Limerick city is one of Ireland’s hidden treasures. In 1991, writer and historian Judith Hill wrote that before she came to Limerick, she was shown a map of the city and ‘there, clearly marked, I saw a castle, two cathedrals, a wide river with falls, the regular pattern of a Georgian quarter.’ This magnificent heritage is not as widely known at home or abroad as it deserves to be. In many respects, Limerick City awaits discovery and exploration, like many of the great cities of Eastern Europe, whose cultural and architectural riches had been locked away behind the Iron Curtain for forty years up to 1989.
The Hunt Museum was established to house an internationally important collection of approximately 2,000 works of art and antiquities formed by John and Gertrude Hunt during their lifetimes. It was housed in what is now the University of Limerick from its foundation in 1978 until it moved to its present location in the former Limerick Custom House in 1997.
There are artefacts from Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Olmec civilisation. There is also an important collection of Irish archaeological material ranging from Neolithic flints and Bronze Age material, including a Bronze Age shield and cauldron, to later Christian objects such as the unique ninth century Antrim Cross. One of the strengths of the collection is the medieval material, which include statues in stone and wood, painted panels, jewellery, enamels, ivories, ceramics, crystal and crucifixes. Eighteenth and nineteenth century decorative arts are also represented with fine examples of silver, glass and ceramics. Artists’ works in the collection include Pablo Picasso, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Roderic O’Conor, Jack B. Yeats, Robert Fagan and Henry Moore.
Eighteenth and nineteenth century decorative arts are also represented with fine examples of silver, glass and ceramics. Artists’ works in the collection include Pablo Picasso, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Roderic O’Conor, Jack B. Yeats, Robert Fagan and Henry Moore.
Regarded as the most distinguished eighteenth-century building in Limerick, the Customs House is an elegant Palladian-style building designed by the Italian architect, Davis Ducart, in 1765. For many years, it was the administrative centre for the Revenue Commissioners (including Customs and Excise) in Limerick and in the mid-nineteenth century, the city’s general post office was also housed there.
The Hunt Museum holds about 2,500 different artifacts, both from Ireland and abroad. The oldest pieces are from stone-age Ireland and ancient Egypt.The collection includes the Antrim Cross (an early 9th-century cast bronze and enamel cross), dresses by Irish designer Sybil Connolly, drawings by Picasso and a bronze horse once thought to be a design by Leonardo da Vinci for a large monument, this was disproved in 2009. Some of the Hunt collection is also on display at the nearby Craggaunowen in County Clare, which was also greatly contributed to by John and Gertrude Hunt.