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graphy: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Dublin's Dead Zoo to close again with plans for a satellite exhibit in Collins Barracks

The Dead Zoo will live on during the coming closure through a “satellite exhibit” at Collins Barracks.

COLLECTIONS AT THE Natural History Museum in Dublin are expected to be moved back into storage, with the process beginning later this year, with the so-called Dead Zoo shuttering its doors again following its reopening last August after two years of closure. 

The looming closure will be taking place to allow for further refurbishment works, as National Museum of Ireland (NMI) is collaborating with the Office of Public Works (OPW) to redevelop the building. The main task at hand is to fix the roof as temporary scaffolding is currently in place to stop falling objects. 

The building is 166 years old, and the planned redevelopment is being undertaken to address a number of key issues, in particular to enable accessibility and to provide the right environmental conditions for the collections, according to NMI.  

Nicknamed the ‘Dead Zoo’ on account of its collections, the Natural History Museum has been hugely popular since the ground floor reopened in August. Since then, nearly 200,000 members of the public have visited its exhibitions. 

The reopening of the ground floor of the museum last year was met with intense interest from the public, as it was booked up for weeks in advance soon after visitors were invited back in. 

The Journal understands that some customers have recently been told while visiting the museum that it is due to close again to allow for redevelopment to continue, and that the next closure could be as long as five years. 

The Department of Tourism, when asked about when the next closure will commence and how long it is expected to go on for, said that the museum has not issued advice to customers on specific dates of closure. 

It said that the redevelopment of the museum has moved to the planning and detailed design phase of the project. 

A spokesperson for the department said that NMI has carefully planned a full transfer of the museum’s remaining collections into storage to allow for preparatory works to start on the roof, which it envisages will start later this year. 

The subsequent closure of the museum will take place in order to “protect these precious artefacts during construction work”, the spokesperson added. 

The department stated that the restoration project – the funding for which has been greenlit by Minister Catherine Martin – is still subject to a number of “gateway”decisions, and therefore it cannot give a definitive start date for the next closure period. 

However it added: “Any closure will be signalled well in advance to the public”. 

There are plans to ensure that the Dead Zoo will live on throughout the next closure with a satellite exhibition at Collins Barracks. 

“This satellite ‘Dead Zoo’ will ensure the continuity of programming and engagement with these unique artefacts for families, school children and other priority audiences,” a department spokesperson said.  

RTÉ News / YouTube

“In the interim, and in recognition of the Natural History Museum’s important educational work with families and children, the NMI will keep open the ground floor galleries of the museum for as long as it remains safe to do so,” they added. 

A spokesperson for NMI has told The Journal that there is no definitive date for the closure of the museum, and that when the date is known, it will be “communicated to the public well in advance”. 

 ”The National Museum of Ireland is committed to preserving the collections, future proofing the unique building, and, over the period of the redevelopment project, to maintaining as much as possible of its popular exhibits through programming at the National Museum of Ireland -Decorative Arts & History, at Collins Barracks,” they added. 

 The efforts of staff at the museum to maneuver exhibits to allow for previous refurbishment works were captured in an RTÉ documentary called ‘The Dead Zoo’, including the skeleton of an Indian elephant, and skeletons of a fin whale and a humpback that were suspended from the ceiling. 

The enthusiasm of Natural History Museum curator Paolo Viscardi was evident in the documentary. 

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