Tuesday 23 April 2019

Project 'a work in progress'

Bill Browne

Since joining the OPW team at Doneraile Court, one of renowned freelance architectural historian Christopher Moore's principal tasks has been to find the items that adorn the refurbished ground floor of the magnificent building when it opens to the public on June 29.

Mr Moore, who also lectures in architectural history and the history of interiors with a specialist interest in paint, said taking the house from a virtual shell has been an exciting challenge.

"It's been wonderful. People in Doneraile have been waiting 50-years for the house to come of age and open to the public. For me it's a dream project. You have a really interesting house in every sense that was really a blank canvas," said Mr Moore.

"We had different options. Do we refurnish the house as it was in 1969 before all the contents left? Do we have just as an exhibition centre or do we try to make it tell one of any number of stories? The latter is what we are doing," he said.  With this in mind, Mr Moore said the team has decided on a particular simple aesthetic in keeping with "trying to retain the patina of age." 

"So the restoration techniques and paints that we are using are very much aligned with the conservation principles of the OPW in the main building project. In turn, every object that we acquire has to be able to justify itself and tell a particular story," said Mr Moore. 

He said acquiring the paintings, furniture and other items for the ground floor turned out to be a relatively easy task. 

"There are a couple of donors who have been exceptionally generous. Some of our objects have come from existing OPW houses, some have been purchased, a lot are donations to the Irish Georgian Society which are conditional gifts to Doneraile."

"People are very passionate and excited about what is happening in Doneraile, so in a way the generosity of people has not surprised me," said Mr Moore. 

He was keen to point out that the manner in which the OPW is interpreting the house was very much a work in progress and would evolve over the years. 

"By the end of June it will be put together and will have a defined  look. Each object has got a provenance and a lot of them are from Cork, which is very important," said Mr Moore. 

"Over the years it will evolve, because Mary (Heffernan), who has huge vision, wants to develop this notion of the country house, the layers of the Park and its relationship with the village and surrounding area."

He said that a huge amount had been achieved in the house since last autumn when work on the ground floor commenced in earnest. 

"Once this is open in June we will take a breather and move onto the next phase, which will hopefully be the restoration of the first floor," he said.