During my recent trip to Dublin I visited the Irish Writer’s Museum. This is a museum that has taken the route of the audio guide and visitors listen, pause and move on through the exhibits and photographs in two rooms. This caused a great deal of “what number are you on?” and “are you on number four yet?” from our party as we tried and failed to synchronise. Anyway, the great canon of Irish writers are covered, notably Swift, Joyce, Beckett and Wilde, with plenty of others who you might be forgiven for forgetting they were from Ireland, for example Bram Stoker and Sheridan Le Fanu.
Amongst the usual yellow theatre programmes and first editions you’d expect to find are a few stranger artefacts associated with the writers. Whilst Brendan Behan’s typewriter is excusable, I found the inclusion of several pairs of glasses belonging to various authors silly, and Samuel Beckett’s telephone – fixed up to block incoming calls from unwelcome callers whenever he wished – was probably the most ridiculous exhibit. Okay, so Beckett was the shy and retiring type. So what?
As an aside – this got me thinking. What exactly do you put on show in a museum dedicated to writers? Especially when early editions of their famous works are not available. If the Irish Writer’s Museum opens a third room to bring us up to date, I would expect no less than Roddy Doyle’s modem or Seamus Heaney’s Blackberry. Just a thought.
Thankfully I wasn’t put off by the rather scathing review in my copy of The Rough Guide to Ireland (they don’t share my sense of humour). I found the museum very interesting, the staff friendly and helpful and the cafe and bookshop irresistible. I came away with a copy of In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu, an Irish writer don’t you know? I avoided the Samuel Beckett fridge magnets though. The poor man must be turning in his grave.