The Chester Beatty Library, located in Dublin Castle in Ireland, is one of the most interesting and important collections of written manuscripts in the world. Guests should plan to spend at least two hours in the library museum to see all the works of art that are offered there. Chester Beatty Library was opened in Dublin, Ireland in 1950. The current iteration of the library opened in 2000, which was the 125th anniversary of the year of Beatty’s birth.
The library has been ranked 21st out of the 568 “things to do” listed on TripAdvisor and it maintains a solid 4.5-star rating from them as well (which is based on traveller reviews). It has been called a “do not miss” attraction and an “amazing collection.” In 2002, the museum was named European Museum of the Year. The permanent collection at the library has been called the finest collection of manuscripts and books that has been amassed by a private collector during the 20th century. It has samples of representative pieces of work starting from around 2700 BC and going all the way through present times and includes one of only a few surviving volumes of the Gospel of Mani and Life of the Prophet (believed to be one of the last remaining Manicheism artifacts).
The library is home to a variety of temporary and touring exhibitions that rotate frequently through the museum. However, it is also home to a significant permanent collection. It is divided into three geographic regions.
? East Asian Collection - Representing cultures from all across the region considered the “Far East,” including parts of South, South-East, Central, and East (stretching from Japan in the North-East, non-Islamic India in the South-West, Sumatra in the South-East, and Mongolia in the North-West), the East Asian Collection is the smallest of the three. The collection offers Chinese manuscripts and other works of art previously purchased as decorative pieces by Chester Beatty when he was still considered a novice collector visiting Japan and China in 1917 and 1918. The collection features Japanese picture books from Nara e-hon that are the focus of significant scholarly exchange on an international level.
? Islamic Collection - The Islamic Collection at the library has been regarded as some of the finest artifacts in existence and have been regularly renowned on an international scale for their high quality as well as the large scope of material offered for viewing. The manuscripts in this collection span as far back as the 8th century and reach all the way through the early years of the 20th century. The majority of the works in this collection come from the Arab world (India, Turkey, and Iran) and the library counts among its manuscripts some of the greatest and most important documents of art and culture in Islam. There are works of calligraphy, miniature painting, bookbinding, and illumination and the collection is divided up into 5 sub collections (Arabic, Qur’an, Persian, Turkish, and Mughal-Era Indian).
? Western Collection - Considered the most diverse of the three collections at the library, the Western Collection includes works that have been copied and printed onto a wide variety of types of material (like wood, papyrus, clay, paper, and parchment). The Western Collection focuses on works from Africa (Egypt and Ethiopia), the Middle East, and Europe and have been dated as far back as the third millennium BC all the way up to the 20th century. This collection is probably most representative of the way that American book collectors choose their manuscripts and feature only works of the highest quality. In fact, this collection is famous for some of the rare manuscripts as well as the biblical papyri, and Chester Beatty collected more than 3000 rare books and more than 2600 drawings and paintings.
The Creative Corner, located on the first floor in the lobby, is another area for families with children to check out before leaving. This area was designed for children after the visit the museum and allows them to be able to express their feelings about what they have seen at the library through use of several types of artistic mediums. They will also be able to take these works home or choose to leave them on display in the library.
The library is meant to be seen as a self-guided tour, however, guests who prefer a more guided experience can take one of the free guided tours that are offered to the general public. These free tours are offered Wednesdays at 1:00 pm and Sundays at both 3:00 and 4:00 pm. Guided tours are offered only first come, first serve basis and can accommodate no more than 15 people at a time. These tours will last approximately one hour and will leave from the reception desk at the scheduled times.
Guests who have reduced mobility or other physical disabilities should plan to enter through the Ship Street gate in Dublin Castle. There are also specific parking spots reserved for those with a parking permit. The library itself is both wheelchair and stroller friendly and the majority of the collections have been placed as low as possible to better help guests with disabilities.
The library is open March through October, Mondays through Fridays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. They are also open from November through February, Tuesdays through Fridays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (they will be closed on Mondays during that time). The library will be open Saturdays all year round from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Sundays all year round from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. They are closed January 1st (New Year’s Day), Good Friday, December 24th, 25th, and 26th, and Mondays during all public holidays.
Guests with children can check out the specially designed library-based activities that are meant for three different age ranges - 3+, 5+, and 8+. The worksheets (which include coloring books, crosswords, and puzzles) are available on the second-floor lobby or can be downloaded ahead of time on the library’s website.
There are also many different educational programs that have been designed for children and meant to help them better understand some of the works of art found in the Asian, Middle Eastern, European, and East Asian collections. Below are just a few.
? Tiny Fingers, Little Toes - This workshop was designed for preschoolers with their parents. It is offered free of charge and can fit up to 20 people at a time.
? Silk Worm Club - These series of workshops were created for children between 6 and 11 years old. It is offered free of charge and can fit up to 20 people at a time.
? Creative Lab - Meant for slightly older children, from 12 to 14 or from 15 to 17 years old. Each lab can fit up to 15 people at a time.
The library also hosts a variety of intercultural learning experiences meant to address the challenges created do to the massive influx of immigrants to Ireland. Exploring Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism, there are two distinct levels of “Ways of Seeing” programs. One is designed for post-primary students and the other is designed for both primary as well as post-primary students. The complete programs are available for download for teachers as well, and it is highly recommended that they be incorporated into general classroom learning. The programs include icebreakers and projects, as well as educational resources and lesson plans.
Field trips of the library are also available for both primary and secondary school classes. They must be requested at least three weeks in advance of any planned visit. Each tour can accommodate up to fifteen students at a time. If a class has more than that, they will be split into multiple tours. Field trips are offered to students free of charge and last approximately one hour. Teachers must check in at the reception desk. Late arrivals may mean a cancellation of the field trip. The students must be chaperoned at all times, and one adult chaperone is required for each 15 students.
Dining and Shopping
Before leaving the library, guests should take the opportunity to dine at the Silk Road Cafe. The cafe was specifically designed to represent some of the cultures found in the library’s collection through culinary options (mainly from the Middle East). The cafe also offers a variety of vegetarian and gluten free options. 12 original dishes are served every day, all served with vegetables and rice. The library also has a museum gift shop on the ground floor, which has a fairly diverse collection of books and other gifts for every price range.
Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2, Phone: +353-14-07-07-50