The Little Museum of Dublin
Located in an 18th Century Georgian Townhouse on Dublin's Saint Stephen's Green, as museums go, and as its name might suggest, The Little Museum, somewhat petite, with its permenant collection taking up the just two rooms, albeit the principal rooms of the house on the second floor. Temporary exhibitions take place in a further gallery on the entrance level, and there is a café in the old basement level called Hatch & Sons, which I've yet to visit.
Open late on Thursdays (8pm) and from 9:30am - 5:30pm seven days a week, and conveniently located on my walk into Grafton Street, I had been meaning to pop into the little museum for quite some time, from as early as when it was opened in October 2011 by dubliner's Trevor White and Simon O'Connor, but with most of Dublin's museums offering free or 'pay-what-you-wish' admission, I was initially a little put off by the €7 entry fee.
It was a sign reading 'free admission today sponsored by Johnson Mooney & O'Brien in Summer 2012 that prompted me to walk up the front steps of 15 Saint Stephen's Green and explore the musuem for myself. After a few minutes to wander about and look at the impressive collection of memorabelia, volunteer tour guide and proud Dubliner Sheila Brady announced that she'd be giving us a guided tour around the collection, something that sounded quick and uneccessary considering the compact size of the space, but what I quickly learnt as Sheila unpacked the two rooms chroniciling the diverse and storied social and political history of 20th Century Dublin, is that this was a musem condensed to a concentrate, and each piece in the 5,000 artefact-stron collection unlocked a part of the history of Dublin, resonating with my own childhood here, reliving all the anecdotes and stories I'd grown up with that I thought had been largely forgotten. Although I'd have a relatively rich and varied knowledge of Dublin, I still learnt lots and felt enormously proud of the city as the objects told its story.
A backdrop of Dublin's past, the Viking port, Medieval walled city, Georgian triumph and nearly 200 years of decline following the 1801 act of union gave way to a story told through the pieces, from a Harry Clarke stained glass window, to Premier Dairies milk bottles to relics of the 1963 visit of John F Kennedy and the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II, and as each piece brought one nuanced element of Dublin to life, I realised what a valuable resource we have here for Dubliner's and visitors alike. Interestingly, although many of the objects carry captions, it's only when the guide weaves them together in the tour that the magic starts to happen.
We Irish, being both friendly and knowledgable about our country and respective counties, as well as extremely proud, are always delighted for visitors to get to know the real stories and people, and personally I hate to see them do the 'made in china' tourist trail, and so if, like me, you want your visiting friends to experience a tour that avoids the cliches invented for tourists, and learn a thing or two yourself, this is definitely the place to come. Tours are on the hour every hour and are really worth going on.
If you've been before, it's really worth keeping an eye on the excellently curated exhibitions, made up of artefacts loaned and donated by Dubliners. They're always looking for objects from Dublin's 20th Century life, and if you have something you think might be of interest, definitely visit their website or give them a call.
Tours are available in Polish on the first Sunday of every month and the museum are working on offering tours in Spanish, French, German, Italian and Irish. Photography is allowed and children are welcome, with worksheets and they run an excellent program of free classes for schoolchildren every weekday morning, which is especially suitable for school tours.
Visitors to the museum receive a 10% discount at the Hatch & Sons Café.
Oh, and as you've probably guessed, it's well worth the fee.