Museum in a Garden

Outdoor Museum to Break Down Barriers to Culture and Art. Community Influenced Garden to Support Wellbeing.

24 June, 2021

A museum volunteer in a vis-vest crouches down in the garden to do some planting

Volunteers were hard at work plating in the garden.

The Hunt Museum, which exhibits one of Ireland’s greatest private collections of Art  and Antiquities, has created an exciting new public space for Limerick. Museum in a Garden takes  the Hunt Museum outside its walls to create a public urban garden in the heart of Limerick. The  concept behind the garden, established as a Museum board priority in 2015, is to break down  barriers to culture and art and encourage greater engagement with the community. The rear garden is approximately 3000m2 flanked by two rivers, the Shannon and the Abbey with views towards the 12th century St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Potato Market.

The garden was first opened as a public space in 2016. Then, in 2020, The Hunt Museum removed  the railings around its green space to create the Museum in a Garden. Conceived as an extension to  the museum, the garden will feature seven super-sized sculptures replicating artefacts from the  museum. First to be installed is Olmec Man, a Mexican artefact that was digitised by TY students and  made into a two-metre outdoor replica using 3D printing technologies with help from ESB, Arup, the  Limerick School of Art & Design (LSAD) and

The beautifully designed river reflecting sensory garden by Nicola Haines also includes a community  garden, a garden chess set, boules and “hills” for children to roll down. Custom-designed benches  and personalised cobbles also feature thanks to the support of a public fundraising campaign.

Speaking at the official opening, Jill Cousins, Director, The Hunt Museum, said, “By allowing our  objects to escape the museum walls, we hope to intrigue and entertain many more people. It is a  work in progress and over the next six months more sculptures will take up residence outside as we  hold events in this brand new and exciting space. Everyone was so generous under the Fund a  Cobble campaign and JP McManus Golf Pro Am and our volunteers have been numerous and many.  Museum in a Garden belongs to us all, to admire the sculptures, picnic, play chess, tend to  vegetables or to simply sit still.”

Some cobbles with family names painted on them in white paint placed in the garden.

Some of the cobbles placed in the garden.

Chair of the Museum, John Moran, said Great public spaces are where communities come together  and barriers and feeling of isolation disappear. Ever since I took over as Chair it has been my  ambition to see this formerly somewhat unloved and railed-off space become a true open public  space for all the residents of Limerick. My own family was delighted to support this project with a donation to fund the creation of a community garden in memory of my dad, Sean Moran, a builder who loved the river and devoted many years restoring some of Limerick’s old buildings.”

Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Michael Collins, officially opened the Museum in a Garden at a small launch  event: “I would like to congratulate the team at the Hunt Museum and everyone who supported this  wonderful initiative. Placing culture at the heart of a city’s regeneration gives it a depth of meaning  and engages local pride. Museum in a Garden provides a new experience where people can connect  with the outdoors while encountering works of art. It will greatly enhance the attractiveness of  Limerick as a tourist destination,” he said.

Guest speaker at the official opening, Eanna Ní Lamhna, Biologist and Environmental Consultant, said, “Gardens were originally designed as havens from the outside world. This is indeed a haven and

as well as that it is also an extension of the world of the museum. The world of nature is all around  and the natural environment of the river is incorporated too. This is a feast, not only for the eye, but  also beautiful smells and sounds from the wind to insects and even birds. Take it all in, relax and let  the calmness sweep over you.”


Garden Design of Community-Influenced Sensory Garden

Running down to the River Shannon, the garden provides an oasis of calm in the city centre. The  garden design was awarded to Nicola Haines following a nationwide competition where her  innovative river reflecting, community-influenced sensory garden design won over the judges. 

Explaining the concept behind the garden design, Nicola Haines, Tierney Haines Architects, said,  “The design draws on the maritime connections of the building and museum collection by  creating ‘tide lines’ of grass and planting that ebb and flow around the garden, creating alcoves of  shelter for exhibition space, seating and play. Exhibition alcoves are planted to give a flavour of  the origin of sculptures exhibited and provide semiprivate seating, whilst larger spaces  create opportunities for growing, learning, games and events. The garden will be an inclusive public  garden space which we hope will be loved and used by the local community and visitors alike.”

A community worker in a blue shirt and a hard crouches down in the garden to do some planting.

Community workers in the garden.

Built by the Community for the Community

In the spirit of creating a public space, The Sean Moran Community Garden, in the north-east section  of the garden, is where vegetables and flowers will be tended by community volunteers with several  wheelchair access planters and a sensory garden. Several community groups were involved in its  delivery and will continue to maintain it, including St Mary’s Parish Men’s Shed, Doon Men’s Shed,  Southill Men’s Shed as well as LMHA Le Cheile Men’s Group, Southill Women’s Group and local  schools. By getting involved from the start, volunteers have developed a vested interest and sense of  pride in the garden project while acquiring new skills and becoming more connected with the  museum.

Speaking on behalf of the groups involved in the development and maintenance of the Sean Moran  Community Garden, Martina Shanahan, Limerick Mental Health Association (LMHA), said, “The  LMHA Men’s shed were delighted to be invited to maintain the garden; it allows us a safe place to  meet and work outdoors in a beautiful setting. After Nicola shared her vision with the group, we  knew it would offer a very beautiful and communal outdoor space for the community in Limerick.”

Jim Prior, Southill Family Resource Centre, said, “We are excited and delighted to be part of this  project. The community garden will provide a space where the 15 plus men’s sheds across the City  and County can come to contribute to its upkeep and maintenance and allow opportunities for  networking between the shed’s projects. Everyone has enjoyed getting hands on and doing  something for Limerick while getting to know each other and the Hunt Museum.”

Several key sponsors and partners were involved in the development and delivery of the garden:  Arup, ESB, JP McManus Foundation, Kirby Engineering, McMahons Building Supplies, the Moran  family, Sadliers Fish & Poultry, UMR Group. Extensive support was given from LSAD-LIT, Limerick City  & County Council, Monaru, TLC, Friends of the Hunt Museum, and ACS Construction.

A volunteer standing in the garden, posed with a shoved in his hand.

One of our volunteers who helped our garden come to life.

For media information:

Edwina Gore, Gore Communications, 087 6295323 or Aileen Eglington, 087 2505007


For further information: 

Emma Twomey, The Hunt Museum, Limerick. Email:

About the Hunt Museum 

The Hunt Museum exhibits one of Ireland’s greatest private collections of Art and Antiquities, dating  from the Neolithic Period to the 20th century. Generously donated by John and Gertrude Hunt to the  people of Ireland, this diverse collection is now housed in Limerick’s 18th Century Palladian style  building, formerly The Custom House.


About the Designer Nicola Haines

Instagram: @haines_nicola 

Nicola set up Dublin based Tierney Haines Architects with her husband Stephen Tierney in 2004 and  has been designing private, public and community gardens for the last 10 years. Having trained and  worked in Architectural practice she has a particular interest in linking buildings to their outside  spaces and environmental sensitivity is foremost in her schemes. She works closely with her clients  to offer bespoke landscape and garden design services. The results are hard-working gardens that  maximise the potential of the space and aspect whilst providing for the needs and brief of her  clients.

Now, more than ever, we are looking to our outside spaces as a tonic for body and mind. Nicola is  passionate about design as a means to connect people to nature and to promote community and  togetherness.

She is RHS trained and a full member of the Garden and Landscape Design Association (GLDA).


About Eanna Ní Lamhna

Eanna is a botanist by profession and a zoologist by passion. She was responsible for much of the  ground breaking species distribution mapping carried out by An Foras Forbartha in the 1970’s and  80’s. She has been a lecturer in sustainable development in DIT for over twenty years.

She is publicly on the side of the environment as evidenced by her stint as President of An Taisce  from 2004-2009 and currently as President of the Tree Council of Ireland. She is the author of several  books including Wild Dublin– O Brien Press and Wild Things at School – The Heritage Council and her  latest book Our Wild World.

She has been broadcasting on RTE about wildlife since 1988 and has been the mainstay of the  Mooney goes Wild programmes since 1995. She has made several Wildlife Radio documentaries  including one on the rainforest in Costa Rica and more recently, one on Rats. She currently has a  regular wildlife slot on Virgin Media’s Six O Clock show. 

She has one of the most recognisable voices on Irish radio. She is noted for her passionate and no nonsense approach to environmental matters.


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