January 15th, 2023
The long-held ambition by many with an interest in the history and archaeology of Kilkenny for a County Museum to house artefacts is being supported by Kilkenny’s Minister for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan TD and his Green Party colleague Councillor Maria Dollard.
Both are of the view that a change in the remit of the Medieval Mile Museum towards a free to enter municipal museum could unlock the potential to put on show many more civic archives, collections from the National Museum, and countless other artefacts in collections around the county.
Minister Noonan has written to both Kilkenny Civic Trust and the CEO of Kilkenny County Council to ask them to consider the proposal and he has requested a meeting to discuss new possibilities and opportunities for St Mary's Church and Graveyard in Kilkenny.
"While the Medieval Mile Museum has been an asset to the city and county, I do feel that it is underperforming due to the inability to be adaptable as a space to house collections and the pay to enter model. A County Municipal Museum would most likely cost the same in terms of financial support, but would be in a position to push for Museum Standards Accreditation and to act as a repository for many fascinating collections that would be of immense benefit to academics and schools, as well as having a strong tourist offering," said Minister Noonan.
He also said that the city has not yet realised the real value of St Mary’s, the graveyard, and its connection with the merchant families of Kilkenny, many of whom lived in mansions along High Street, Parliament Street and Patrick Street.
"There are many fine examples of County Museums across the country. Indeed, we don’t have to go too far to see one such example in Carlow. It houses a wonderful collection and attracts many visitors each year. The graveyard of St Mary’s alone is one of the finest in the country, containing many important funerary monuments that connect the great names of Shee, Archer and Rothe to their houses in the city. It’s a fascinating story that needs to be told," said Minister Noonan.
His colleague Councillor Maria Dollard said that changing the operation of the Medieval Mile Museum towards a County Museum made absolute sense and represented value for money for the local authority who subsidise the museum. "I think that there is huge untapped potential in having a museum in the heart of the city that can paint a fuller picture of the story of the city and county. There are so many collections around the county that could find a home in a municipal museum and provide a wonderful resource to schools in particular," she said.
Both Minister Noonan and Councillor Dollard are hopeful that consideration will be given to the proposal and are of the view that it could provide an economic boost to the old city centre, as well as a much stronger heritage asset that encompasses the entire site of St Mary's, including a small ‘pocket park’ around the graveyard for people to enjoy.