Ralph Appelbaum Associates: Museum of Literature Ireland

Honourable Mention: Design, Installations and Exhibitions

Situated on St Stephen’s Green in University College Dublin’s historic Newman House, the new Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) opened to the public in September 2019. The product of a partnership between University College Dublin and the National Library of Ireland, MoLI is Ireland’s first literature museum and the first museum globally dedicated to the Irish literary tradition.

Originally conceived as a James Joyce Centre, the brief for MoLI was expanded to create a space that celebrates Irish language and literature in its entirety, exploring how such a small island has produced so many of the world’s literary giants. There was also a desire for MoLI to act as a new cultural hub for Dublin – a place that would inspire the next generation of writers.

MoLI’s unique challenge was to enliven the written word into an engaging visitor experience. Ralph Appelbaum Associates was inspired by Irish literature’s oral qualities, utilising sound and other media to craft a fully sensory visitor experience, where words lift off the page and into visitors’ ears. As visitors move through spaces dedicated to place, voice and inspiration, MoLI’s collection is displayed dynamically alongside media installations that bring the sights and sounds of Ireland and Irish literature to life – from the countryside’s windswept hills and oral traditions, to Dublin’s ‘dirty’ streets and contemporary Irish slang.

In the innovative generative installation, Riverrun of Language, visitors experience the weight and breadth of Irish literature through its many sounds, voices and words. Visitors’ movements trigger sound showers of spoken Irish literature and folklore, adding to the density of words in the river of language on the walls. Throughout the rest of MoLI, visitors are similarly encouraged to become more than passive consumers of words: reading books surrounded by object displays, listening to an author read their newest work, or even writing their own.

The culmination of these participatory design elements is a new kind of museum – a dynamic incubation space where contemporary and future writers are placed at the heart of the creative process.

Design: Ralph Appelbaum Associates
Director: Phillip Tefft
Project Leader: Mirko Cerami
Content Developers: Charlotte Kingston, Charlotte Stevens
Content Developer and Scriptwriter: Helen Schulte
Scriptwriter: Laura Murtagh
Director of Graphics: Mat Mason
Graphic Designers: James Ward, Sinead Foley
Artworker: Steve Lancefield 
Translator: Clare Rowland
Photographer: Andrew Lee
Architect: Scott Tallon Walker Architects
Fabricator: Marcon
AV Hardware Consultant: Sysco Engineering
Interactive Media: Squint Opera, Coda to Coda
Lighting: Michael Grubb Studios


Milton Keynes