Places to visit: Exhibitions

ChesterBeatty-Scroll

Chester Beatty Library *****

With free admission and described by the Lonely Planet as not just the best museum in Ireland but one of the best in Europe, the Chester Beatty Library is a must-see on any Dublin visitor’s itinerary. Both an art museum and a library, it features rich collections from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and opens a window on the artistic treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world.  If time permits, visit the rooftop garden, a secret Dublin gem. 

Manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and decorative arts complete this amazing collection, all the result of the collecting activities of one man – Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). Egyptian papyrus texts and beautifully illuminated copies of the Qur’an, the Bible, European medieval and renaissance manuscripts are among the highlights on display. In its diversity, the collection captures much of the richness of human creative expression from about 2700 BC to the present day.

Opening Times
Mon-Fri: 10.00 am-5.00 pm (March-October)
Tues-Fri: 10.00 am-5.00 pm (November-February)
Saturdays: 11.00 am-5.00 pm (all year)
Sundays: 1.00 pm-5.00 pm (all year)
Closed Bank Holiday Mondays, Good Friday, 24-26 Dec, 1 Jan

Free guided tours are available at 1 pm on Wednesdays, 2 pm on Saturdays and 3 pm on Sundays. Tours are on a first-come, first- served basis with no booking required. In the past, tours have been restricted to 15 visitors per tour. 

www.cbl.ie

Dublin Castle, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 4070750.

Admission free.

Dublin Civic Trust

Dublin Civic Trust

Dublin Civic Trust’s former headquarters is the only surviving Georgian building on historic Castle Street. Now fully restored to its former glory, this handsome merchant town house and shop is one of the last buildings of its type and period in Dublin to remain intact, and was until recently home to the Dublin Civic Trust’s offices and exhibition centre. No. 4 Castle Street is now in private hands.

Established in 1992 as an educational trust with charitable status, the Trust is an independent organisation that works to recognise and protect the city’s architectural heritage. It is dedicated to the principles of building identification, sensitive repair with minimal intervention, and the appropriate use of the city’s historic building stock.

Through conservation courses and seminars, the Trust educates the public about the resource value of period buildings. It promotes best practice for the repair and maintenance of historic buildings. It campaigns for the sensitive development and enhancement of Dublin’s historic city core in a manner that maximises the unique and irreplaceable resource value of Dublin’s historic building stock, streets and spaces.

The Trust produces major policy documents and undertakes consultancy work. It publishes the popular “Period Houses, A Conservation Guidance Manual”. Its series of books on the secondary streets of Dublin is also well regarded.

Since its establishment, the Trust has engaged in many projects relating to the built heritage of the city, including:

  • Recording structures on many of Dublin’s principal and secondary streets, such as Henrietta Street, Capel Street, Dawson Street and Aungier Street
  • Completely restoring five historic buildings (some in danger of demolition) through the Trust’s Revolving Fund; and reinstating additional buildings in conjunction with Dublin City Council
  • Compiling Architectural Conservation Area policies/inventories for Dublin City Council – O’Connell Street & Environs, and Thomas Street & Environs in the Liberties
  • Publishing historical and advisory leaflets on building typologies particular to residential streets in the Liberties area, and hosting lectures about caring for period homes
  • Publishing many inventory and policy documents on built heritage (e.g. an Inventory of Dublin Historic Street Paving and Furniture)
  • An evaluation of the historic core of Dublin as defined by its Georgian squares and major connecting commercial streets, commissioned by Dublin City Business Association.

Current projects of importance include an action plan for historic Thomas Street in The Liberties for Dublin City Council, with an emphasis on maximising its historic building stock; a study of the gable-fronted house tradition in Dublin of the 17th and early 18th centuries; and assessing options for saving a stretch of historic streetscape of North King Street that closes the vista of the north side of Smithfield.

Dublin Civic Trust regularly publishes books, pamphlets and information leaflets on the built heritage of Dublin. Its popular series of books on the secondary streets of Dublin brings the reader through the origins of each street, the history and architecture of their historic building stock, a full building inventory, and a vision for improvement. Other publications focus on specific topics of historical and architectural interest. You can buy these online.

Between 1992 and 2000, the Trust restored a number of historic buildings in the city – some of which were proposed for demolition – through the mechanism of a Building Conservation Revolving Fund. The Fund proved to be an innovative and cost effective method of saving and restoring endangered historic buildings in the city.

In total, five properties were restored by the Trust (Number 10 and 11 South Frederick Street, No. 21 Aungier Street, No. 4 Castle Street). The Trust was instrumental in saving further properties in conjunction with Dublin City Council such as the former City Weights and Measures on Harry Street and the rare mews buildings of Numbers 14 and 15 St. Stephen’s Green. The positive effects of the Fund went well beyond individual buildings, stimulating further improvements in key city centre streets such as South Frederick Street and Andrew Street.

For more information about the Revolving Fund, see www.dublincivictrust.ie/revolving-fund.php

To read a detailed account of the restoration of No. 4 Castle Street, see http://www.dublincivictrust.ie/more-about-us.php

www.dublincivictrust.ie

18 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin 7

Tel: 01 8749 681

Dublinia

Dublinia ****

Dublinia is a museum in which Viking and Medieval Dublin are re-created through life-size reconstructions.

Viking Dublin Exhibition:  See what life was like on board a Viking warship. Learn about long and challenging voyages, weaponry and the skills of being a Viking warrior. Try on Viking clothes, become a slave and stroll down a noisy street. Visit a smoky and cramped Viking house, learn the Viking runic alphabet and hear their poetry and sagas.

Medieval Dublin Exhibition: From Strongbow to the Reformation, experience the re-created sights, sounds and smells of this busy city. Learn of warfare, crime and punishment, death and disease. Visit a medieval fair, a rich merchant’s kitchen and a bustling medieval street.

History Hunters Exhibition: Learn how archaeology works with history and science to piece together the jigsaws of our ancestors’ lives and lifestyles. See genuine Viking and Medieval artefacts, including those of a medieval skeleton found in Dublin (courtesy of the National Museum of Ireland). Hear the languages of old Dublin and explore the city’s earliest maps. Visit the lab and learn how bugs and dirt can be the history hunter’s gold.

St Michael’s Tower: Dublinia’s late seventeenth century viewing tower belonged to the church of St Michael the Archangel, which once stood at the site now occupied by Dublinia. The medieval tower has 96 steps leading to a panoramic view of Dublin. Access to the viewing tower is weather dependent.

To generate atmosphere, the walking route through Dublinia is a little narrow so the attraction is less enjoyable at peak periods (especially when large tour groups may be in attendance). For this reason, visiting the site off peak is recommended.

Open Mar-Sept: 10.00 am- 6.30 pm; Oct-Feb: 10.00 am-5.30 pm. Closed 24-26 Dec.

www.dublinia.ie

St. Michael’s Hill, Christchurch, Dublin 8.

Tel: 01 679 4611.

Adults €9.50; concessions.

Epic Ireland

EPIC – the Irish Emigration Museum

EPIC is an exhibition which brings to life the story of Ireland’s communities overseas – past, present and future. For overseas visitors in particular, it paints a picture of the history and people of Ireland.

By means of 20 themed galleries, using cutting-edge interactive technologies (designed by the award-winning team behind Titanic Belfast), visitors explore tales of migration, the forces that drove 10 million journeys, and the impact Irish migration has had on the world.

Visitors receive a stamped passport as they enter the exhibition and then follow a path through 20 galleries organised into four thematic groups:

  • Migration: an introduction to Ireland and the arrivals and departures that have shaped it
  • Motivation: why people left Ireland
  • Influence: what Irish people did overseas and the influence they have had in their adopted homelands
  • Connection: where the Irish are now

www.epicirelandchq.com

Epic Ireland, Unit 1, The CHQ Building, Custom House Quay, Dublin 1

Tel: 01-5313688

Adults €14; concessions. 

Open 7 days a week from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm. Closed Dec 24-27.

Epic Ireland is a self-guided visit.

Adjacent to Epic Ireland is the Irish Family History Centre, a way for visitors to discover their family story and explore their Irish heritage. The Centre allows visitors to sit with a genealogy expert for a 15-minute consultation and use interactive display screens to engage and uncover more about their Irish roots. Entrance costs €9.50.

 

Irish Architectural Archive

Irish Architectural Archive

The Irish Architectural Archive was established in 1976 to collect and preserve material relating to the architecture of Ireland. There are well over 1,000,000 items in its collections. The Archive is the greatest single source of information on Ireland’s buildings.

The Archive is stored within the largest terraced house on Merrion Square. There is a fine entrance hall, an imposing stone main staircase, and attractive neo-classical plaster work.

The public areas include the Archive Reading Rooms (on the ground floor) and the Architecture Gallery (showcasing a programme of exhibitions which make the Archive’s holdings accessible to all).

Open Tues-Fri 10.00 am-5.00 pm

www.iarc.ie

45 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 6633 040

Admission free.

James Joyce Centre

The James Joyce Centre is a beautifully restored Georgian town house, exhibiting items relating to the life and work of James Joyce.

The house was built in 1784 by Francis Ryan for Valentine Brown, the Earl of Kenmare, who used it as his townhouse. The plasterwork was done by Michael Stapleton, one of the finest stuccadores of the time. The house was given special mention by Constantine Curran in his book “Dublin Decorative Plasterwork of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries”, and the photographs he took were essential to the restoration of the house. Curran was also a close friend of Joyce’s.

In the 18th century this area of Dublin was very fashionable but it fell into decline in the 19th and early 20th centuries. By 1982 twelve houses on the street had been demolished by the City Council as dangerous buildings, including the house next door. Number 35 was saved by Senator David Norris, a Joycean scholar who also lives on this street. For many years, the Centre was run by descendants of Joyce’s brother Charles Joyce and sister May Monaghan. It is now run as a limited company with the support of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

The James Joyce Centre also offers guided walking tours of historic Joycean Dublin, taking in some of the monumental and ordinary sights and sounds of the city in which Joyce staged all his works. See the separate entry entitled “James Joyce Centre Walking Tours”.

Open Oct-Mar: Tues-Sat 10.00 am–5.00 pm; Sun 12.00 pm–5.00 pm
Oct-Mar: Closed Mondays
Open Apr-Sept: Mon-Sat 10.00 am-5.00 pm; Sun 12.00 pm-5.00 pm
Open Bank Holidays.
Closed St Patrick’s Day, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, 23 December-2 January.

www.jamesjoyce.ie

35 North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1.

Phone 01 878 8547.

Adults €5; concessions.

Mary Aikenhead Heritage Centre

The Mary Aikenhead Heritage Centre showcases the history of the Religious Sisters of Charity. Through audio-visual scenes and many short video clips, visitors gain an insight into the life and times of Mary Aikenhead (1787-1858), the history of the congregation, and its continuing expression today.

Mary Aikenhead spent the last 27 years of her life as an invalid, communicating to her congregation through countless letters. The focal point of the exhibition is her room, where she lived from 1845 until her death in 1858.

Following her training at the Bar Convent in York, Mary founded the Congregation of the Religious Sisters of Charity and the first convent opened in North William Street, Dublin in 1815.

In 1821 the Governor of Kilmainham Gaol asked for sisters to visit two young women who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The Governor was so impressed by the sister’s influence on these women that he asked that they would continue to be involved in prison visitation. To this day, prison visitation is an important ministry for the Congregation.

At the request of the Archbishop of Dublin, the Sisters of Charity opened their first school in 1830 in Gardiner Street, Dublin.

In 1832 there was an outbreak of Asiatic cholera in Ireland. A temporary hospital was set up in Grangegorman but it was badly managed and under-staffed. The Archbishop of Dublin asked Mary Aikenhead to send some of her sisters to Grangegorman to help. The death rate was high, but the sisters remained at their posts bringing solace to the dying and nursing to the convalescents. Only one sister contracted the disease, and she survived.

In 1835 St. Vincent’s Hospital opened in a house on St. Stephen’s Green. It was the first hospital staffed by nuns in the English-speaking world.

The Children’s Hospital in Temple Street was founded in 1872 by a group of charitable people in a house at 9 Upper Buckingham Street, Dublin. There was a steady increase in activity in the first years, prompting the Governing Committee in 1876 to invite the Religious Sisters of Charity to take over the complete running of the hospital which they did in July 1876.

Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross was opened in December 1879. Newspaper reports at the time hailed the opening of the Hospice as ‘a unique charity’ and as one ‘previously unknown in these islands, or indeed in the neighbouring continent’.

In 1892 Providence Woollen Mills was established under the guidance of Sr. Mary Arsenius Morrogh Bernard as a way of improving the social and economic conditions of the people of Foxford, Co. Mayo.

Open Tuesday to Sunday 10.30 am – 4.00 pm.

www.rscmaheritage.com

Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross Rd, Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W

Tel: 01-4910041

Admission is free. Please phone in advance to arrange a visit.

National Library

National Library (Kildare Street)

The National Library (Kildare Street) houses books, prints, manuscripts, newspapers, music, ephemera and genealogical material. It is the best collection of Irish documentary heritage in the world.

There are three current exhibitions:

Yeats: The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats – This exhibition has been described in The Irish Times as “one of the most important literary exhibitions yet staged internationally,” opened to unanimous acclaim on May 25, 2006. Since then, over a quarter of a million people of all ages and nationalities have delighted in the experience of this award-winning exhibition.

World War I Ireland: Exploring the Irish Experience – In summer 1914 a war broke out in Europe that would change the world forever. In Ireland, many supported the cause and joined up or travelled to serve in nursing and auxiliary services. Others objected to the war on moral, social or political grounds. By the time the conflict ended in 1918, its impact had been felt through the length and breadth of the country. The exhibition draws on the National Library’s collections of letters, diaries, recruiting posters, newspaper reports, cartoons, handbills and leaflets dating from 1914-1918. With original artefacts, first hand personal accounts and eyewitness testimony, World War Ireland brings visitors dramatically inside the lives of those who experienced the Great War.

Signatories – The National Library has just completed a major digitisation project on archives related to the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation. In the exhibition, “Signatories”,  visitors are introduced to the lives of the seven men who signed the Proclamation through a series of graphic panels and a selection of original documents.

Exhibition areas open Mon-Wed 9.30 am-7.45 pm; Thurs & Fri 9.30 am-4.45 pm; Sat 9.30 am-4.45 pm; Sun 1.00 pm-4.45 pm.

For full information about current exhibitions, see www.nli.ie

To read about occasional public tours of the Library, see www.nli.ie

www.nli.ie

Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 603 0200.

Admission free.

National Museum Natural History

National Museum (Natural History) *****

The National Museum (Natural History) is located on Merrion Street. The building was constructed in 1856 to house the Royal Dublin Society’s growing collections, which had expanded continually since the late 18th Century.

The building is a ‘cabinet-style’ museum designed to showcase a wide-ranging and comprehensive zoological collection, and has changed little in over a century. Often described as a ‘museum of a museum’, its 10,000 exhibits provide a glimpse of the natural world that has delighted generations of visitors since the doors opened in 1857. Kids rate this venue a 5-star experience.

The building and its displays reflect many aspects of the history and development of the collections. It was originally built as an extension to Leinster House, where the Royal Dublin Society was based for much of the 19th Century. The building was designed by architect Frederick Clarendon.

In 1877 ownership of the Museum and its collections was transferred to the state. New funding was provided for the building, and new animals were added from an expanding British empire during the great days of exploration.

The Natural History division cares for the state collections in the disciplines of zoology and geology. The botanical collections of the Museum were transferred to the National Botanic Gardens in 1970.

The Natural History collections comprise approximately two million specimens. The largest of the collections, in terms of numbers, is the extensive insect collection, which accounts for about half of all specimens. There is a surprising amount of material from outside Ireland, much of this a legacy of the 19th Century British Empire, when Dublin was one of its most significant and populous cities, and Irish scientists and keen amateurs staffed the largest navy in the world and were involved in numerous expeditions to far away places.

The collections are used as a reference resource by staff and research visitors, and play an important role in the identification of specimens such as insect pests that may have considerable economic significance. Staff carry out field work, publish their own research and assist visitors who are also involved in scientific publications. Time is also spent acquiring new examples of the Irish fauna through regular fieldwork.

The ground floor is dedicated to Irish animals, featuring giant deer skeletons and a variety of mammals, birds and fish. The upper floors of the building were laid out in the 19th Century in a scientific arrangement showing animals by taxonomic group. This scheme demonstrated the diversity of animal life in an evolutionary sequence.

The collections on display include:

  • Irish Fauna
  • Mammals of the World
  • Steps in Evolution
  • Birds of a Feather
  • Mating Game
  • Crystal Jellies
  • Taxonomy Trail
  • Underwater Worlds

Unfortunately, the second and third floors of the Museum are not accessible to visitors at present for safety reasons. The balcony levels have been closed as there are too few emergency exits. A plan to address this issue has been developed but funding is not yet available.

Open Tues–Sat 10.00 am-5.00 pm, Sun 2.00 pm–5.00 pm.
Closed Mon (including Bank Holidays), Good Friday, Christmas Day.

www.museum.ie

Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 677 7444.

Admission free.

Click here to consult the calendar of special events (when the page opens, click on the PDF documents at the top of the page).