Opened on November 18th, 1991 by then Irish Prime Minister Charles J. Haughy, the Dublin Writers Museum was established to promote interest in Irish literature in general and in the lives and works of individual Irish writers.
On a national level it acts as a center, focusing the diverse beams of Irish literature and complementing the smaller. More detailed museums devoted to individual authors such as James Joyce, William Butler Yeats and George Bernard Shaw.
The complex consists of two 18th-century houses at Nos. 18 and 19 Parnell Square with a large modern annex at the rear. No. 18 accommodates the permanent museum rooms, library, gallery and administration area. The coffee shop, bookshop, temporary exhibition rooms and lecture rooms are located in the annex. The Irish Writers Center next door in No. 19 provides offices, meeting rooms and workrooms for contemporary authors. In the basement of the complex is Chapter One, a fully licensed restaurant.
On first entering No. 18 visitors will note that the entrance hall still retains much of the original gilt plasterwork from the 18th century. At the bottom of the beautiful stairwell, James Joyce’s piano is on display. A superb instrument built by Anton Petrof, the piano was bought by Joyce in Trieste while he was in great poverty. Music was always of great importance to the writer of Ulysses and The Dubliners.
The permanent displays illustrate the history of Irish literature from its earliest times up to the 20th century with 32 panels of text. Letters, photographs, first editions and memorabilia give a tangibility to the featured writers and their works. Visitors get a true flavor of the writers’ characters, where, when and how they lived and what social, political and intellectual forces shaped their personalities and writing.
Room one portrays Irish literature up to the great literary revival at the end of the 19th century. Led by such great writers as Oscar Wilde, G. B. Shaw, W. B. Yeats and his lifelong friend Lady Gregory, this fin-de siecle Celtic renaissance was of pivotal importance not only to Irish literature, but was also to significantly affect the development of all English literature.
Room Two takes up the story in the 20th century, starting with the development of the Abbey Theatre. Visitors can trace the progress of writers such as John M. Synge, who wrote the famous and controversial Playboy of the Western World and Sean O’Casey, who wrote The Plough and the Stars.
Great short story writers such as Frank O’Connor and Liam O’Flaherty are also featured along with such popular poets as Austin Clarke and Patrick Kavanagh, whose death mask is on display in one of the central cases.
The story ends with Brendan Behan, author of Borstal Boys and The Hostage and infamous for his humour, heavy drinking and wild behavior. Among many of his personal effects on display is the typewriter he is supposed to have thrown through a pub window in a fit of temper.
Bruce Burnett, has won four Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold awards for travel journalism. Read more of Bruce Burnett's travel writing on his websites: http://www.globalramble.com and http://www.bruceburnett.ca/travel.html