Jan 26, 2022

Book of Kells Exhibition to be Built on New Square

A proposal to build the temporary exhibition space on College Park was met with backlash from sports clubs who train on the park.

Emer MoreauEditor
Alex Connolly for The University Times

A temporary space to house the Book of Kells exhibition will be erected on New Square, not College Park, following consultation with the Trinity community.

The Book of Kells itself will remain on display in the Printing House in Front Square, subject to statutory constraints. The historic building will be renovated.

Last year, student representatives and several sports clubs slammed a proposal to construct the pavilion on College Park as it would impinge on athletes’ ability to use the park for training and matches.


But College said today that, following “consultation within the Trinity community”, the decision was made to locate the interim exhibition in New Square, “at the heart of [Trinity’s] campus”.

In a press statement, College Bursar Eleanor Denny said: “We are extremely grateful to everyone in Trinity who helped us arrive at this crucial decision. This innovative plan allows us to preserve public access to the Book of Kells, one of Ireland’s foremost cultural attractions as well as restoring one of the oldest landmark buildings on campus, the Printing House.”

The temporary exhibition space is subject to planning permission.

Trinity Provost Linda Doyle said in a press statement: “A process of careful consultation across College has led to today’s agreement on how to proceed with this plan. I want to thank those involved for their engagement. We believe this choice of location offers the best possible solution for our staff, students and future visitors to College.”

Doyle told student representatives, Dublin University Central Athletic Club (DUCAC) and sports clubs in an email: “Over the past couple of months, I have been so impressed by the way you have represented the best interests of your clubs … Your engagement and openness allowed us to properly look at our options and take the time to understand what might and might not work for Trinity, rather than make any knee-jerk decisions. Because of this we had the time and space to do the feasibility studies we needed, and to get multiple perspectives.”

Doyle said that, at a Board meeting today, the Bursar brought forward two options for the temporary exhibition – one option that included College Park as the location for the interim exhibition and another option that involved using a combination of the Printing House and a smaller footprint of New Square.

“Of the two options presented, the Bursar recommended to Board, the option that involved the Printing House. I am glad to share with you that this recommendation has been accepted by Board”, the Provost said. “Because of the process of engagement with you and your constructive inputs, this meant the Board had two very robust proposals to consider that were evidence-based and well informed.

She told student leaders in the email: “You hold a big level of responsibility to advance the interests of all our community, and I want to finish by saying that you are fortunate to have a Chair of DUCAC who advances your collective mission, while being able to facilitate differences of opinion, in an open and honest way.”

“I look forward to seeing many more sporting activities on College Park and getting more involved with sporting life in the years ahead.”

A Trinity press statement said that the temporary exhibition structure and Printing House renovation are due to be completed in 2023. The interim exhibition will be an “exciting, immersive and unique experience combining history with modern-day technology”.

College has previously stressed the importance of the interim exhibition to the feasibility of the Old Library Redevelopment Project..

Librarian and College Archivist Helen Shenton said: “Conserving and renewing the Old Library, a renowned centre of research used by students, researchers and international scholars, is a complex and important challenge. The project will be transformative in protecting this national treasure and will ensure the preservation of the building and collections for generations to come.”

Last October, The University Times reported that several sports clubs in Trinity could be denied full access to their campus pitches if a mooted pavilion was constructed on College Park to temporarily replace the Book of Kells.

College was planning to erect a two-storey pavilion on campus to supplement lost income from the closure of the full Book of Kells exhibit while the Old Library is being renovated. The location of the pavilion was not finalised, but representatives for affected clubs were told about the pavilion and its role in the Old Library Redevelopment Project.

Trinity’s soccer, cricket and athletics clubs use the grounds for training and matches. The clubs were concerned that the structure will reduce the dimensions of their particular pitches, rendering them unusable for matches as they would not be regulation-sized playing grounds.

The pavilion could be in place for as long as four years. Proposals seen by The University Times showed that the structure could have been built at the west end of College Park, near the Ussher library.

Some 19 locations, on and off campus, were suggested to house the exhibition while the Old Library was closed. Dublin City Council suggested to Trinity that the pavilion be built on College Park, on the grounds that Trinity’s own suggestions were unlikely to be granted planning permission.

Confidential documents presented to College Board members, seen by this newspaper, indicate that 19 locations, on and off campus, were considered, with New Square and Library Square being deemed the most suitable. Regent House, the Douglas Hyde Gallery, the 1937 Reading Room and the Science Gallery were among the campus locations considered.

Off-campus locations mooted included the Chester Beatty library, the National Library and the National Gallery. College Park was not on the list of potential locations.

The documents said that “the Bursar, COO [Chief Operating Officer] and E&F [Estates and Facilities] have engaged with Dublin City Council who have guided that planning permission would be unlikely” for these two locations.

“DCC suggested a third location, which could be feasible from a planning perspective, in College Park.”

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