Book of Kells visitor centre and Old Library works planned by TCD

Covid-19 is causing revenue from manuscript exhibition to plummet from 2019’s €12.7m

The Book of Kells exhibition is due to reopen on August 10th, but pre-Covid relied on foreign visitors for 87% of ticket sales last year.

The Book of Kells exhibition is due to reopen on August 10th, but pre-Covid relied on foreign visitors for 87% of ticket sales last year.

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Trinity College Dublin (TCD) has lodged major plans for a new visitor centre for its Book of Kells exhibition and urgent works to its 18th-century Old Library.

The Book of Kells exhibition last year generated revenues of €12.7 million as more than one million visitors paid to view the ancient and priceless manuscript.

However, this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, revenues will be only a small fraction of the 2019 figure as the exhibition has been closed since March.

The exhibition is due to reopen on August 10th but pre-Covid had relied heavily on foreign visitors accounting for 87 per cent of ticket sales last year. US visitors were the largest international group and made up one-third of the total figure.

The new visitor centre is part of the Old Library Redevelopment Project which also includes the refurbishment and alteration to both to the Old Library built between 1712 and 1732 and to the Berkeley Library on the TCD campus.

‘Conservation challenges’

A spokeswoman for TCD stated: “The Old Library faces a number of conservation, structural and environmental challenges which need to be urgently addressed in order to safeguard the building and its contents for the next century.”

She stated: “The pandemic and recent events go to further highlight the importance of preserving this national historic site and improving visitor facilities in keeping with health and safety protocols.”

The redevelopment plans recently lodged with Dublin City Council have been two years in the making, led by architects Heneghan Peng, and were concluded just before the Covid-19 lockdown.

Documentation lodged with the plan states that the proposal aims to protect the library collection against further deterioration and to improve facilities for visitors and enhance the visitor experience.

Crowd management

The visitor centre welcome and ticketing area is to be located underground while planning documentation shows that crowd management technology is to be installed.

TCD wouldn’t be drawn on the costs of the project. The TCD spokeswoman said: “Funding for the redevelopment project is under consideration. The focus on the coming year will be on planning and developing the detailed design and securing planning permission.”

On the timescale of the plan, the spokeswoman said: “This is a complex project and its overall duration is currently under consideration. It will depend on a number of factors including the overall planning process and funding for its development.”

A decision is due by the city council on the plan at the end of next month.