My colleague Des Gunning just recently wrote this interesting and thought provoking article on the Irish Times Article ( see here http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/looking-for-a-pulse-among-dead-irish-writers-1.1643329 ) on the Dublin Writers Museum
I think Rosita Boland‘s feature of the Dublin Writer’s Museum is something of a missed opportunity. First off, I see no mention of Robert Nicholson’s role with the James Joyce Institute in Dublin ( part of a global family of such institutions) ; no mention of his role at the Joyce Tower Museum, Sandycove – which seems to have been essentially voluntary in latter years. The Tower, which was in effect a gift to the city from the architect Michael Scott and the filmmaker, John Huston, incidentally, was the first museum to any Irish writer. A good account of its curatorial philosophy is given by Nicholson in an article for Studies Vol 93/370.
Absent from the Irish Times article is mention of Nicholson’s role in the creation of the James Joyce Centre in nearby North Great George’s Street ( a project in which I had a hand myself); of his near-definitive walking guide to the Dublin of Ulysses; his co-ordination of the programme of events for Bloomsday in Dublin – again, over decades and essentially voluntarily, his work on the various international James Joyce symposia that have come to Dublin since 1982, or of the many, many publications, Joycean and otherwise, where his assistance in acknowledged. Should the city ever get a finer ( and more self-effacing) ambassador for its literary heritage, it will be a happy day indeed!
Meanwhile, there is, I’m sure a story underneath the interview with Nicholson. While Charles J Haughey may indeed have cut the tape to open the Writers Museum, it seems to me its existence has onlie one begetter: Mr Matt McNulty who, as Director General of the Tourist Board, bestrode the tourism apparatus of the state at one time as his contemporary Mr Frank Feeley bestrode the administrative apparatus of the Dublin city. These were men who could conceive and deliver projects.
The weakness is in the reliance of such ‘doers’ is what happens in the second phase. How do institutions like Fáilte Ireland cope with trophy assets effectively bequeathed them by departing charismatic ‘all conquering’ CEOs? The Dublin Writers Museum, no matter who opens up on a given day, seems to me to be a prime example of this institutional challenge
Parnell Square, Dublin City’s designated ‘cultural quarter’ boasts a quite a few cultural institutions, the Writer’s Museum, the more activity-friendly Irish Writers Centre, the magnificent Municipal Gallery; the Garden of Remembrance and the (heavily state subsidised) Gate Theatre. It has some excellent restaurants and decent hotels; the nearby Joyce Centre, International Youth Hostel etc. Many public and publicly-supported bodies are involved, but the area is strangely bereft of the sense of a ‘go-to’ place. Therein lies a institutional challenge for the city and perhaps a story to which the Irish Times might return
© Des Gunning 2014