Chester Beatty Library is European Museum of the Year

 

The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin has won the European Museum of the Year Award 2002.

It is the first time that Europe's premier museum award, organised by the European Museum Forum, has come to Ireland. The competition, which is open to museums established within the past two years or which have recently been completely reorganised, receives between 50 and 60 applications a year from 21 countries.

The Chester Beatty Library has attracted considerable praise since it opened at its new home in the Clock Tower building at Dublin Castle in February 2000. Apart from being extensively refurbished, the core 18th-century building was augmented by substantial modern additions overseen by OPW architect Ms Angela Rolfe. One of Europe's leading display design companies, Event, was commissioned to structure the display of the collections.

The award jury particularly praised this aspect of the library, commenting on the "elegant, evocative displays" which include tactfully silent explanatory videos throughout. At a time when the need for cross-cultural mediation is particularly acute, the jury also noted that the way the collection had been used to illuminate the cultures and beliefs of the world's religions contributed "to understanding in a world where religion has recently been associated with atrocities and divisions." The library's collection includes some of the oldest known copies of the New Testament, as well as a number of fine Korans.

Born in the US, Alfred Chester Beatty made his fortune mining for gold in Denver and then copper in southern Africa. An avid collector of books, manuscripts and art objects, he eventually settled in Ireland. When he died in 1968, he left his library at Shrewsbury Road, Dublin, and its outstanding collection, to the State. The sale of the Shrewsbury Road site financed the library's move to Dublin Castle.

Queen Fabiola of Belgium presented the prestigious award to the library's director, Dr Michael Ryan, at a ceremony held in Luxembourg last Saturday.