Ink, Imagination and Everyday Learning at the Museum of Literature Ireland

12 Mar 2024
Join Charis Hughes, our Head of Impact and Engagement, on a tour of the Museum of Literature Ireland (MOLI) on Stephen's Green in Dublin, as part of the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival on Wednesday 6th March 2024.

Will there be a run on copies of Ulysses in the libraries around Liberties and Rathmines Colleges next week? It’s quite possible, after an excellent tour of the Museum of Literature Ireland (MOLI), given as part of the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival on Wednesday 6th March 2024.

I joined a group of learners and their adult education tutor Martha Young to be shown around the ‘Ink and Imagination’ exhibition by tour guide Luke. Some in the group were enthusiastic repeat visitors to MOLI. Others, including myself, were there for the first time to discover the wealth of interactive displays celebrating Irish writing.

People lean over a book with a purple display in the background which reads
By the end of the hour, enough interest was sparked that some learners were making plans to mark Bloomsday.    

Luke kicked off the tour with a description of the building, which started as a Georgian townhouse before becoming the campus for the Catholic University of Ireland, and later University College Dublin.

He showed us a photograph of one of the University’s most famous graduates, James Joyce, lounging against a tree with his classmates – and then pointed out the window to the Museum’s garden, where the self-same ash tree stands today. Naturally, that got us hooked. Not only was this a perfect place for a group photo, it was an instant point of connection between Irish writing of the past and the country we live in today.

Part of the Museum’s remit is to trace Ireland’s literary heritage from past to present, and this is underlined throughout the exhibition. A model of Dublin shows the locations used in Joyce’s work, many of them instantly recognisable. An extract from James Plunkett’s Strumpet City, set in 1913, decries the neglect of the inner city and its people in very familiar terms.    

After taking us through the full exhibition, Luke brought us to the bright, welcoming ‘LitLab’ community space at the top of the building for tea, biscuits and chats. It was lovely to see our AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival pens and posters there, because MOLI really is an ‘Everyday Learning Space’ – a place where people can get together and learn from each other.

Jennie Ryan is the Head of Learning at MOLI, and she told me about their strong ties with community education. They are able to facilitate some groups to use the Museum as a quiet space to meet, while many others drop in for short creative writing workshops.  

One of the learners in our group had taken part in a writing workshop. He was full of praise for it and for his course in Rathmines College, where he is particularly enjoying drama.

He told me, “Since I retired, I’d been looking for something to fill my time, and you couldn’t do anything better than this.”

During our chat, he mentioned that his brother had written a play about their family childhood. That play was Hatchet, which had been staged in the Abbey Theatre, and filmed for RTE. There couldn’t be a better demonstration of how literature reaches from the past into the present, and how adult learning can connect us all.  

Thanks to MOLI for hosting this great event. Museum entry is free on the first Friday evening of each month, free for over 65s on Wednesday mornings, and always free for jobseekers and carers. Plan your visit here. 

About the Festival 

The Adult Learners’ Festival, which took place this year from 4th to 8th March 2024, is a nationwide celebration of adult learning. This year’s theme was “Everyday Learning Spaces – Find Yourself Here,” celebrating safe and supportive learning environments, wherever they may be.  

Visit this page for more details about the Festival 

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