The Republic of Ireland has just opened a new cultural institution, the Museum of Literature Ireland – sadly, just a few weeks too late for my visit to Dublin for Worldcon 77. A partnership between University College Dublin and the National Library of Ireland, the new museum, MoLI for short, is on St Stephen’s Green in Newman House.
According to MoLI, the new institution came about after discussions between UCD and the NLI regarding the NLI’s James Joyce collections and UCD’s historic Newman House premises. Visitors will be treated to interactive displays of the entire history of Irish literature, the Dublin of James Joyce mapped onto the modern city, and so on, as well as actual items from the NLI and other collections.
You might think that Dublin is already well supplied with literary museums and exhibitions. The NLI’s own superb W.B. Yeats exhibition, which I’ve already covered, the Dublin Writers Museum, the James Joyce Centre – the city positively throbs with literary commemorations. And that’s perhaps the way it should be. Unlike England, which often seems oblivious of or embarrassed by its cultural heritage, Ireland honours it fittingly. Perhaps this is a small nation with a troubled past looking to assert its identity, but it certainly has tremendous assets to assert it with.
Writers and monuments to writers seem to be everywhere you look in Dublin. From the Samuel Beckett Bridge across the Liffey (above) to the statues of Burke and Goldsmith outside Trinity College (below), there’s hardly a street corner you can turn without encountering some kind of commemoration. Again, that’s really as it should be. A country that can glory in its cultural achievement has at least as much to flaunt and be proud of as one that glorifies its imperial conquerors and men of the sword.