Plans to send a comprehensive exhibition of Irish Australia to Ireland were dropped after a museum in Belfast pulled out because of ‘scheduling’.
Not Just Ned: A True History of Irish Australia opened at the National Museum of Australia on St Patrick’s Day and has since received above-expected visitor numbers.
Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia Máirtín Ó Fainín told the Irish Echo the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) had considered mounting the exhibition to Dublin but decided against it.
The Irish Echo has learned the exhibition was to be co-hosted in Dublin and Belfast until the Ulster Museum withdrew its support for a shared tour. The NMI held discussions with the Belfast-based museum about sharing the costs associated with touring Not Just Ned.
Provisionally, the NMI was to host the exhibition at Collins Barracks this autumn, with the Ulster Museum taking on the exhibit in early 2012.
The Ulster Museum subsequently told the NMI it could no longer participate.
NMI’s head of collections Raghnall Ó Floinn told the Echo that costs were too high for it to bear alone.
The NMI has expressed regret that Not Just Ned will not come to Ireland.
“Having received the indicative costs from the NMA we consulted with the Ulster Museum and discovered that due to scheduling reasons, they were not in a position to host the exhibition in 2012 as originally planned,” said Mr Ó Floinn.
“The total costs for the exhibition would thus have fallen on the NMI alone and notwithstanding the availability of sponsorship, the costs were such that we did not have sufficient funds at our disposal to host the exhibition on our own.”
He added: “We very much regret this as we were indeed looking forward to hosting it at Collins Barracks.”
Recently, the Irish Echo revealed that Qantas had committed to transport the exhibits to Ireland at no charge but the airline was told its support was no longer needed.
A spokesperson for the Ulster Museum said it supported the exhibition by providing the NMA with access to 10 objects for display. Its temporary exhibition schedule was ‘particularly full’ until 2014.
“The Ulster Museum, which mainly holds permanent exhibitions, … already has a particularly full temporary exhibition schedule covering the next three years,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the National Museum of Australia (NMA) said it has exhausted all sponsorship possibilities to bring the exhibition to Ireland.
“The museum worked on sponsorship approaches for over a year and pursued every possible avenue in the Australian-Irish business community. It is not possible these days to find a sponsor overnight — companies and foundations have long lead-times for decision-making,” said NMA Director Andrew Sayers.
It would cost $200,000 to mount the exhibition to Ireland and this was not a “small sponsorship ask” said Mr Sayers.
“The decision was not made hastily, the decision was made realistically.”
In more positive news, the NMA has revealed that Not Just Ned is proving to be a hit with visitors.
Almost 10,000 people have already seen the exhibition, which runs until July.
By Luke O’Neill