Government announced funding of €25 million for the restoration of one of Ireland’s foremost national heritage sites, the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin yesterday. The Old Library is home to the magnificent Long Room and precious manuscripts, including the 9th century Book of Kells.
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “I am delighted to announce €25 million in Government funding for the Old Library, one of Ireland’s foremost heritage sites and a jewel in the nation’s crown. This landmark restoration project will use leading technology and preventive conservation, providing optimum environmental conditions for the 18th century building and its precious collections. With the aid of this Government funding we are safeguarding our heritage for generations to come.”
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan made the announcement in the Old Library in Trinity College Dublin. It marks the most significant funding award for the cultural heritage sector this year.
The Government announcement follows Dublin City Council’s planning permission for the Old Library Redevelopment Project last Autumn, and the historic unveiling of the new Book of Kells Treasury and display which forms the first component of these redevelopment plans.
Minister O’Brien said: “The conservation of our heritage is of national importance. Trinity has been a custodian of this national treasure for centuries, caring and protecting it for all our benefit. The challenges it now faces are great in preserving Ireland’s remarkable yet vulnerable heritage. Today’s funding award ensures it will remain with us for many more centuries to come.”
Minister Noonan said: “This funding recognises that we have a shared responsibility towards our built and cultural heritage and that investment in the care of such heritage will continue to enrich all of our lives. This is particularly relevant as we emerge from the current pandemic. I’m especially delighted that this restoration project will involve craftspeople and conservators from all over Ireland, as well as further afield.”
The Old Library Redevelopment Project is a multi-million euro project. In addition to Government funding, Trinity has made it a focus of the philanthropic fundraising campaign, Inspiring Generations and will additionally be providing substantial resources to it.
The award-winning architects Heneghan Peng, who successfully conserved and revitalised the National Gallery of Ireland, are leading a world-class design team in this transformative development.
As one of the great libraries of the world, the Old Library is one of Ireland’s iconic treasures, and a globally recognised cultural landmark. It combines heritage and scholarship in its unique dual role as a world-class library and a national cultural institution.
Its precious collections, spanning millennia have been in the care of the Library of Trinity College Dublin for over 400 years. But it now faces significant conservation and environmental challenges. External pollution and dust accumulation are taking their toll on the collections and the fabric of the Old Library building. There is a need to modernise environmental control and fire protection measures. Recent fires in similar heritage sites across the globe provide stark warnings.
This ambitious redevelopment project will draw on the best 21st-century design and technology to safeguard the Old Library building and conserve its precious collections for future generations. It includes urgent structural and environmental upgrades; and the redevelopment of facilities in line with the best library and museum experiences around the world.
Commenting on the Government’s announcement, Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast said: “We are delighted that Government is supporting the Old Library’s conservation and redevelopment plans. They are essential in order for this national heritage building to continue in its unique dual role as a world-class library and a national cultural institution that is an international visitor destination. Government’s pledge of support for the preservation of the Old Library, a global cultural icon for the city of Dublin and Ireland is such a welcome announcement and, on behalf of all the Trinity community, I thank the Government, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin who has taken a personal interest, and Minister O’Brien and Minister Noonan.”
Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton said: “We take our role as stewards of the Old Library very seriously. Its rare and important works have inspired generations of students, academics and visitors. This is a critically important redevelopment project that will safeguard it for future generations. It will enable us to both conserve this magnificent 18th building and its collections, as well as make it more accessible to our scholars and public in an historic building reinterpreted for the 21st century.”
Central to the redevelopment plans will be the conservation and protection of the 18th century building, and its precious manuscripts and research collections. It will include the development of a new state-of-the art Research Collections Study Centre for students and scholars both nationally and the world over. It will also re-envision the Library’s treasures with a one-of-a-kind immersive exhibition.
Conservation of the Old Library and its historic collections
The Old Library currently houses 350,000 early printed books, and 20,000 manuscript and archive collections which have been collected over the course of 400 years. The university proposes to upgrade environmental controls and fire protection measures while protecting and conserving the architectural character of the protected structure.
Similar to renovation projects at the National Gallery of Ireland and the National Library of Ireland, Trinity’s Old Library redevelopment plans is addressing these necessary 21st century upgrades through an integrated and holistic design and planning process.
Research Collections Study Centre for students and scholars
Academic activities will remain at the heart of the Old Library, and the Long Room will continue to be at the heart of a fully functioning library. A new Research Collections Study Centre will provide national and international scholars with a secure, accessible, and inspiring environment to intimately study the unique and distinct collections. Located in the beautifully colonnaded ground floor, the Research Collections Study Centre will overlook Library Square, one of the original historic courtyards at Trinity College. In parallel, a Virtual Trinity Library is also planned which will provide digital access to the unique and distinct collections of the Library across the world.
A reimagined Treasures Exhibition
Last Autumn saw the unveiling of the new Book of Kells Treasury and display which forms the first component of the redevelopment plans. This will be developed further in a new Book of Kells exhibition re-interpreting the precious manuscript to respond to increasingly diverse and engaged visitors. It will showcase the manuscript’s history, making and symbolism in a new gallery. The redesign of the exhibition by world renowned Opera Amsterdam and Studio Louter will guide visitors on an immersive journey that places the manuscript in the context of Europe, Ireland, and Trinity College.
New visitor facilities, orientation and public spaces
The current visitor entrance in the Old Library will be relocated to a new more welcoming entrance and exit via the Berkeley Podium, which is located adjacent to the Berkeley Library. At the same time, the current retail facility will be relocated to the Berkeley Podium, alongside visitor amenities and space for rotating exhibitions. In its totality, the project supports and enhances both public access and academic scholarship in the Library.
For more details, see Old Library Redevelopment Project website.