OVERALL visitor numbers to Limerick’s eminent Hunt Museum rose to over 8,300 last month, but director Hugh Maguire said the number of tourists is noticeably down on previous years.
The museum, which houses over 1,800 historical artefacts, has also reduced its entry fee from €8 to €5 to entice more people to visit one of Limerick’s premier tourist attractions.
The previous entry fee had led some people to turn away from the museum due to straitened financial times, “but no one has walked away since”, he enthused.
Ambitious plans are also in the offing to open up the garden behind the museum along the riverfront to the public and introduce new pieces of sculpture “to make it a riverside park for all”, he added.
As part of the their aim to open up to the museum to all citizens of Limerick and beyond, 30 children from all parts of the city are currently enrolled in a summer school in the museum.
A ‘horse outside’ - literally - has become an enticing feature at the entrance to the museum. Inspired by the Rubberbandits hit song, it is the artistic creation of pupils at the Roxboro school completion programme and the Southill outreach programme.
Mr Maguire was speaking to highlight a new art collection from the Arts Council Collection currently running in the Hunt, which will be on display until September 4.
Entitled ‘Collecting for Ireland’, this free exhibition features the work of some of the country’s best known and most accomplished artists, including Limerick’s own John Shinnors.
“This collection is owned by all of us by way of the Arts Council and we’ve about 50 works here. It’s not a radical exhibition but there really is something here for everyone. It’s an eclectic mix. You could follow a whole trajectory of Irish art in the late 20th century by following this exhibition here,” he said.
Works by Basil Blackshaw, Samuel Walsh, Louis be Brocquy and Charles Harper are also featured. But it is not only oil paintings on canvas which capture the eye. A jacket made out of leaves and a polished piece of coal mounted on the wall are some of the more unusual items to catch the viewer’s eye.
However, while the view inside of the museum is one of aesthetic beauty, a site directly opposite the museum is anything but, he believes. Mr Maguire has urged that the stalled Opera Centre site be addressed. He said the block of 44 vacant units appears “threatening and inhospitable” to visitors.