Located in The Custom House, on Rutland Street in Limerick city, The Hunt Museum is home to one of Ireland’s most impressive private collections of art and antiquities from the Neolithic period to the 20th century.

The museum was established in 1974 by John and Gertrude Hunt, a couple who spent their lives building a collection of art that was offered to the Irish government to be exhibited in one of the national museums, but it was declined. They went on to set up The Hunt Museum Trust and in 1996, the museum as we now know it was opened in The Custom House.

While neither John or Gertrude lived to realise their dream, the museum stands as a monument to their enthusiasm, curiosity and generosity.

The Hunt Museum houses a diverse collection of objects and paintings from the ancient to the modern and is also home to its outdoor ‘museum in a garden’ exhibit. It is a centre of learning and civic life that preserves and uses its world class collections to support a greater understanding of the past and to deliver new collaborations and innovation. Public engagement is key to their approach with a full education programme and wide community participation.

A new era

The museum has been under the directorship of Dr Jill Cousins since 2018, but the board of directors recently announced there will be a change at the helm from the beginning of April, with new director, Teresa Crowley, taking over.

“I was always aware of the museum, I’m a massive fan, so it really is a dream come true to be appointed to this position,” says Teresa.

Born and raised in Kilkenny, Teresa has spent her career in various leading arts and culture organisations in development and leadership roles. She has held positions with Sotheby’s Dublin office, as co-founder of the Molesworth Gallery, Dublin and the Alfred Beit Foundation, Russborough House.

Teresa brings her knowledge as an arts, culture and heritage expert, combined with extensive experience and achievements over many years in both the not-for-profit and private sectors.

She joins the Hunt Museum from Russborough where she served as head of strategic planning and development to the Alfred Beit Foundation.

Below: New director of The Hunt Museum Teresa Crowley (centre) with outgoing director Dr Jill Cousins (right) and Chairperson of the Hunt Museum CLG Board, Donncha O’Treasaigh (left).

Speaking about The Hunt Museum, she says, “It’s that combination of the wonderful building and the collection itself, so it is like a little treasure chest at the centre of Limerick’s cultural heritage.”

“It has something of interest for everybody because the collections span from Neolithic tools and spears up to mediaeval artefacts. Many people don’t know this, but the museum has one of Judas’s 30 pieces of silver. There are all sorts of debates about the coin, but even just in terms of capturing people’s imagination, it’s amazing.

“The collection goes right up to the 16th-18th century artists and decorative arts, and then there is a strong collection of 20th century paintings as well. You never know what you’re going to see when you peer into one of the glass cases.”

The Hunt Museum, interior, Limerick

Museums of Ireland

Ireland has a decent selection of museums with permanent and rotating exhibitions. However, since the pandemic, there has been an increase in public interest in visiting museums and with more international exhibitions finding their way to our shores, like the recent Andy Warhol exhibit in Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, the biggest exhibition of its kind in the world, the Irish public have never had more choice.

“I think there are a lot of reasons for that increase in interest,” says Teresa. “One is that museums and galleries are much more focused on education and outreach. They’re also aware of how important it is to the regeneration of areas, particularly in an urban environment. It really adds to a city’s appeal to have these destinations like this available to visitors and the local community.

“The other thing is Ireland has a global reach now; there are a lot of global communities living amongst us. The museum is a place to celebrate all of that and to embrace that diversity. I think museums are part of our cultural heritage, whether they’re galleries, libraries or archives, they are such an important resource and asset for any country. And I think in Ireland we’re particularly proud of them.” CL

For more information, visit huntmuseum.com

Upcoming 2024 exhibitions

Turning Turns 40: Contemporary artists, wood turners – end of March to mid-May

Ireland and the Birth of Europe: A timely exhibition marking 50 years since Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 – mid-May to mid-June

Creepy Crawlies Biodiversity: Museum bugs, serpents, snails, worms in the garden, a community sculpture on bugs – July to November

Kwaidan: This exhibition features the works of 40 artists based in Ireland and Japan who have been inspired by the book, Kwaidan by Patrick Lafcadio Hearn, published in 1904 – Dec 2024-Feb 2025