At a time when Dubliners desperately needed a focus for civic pride and to reflect on their own history, a museum of Dublin remained a pipe dream for many, always out of reach.
That is what is special about the Funds; they don’t just support the ideas, they support and believe in the people who push those ideas. And to receive support from the Funds is a real stamp of approval that we can carry with us to other potential funders. To be part of The Ireland Funds family, for our staff to see the other projects we are sharing company with, is of immeasurable value. Thank you for believing in us, and for giving the history of Ireland’s capital back to her people.— Trevor White, Founder of The Little Museum of Dublin
Museum founder and director Trevor White remembers: “We had no money, nothing to display, and nowhere to display it.” But, to paraphrase the great American composer Leonard Bernstein, amazing things can happen when you have a good idea and not quite enough resources. After securing two beautiful Georgian rooms from Dublin City Council on a short 11-month licence, Trevor and his colleague Simon O’Connor (the museum’s curator) launched a public appeal for artefacts. Within four months they had opened a small, ‘boutique’ museum of Dublin, to the delight of locals and visitors.
Simon recalls: “The collection just kept growing and people kept donating the most amazing things to put on display. An original Proclamation of the Irish Republic, the lectern used by President John F. Kennedy to address the Irish government, all kinds of rare and not so rare items that helped us to tell the story of the city. We weren’t necessarily interested in valuable artefacts, more in things that could help us get across the rich, joyous, sad and complex history of the city in a way that locals and visitors could really enjoy and take ownership of.”
Very early on The Ireland Funds became involved by supporting the museum’s education program, aptly titled ‘I Love Dublin’. Trevor recalls: “It was important to us that the museum became a focal point for civic pride, and particularly a place where we could encourage civic awareness in a new generation of public-spirited leaders. We used to describe the museum as a gift from the past to the present, but more and more we have realized it is a gift from the present to the future.”
The Little Museum became the recipient of The Ireland Funds Flagship Grant, which supported the museum’s temporary exhibition program and saw the main exhibition space renamed ‘The Ireland Funds Gallery’. ‘Since we received this incredible support from the Funds, we have hugely increased the ambition of our temporary exhibition programming,’ says curator Simon O’Connor. “Large-scale exhibitions on Dublin writers like Christy Brown and Lafcadio Hearn, our first overseas exhibition in New York, and the publication of children’s exhibition books have only been possible with the support of The Ireland Funds.”
Now, five years old, the museum is a runaway success story. Within the first year it had expanded to take over the entire building, occupying three floors of a beautiful townhouse on Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green, and visitor numbers have quadrupled since the museum opened. Its education program has hit full stride, and there are major expansion plans in the pipeline for 2018, which will see the museum double in size and dramatically increase its visitor capacity and exhibition space, as well as creating a permanent education center for children.
“We are privileged to be working on a project like this,” says Trevor. “Five years ago Dublin did not have its own museum, and in that short time we have created an opportunity to establish a permanent, full-scale museum of Dublin that will outlive us. It is thanks to visionary partners like The Ireland Funds that we have achieved this. The Funds saw the value in what we were doing (and generating civic pride is not something that is easy to quantify), and they had faith in us to deliver. That is what is special about the Funds; they don’t just support the ideas, they support and believe in the people who push those ideas. And to receive support from the Funds is a real stamp of approval that we can carry with us to other potential funders. To be part of The Ireland Funds family, for our staff to see the other projects we are sharing company with, is of immeasurable value. Thank you for believing in us, and for giving the history of Ireland’s capital back to her people.”