Approval for redevelopment and restoration of Old Library in Trinity College

Conservation of Long Room, home to Book of Kells, and new construction planned

The major restoration of the Old Library in Trinity College will involve the conservation and protection of the 18th-century building and its historic collections, as well as the development of  new research collections, a study centre and an  immersive exhibition for visitors. Photograph: Paul Sharp/Sharppix

The major restoration of the Old Library in Trinity College will involve the conservation and protection of the 18th-century building and its historic collections, as well as the development of new research collections, a study centre and an immersive exhibition for visitors. Photograph: Paul Sharp/Sharppix

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A major redevelopment and restoration of the Old Library in Trinity College Dublin, home to the Book of Kells and more than 350,000 rare books, has been approved by Dublin City Council.

The work will involve the conservation and protection of the 18th-century building, which houses the Long Room, and its historic collections, as well as the development of a new research collections study centre for students and scholars and a “one-of-a-kind immersive exhibition” for visitors the university said.

Recognised as one of the great libraries of the world, the Old Library holds 350,000 early printed books, and 20,000 manuscript and archive collections which have been collected over the course of 400 years.

However, the building now faces “significant conservation and environmental challenges” and requires “urgent structural and environmental upgrades” the university said.

“External pollution and dust accumulation are taking their toll on the collections and the fabric of the Old Library building. There is a need to modernise environmental control and fire protection measures. Recent fires in similar heritage sites across the globe provide stark warnings.”

In addition to repairs and conservation, a number of non-historic elements including steps, ramps, doors, ceiling materials and partition walls will be removed.

Study centre

While the Long Room will continue as a fully functioning library, the new research collections study centre will provide national and international scholars with an accessible study environment on the ground floor overlooking Library Square, one of the original historic courtyards at Trinity College.

A virtual Trinity library is also planned which will provide digital access to the collections of the library across the world.

Last month saw the unveiling of the new Book of Kells treasury and display, which forms the first component of the redevelopment plans. This will be developed further in a new Book of Kells exhibition “re-interpreting the precious manuscript to respond to increasingly diverse and engaged visitors”.

It will showcase the manuscript’s history, its creation and its symbolism in a new gallery. The redesign of the exhibition by world-renowned Opera Amsterdam and Studio Louter will guide visitors on an immersive journey that places the manuscript in the context of Europe, Ireland and Trinity College.

The current visitor entrance in the Old Library will be relocated to the Berkeley Podium, which is located adjacent to the Berkeley Library. At the same time, the current shop will be relocated to the Berkeley Podium, alongside visitor amenities and space for rotating exhibitions.

“In its totality, the project supports and enhances both public access and academic scholarship in the library.”

Architects Heneghan Peng

The project will be led by architects Heneghan Peng who were behind the renovation of the National Gallery of Ireland.

While the university has not given costs for the development, it said it was a “multi-million euro project” which would require significant philanthropic funding.

“This year we have been focusing on the detailed design and securing planning permission. It is a complex project and its date of commencement and overall duration is currently under consideration. It will depend on a number of factors including funding for the development.”