9th February, 2005.
Fellow Councillors, City Manager and Distinguished Guests,
Our image of museums is often one of dark dusty spaces, presided over by absent minded academics and home to fossil collections which sometimes include the staff. Looking around this magnificent addition to Cork’s Public Museum today, that illusion is instantly dispelled. It is a great pleasure, both as Lord Mayor and as a former member of the Museum Advisory Committee, to officially open this new Cork Public Museum. And it is hard to imagine a more appropriate year in which to mark the opening than 2005 – the year in which Cork dons the mantle of European Capital of Culture.
Photographed at the unveiling of a plaque at the official opening of the new modern extension to the Cork Public Museum on 9th February 2005 at Fitzgerald Park from left to right: Professor John A. Murphy, Chairman of the Museum Committee, Joe Kennelly, Director of Services, Recreation Amenity and Culture Directorate, City Manager, Joe Gavin, the Lord Mayor, Cllr. Sean Martin, Museum Curator, Stella Cherry and the Lady Mayoress, Ann Martin. (Photograph by Pat Duggan).
It gives me great added pleasure to also open the two temporary exhibitions, namely the Great Exhibition of 1902 & 1903 and The Magic of Masks and Puppetts. It is interesting to note that the Great Exhibition itself took place over 100 years ago on the very site of the building which we are opening today.
The new museum cost €4m and was funded jointly by the City Council and the European Regional Development Fund. It was designed in-house by the City Architects Department and I want to pay a special tribute today to the staff of that department for the excellence of their design. I think it fair to say that this design stands comfortably amongst any of the many private sector projects recently completed or currently underway in our architecturally dynamic city.
As you have seen, the ground floor is comprised of two major Exhibition Halls – a café is proposed, and a central reception area.
The first floor will house all temporary exhibitions in two halls.
These upstairs halls will be named after the first two Curators J.P.Dalton from 1910 and Professor of Archaeology in U.C.C., M.J. Kelly who was curator in 1945 and I think that it is entirely appropriate that we officially remember these two men who contributed so much to the development of this Museum.
The City Council can, I think, be justifiably proud of its role in the promotion of Arts Recreation and Culture.
This is borne out by the amount that is made available each year by way of capital grants to the city’s various artistic groups. The amount distributed by the Council ranks amongst the highest in the country of any Local Authorities per head of population.
The Council gives annual and capital support to theatres, galleries, and Drama & Dance Groups and positively encourages participation in their activities.
Accordingly, the Council is extremely proud of its own cultural institutions – Library Network – Archives and , of course, the Museum.
This new museum now offers the people of Cork and visitors to the city alike, the opportunity and visitors to the city alike, the opportunity to view artifacts that have been in storage due to space constraints.
We now have cases devoted to sport, the civil war, historical dress, Cork silver, Historical events, various treasures and many miscellaneous topics, and it is a great tribute to Curator Stella Cherry and her staff that we have such a magnificent display on show to be enjoyed by all.
Great tribute is due to Stella for securing the Michael Collins Collection letters courtesy of former Minister Peter Barry and the Terence McSweeney Documentation's relating to his last hours in Brixton Prison.
During our year as European Capital of Culture, the Temporary Exhibition Galleries will host displays of Irish Contemporary Glass, Contemporary Irish music, Irish Wine Heritage, Liam McCarthy, (of the All Ireland Hurling Cup Fame) and the history of Cork Gold.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the City Manager Joe Gavin and the guidance on this project and for their pivotal role in bringing the Phase II to its conclusion.
Many people hold the view that we should not live in the past but concentrate instead on the here and now. I do not subscribe to that point of view. I believe that we have much to learn from History. I can offer no more fitting example than the recent anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. We should not live in the past but we should certainly strive to understand it. Books can be a bloodless substitute for life but museums can breathe life into the past. Looking at the accoutrements of past lives can bring us closer to the figures and events of history and make them more real and immediate to us. In this sense the role and function of a well-resourced museum cannot be overstated. I think that what we have provided here is a well-resourced museum and I know that it is in good hands.
I hope that all who visit here will get great enjoyment from it and accordingly it gives me great pleasure to officially open the new Cork Public Museum.
Go raibh maith agat.
Cllr. Sean Martin, Lord Mayor of Cork.
Curator, Stella Cherry, photographed with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress at the official opening of the Museum Extension. (Photograph by Dara McGrath),
Joe Kennelly, Director of Services, Recreation Amenity and Culture Directorate, photographed at the opening of the Museum Extension (Photograph by Dara McGrath).
Douglas Walsh and Stella Cherry photographed opening the doors of the new Museum Extension to the public. (Photograph by Dara McGrath).