there are first edition books, some with notes and inscriptions added by the author; hand-written letters and postcards; signed photos and other memorabilia and assorted personal items, as well as portrait paintings. What I found most interesting though, was the short histories of their lives… these writers did not live conventional lives according to the standards of the times they lived in.
The building, a restored Georgian house, is well worth seeing in its own right; it is quite sumptuous and elegantly decorated. It once belonged to George Jameson… some of you will recognise that name as being associated with a fine Irish whiskey!
He commissioned Sir Alfred Darbyshire, a famous architect, to refurbish the house between 1891 and 1895. It was then that the beautiful upstairs salon, now housing the writer’s gallery, was created, and all the gorgeous stained glass windows added.
Exhibitions, lunch-time theatre and readings are often held throughout the year in the writer’s gallery; this is also where you will find most of the portrait paintings. What a great place it would be to hold a book launch! Sigh!
On the ground floor, there is also a small book shop and tearoom to complete your visit.
This is a very small museum, but it is a wonderful hidden gem. I really loved it, and will be going again, but I can appreciate it is not for everyone. If you have young children, or teens, definitely don’t go! Bibliophiles, writers, students and historians, however, will be in their element!
P.s. We weren’t allowed to take pictures so I borrowed these from Wikipedia.
The Dublin Writer’s Museum can be found at No18, Parnell Square, Dublin. Find out more on their website.
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