The Hunt Museum is a bijoux art gallery in central Limerick that exhibits one of Ireland’s best private collections of art dating from the Neolithic era to the 20th Century. The collection was formerly housed at the University of Limerick but moved to its current location, the historic Old Customs House in Rutland Street, in 1997. Much of the marina area has now been redeveloped and there are plenty of luxury and boutique hotels around the quays, which are just a short walk from the museum.
History of the Hunt Museum
The Hunt Museum is a personal collection of 2,000 works of art put together by John and Gertrude Hunt throughout their lifetime. They were antique dealers who built a successful art consultancy business and started to collect pieces of personal interest. As their collection grew they began to look around for somewhere proper to house it. Professor Patrick Doran and Dr Edward Walsh from the National Institute of Higher Education (now the University of Limerick) agreed to take some of it on a temporary basis and the Hunt Museum was opened in 1978 in one of the university exhibition rooms.
The Hunt Museum Trust was set up to house the collection at a 16th century tower house bought and restored by the Hunts, as the Irish government declined to take it on. The Trust’s aim was to find a long-term home for the collection and they set about renovating the Old Customs House. Unfortunately John and Gertrude Hunt didn’t live to see the opening of the museum in 1997.
The Architecture of the Building
The Customs House is a Palladian-style building designed by Davis Ducart, an Italian architect in 1765. It is believed to be one of the finest examples of 18th century architecture in Limerick and was formerly government buildings. Restoration was completed in 1996 and the new museum opened on Valentine’s Day in 1997, a rather romantic date given the passion of the couple behind it who had worked hard to find a suitable home for their collection of art.
Art Collections at the Hunt Museum
The Hunts’ aim was to have a collection “at home”, hence the informality with Shaker style cabinets with drawers you can open and explore and the introduction of themed rooms. It offers a mix of contemporary and classical art with pieces dating back to the Stone Age and ancient Egypt mixed with modern art - ceramics, maps, drawings, an Irish medieval collection and fashion exhibitions - “800 Years of Fashion” showcased style icons and Irish fashion designers.
There’s also a cafe and gift shop and “docents” (free guides) are available to show you around. Entry is free on Valentine’s Day every year in honour of the couple whose vision created the museum.
There are plenty of luxury and boutique hotels in the city centre within walking distance of the Hunt Museum and riverside quarter. Many have partnered up with visitor attractions to offer discounted entry for families so it’s worth asking what’s on offer when you arrive.