“ Granby Row, Parnell Square, DUBLIN 1. Tel: +353-(0)1-8726340 „
The National Wax Museum has closed!
I feel obliged to wax (hehe see what I did there?) about the great loss this is to the citizens of Dublin and the world, but the truth is that it's not as easy as you'd think.
The Wax Museum was the ideal venue for a surreal day out. Beloved of schoolchildren on day trips out looking to frighten themselves imagining that shadowy figures are dodging just out of sight, and students under the influence of disaffection and herbal relaxants looking to find a dark corner for a sneaky public "encounter", the museum failed to attract the kind of funds to keep it going. Sadly it just failed to generate tourist interest - and why would it, when nobody outside of Ireland would recognise most of the people the admittedly dodgy wax figures were based upon?
The biggest loss (again, see what I did there?) is the giant figure not made of wax that used to be attached to the wall outside, clambering on the building like an uncoordinated and clothed version of King Kong on the Empire State Building. In this case, though, it wasn't beauty but sheer disinterest that killed the beast. A sad loss to those of us who feel the nostalgia, but I doubt anyone else will notice.
As a veteran of Madame Tussauds, that frightful place on the promenade in Blackpool and a dodgy set-up in a tent on a Polish pier, I thought I would have a pretty good idea what to expect from a wax museum, but the Irish take on it certainly surprised me.
We went to the museum because it was raining and we were passing. We hadnt set out to go there, nor did we know it existed until we saw the sign, but we decided to chance it, if only to find somewhere to shelter for half an hour or so. The Wax Museum in Dublin is located on Granby Row, off Parnell Square. This is up near the end of OConnell Street, heading away from the river and with the shiny silver spike behind you. It is simultaneously in the vicinity of shops, bars, restaurants and cinemas without actually being right next to any of these.
The entrance is not at all like the domineering Madame Tussauds down in London. There are no queues round the block for this one, nor steep entry fees as you pass through the doors. The entry fee is around 4 for students, up to 18 for a family ticket, and though we did not know it at the time, if you stop by the Tourist Information on OConnell street on your way, you can pick up a leaflet with a voucher to save 1 on admission. Once youve paid at the shabby little desk youre directed up the stairs to begin your self-guided tour of the place.
The exhibits may change from time to time, although they looked quite permanent when we were there. That said, Ive no doubt theyll rearrange their Pope exhibit in the coming weeks, and perhaps even erect a new shrine to the guy. It was that kind of place. They included famous people but not the usual Hollywood stars and sportsmen you usually find. Instead, there were characters with a distinctly local feel, with Irish themed historical, political, literary, and theatrical figures, neatly arranged in scenes ranging from the Last Supper (Irish themed if you think religious country à religious setting), to a musicians Hall of Fame. In addition to the main area there are various themed ones like the Chamber of Horrors, and Fairytale / Fantasy land. The latter featured all characters children from around the globe would recognize, from the Flintstones to the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles to the Simpsons. These were not behind glass as some of the others were, and you could actually climb into some of the displays quite easily if you fancied. Not the sort of thing youd dream of doing in a proper place, but this museum, with its distinct lack of guards in the rooms was almost inviting you to do so for the moment or two it took to pose for a photo. This childrens section is the bit my title refers to: some of these statues were appalling, and looked decidedly fake and un-authorized, just like the Polish place. Being a National museum Im not sure whether they really were, or whether they were just so dated that they were no longer looking their best, but they certainly were not of the standard or resemblance you might normally expect.
Then came the strange bit of the museum: a tunnel maze for children (or trampolinists) to crawl through that takes you from one part of the museum to another. Or so it claimed. In reality it was a dark, narrow, badly carpeted place that was full of dead ends and sharp corners, and, after a while, took you so far from where you started from that worry began to set in. Once wed turned a few corners we were stuck in pitch blackness, so, and Ive used this as an example of my innovative nature in job interviews since then, had to resort to using a digital camera to light up the way momentarily with its flash. We kept some of the many photos for prosperity, but at the item it was not laughing matter as dead-ends were sudden and abrupt, and the roof of the tunnel dipped dangerously at places, making you wonder whether or not you would ever make it out in one piece. Bear in mind there were 3 of us, with an average age of 23, and I at least would hesitate before sending a real live child up there on their own.
We escaped that and found ourselves in the hall of mirrors not part of the Chamber of Horrors but it could have been given the results. They were the normal sort switching your reflection from Ethiopian to American figures in one easy step so quite a bizarre thing to find in a wax museum since our reflections were neither wax nor worth exhibiting.
The museum has no facilities as such, apart from toilets which were basic but clean. I would have liked a shop and a café in museums I always head for these first, just like Rachel et al in Friends but this offered neither. The museum was laid out over several floors and I saw no lifts though they may have been there.
It wasnt that bad a place although the likeness to real people at times was appalling, and only the little name places helped you work out who was who. However they did have some nice touches, like the recorded commentary on some of the exhibits telling you who they were and what they were doing. Kids might like the characters there for them, but the narrations aside this is not a press-a-button, see-what-happens kind of museum.
Recommended if its raining and youve done everything else the city has to offer, but otherwise you may be disappointed unless youre drunk / high on chocolate when you might just find it hilarious. We did, hence the star rating.
Open: Monday-Saturday, 10am-5:30pm, Sunday, 1pm-5:30pm.
~ ~ Most of you will either have visited or heard of the famous London wax museum, Madame Tussauds, which has hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and is renowned the world over. I love it myself, and the “mad cabbies” family visited it on their last trip to London last year, and were highly impressed. (Also with the neighbouring Planetarium) But I bet not so many of you are aware that here in Dublin we also have our very own “miniature” Madame Tussaud’s, in the form of the National Wax Museum. It’s at Granby Row, just off the top end of Parnell Square (West), which is itself within spitting distance of the main thoroughfare of O’Connell Street. ~ ~ Before this Museum opened in 1983, on the site of an old cinema, there hadn’t been a waxworks in Dublin since 1916, when the last one was razed to the ground in a highly spectacular fire. It was a brave move to open a waxworks during this period in the 1980’s. I wasn’t too long in Dublin at the time, and the Irish economy was in the depths of a long recession, with fewer tourists in a month than we now get in a weekend! But it caught on straight away with the Irish public, and especially with the children, and has maintained its popularity right down through the last two decades to the present day. ~ ~ Based very much on its more illustrious big sister “Madame Tussauds” in London, the very first waxwork that you will see when you enter the foyer is, in fact, of the famous Frenchwoman herself, who was responsible for starting the whole craze for wax effigies of famous people during the Reign of Terror at the time of the French Revolution in the late 18th Century. She must have been a truly formidable lady, as she worked on her famous heads fresh from the guillotine! Look very closely at the man reading his daily newspaper (the Irish Times) who is also stationed in the lobby, by the way. I
don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but let’s just say he is not all that he seems! ~ ~ All the present day wax figures are made on the premises by a resident sculptor. Live Irish personalities have a facemask made, and others are made from photographs and other records. Each head takes approximately three months to perfect, and if you are a serious artist, you can make enquiries at the Museum to obtain permission to see the actual workroom. The Museum itself is split into various sections. The main section is, naturally enough, dedicated to the historical and cultural heritage of the country. Here you will see life size waxworks of all the famous Irish people right back through history to the present day. You have James Connolly, (strangely enough a Scot’s Presbyterian) who was such an inspiration in the foundation of the Irish republic, and paid the ultimate price when the British shot him for treason at Kilmainham Jail during the 1916 Rising. All the other 1916 heroes are here as well, including Eamonn DeValera, the first leader of the Irish Free State, and his companion, and later dreaded enemy during the Civil war of the 1920’s, Michael Collins. All the “Taoisigh” (Irish Prime Ministers) are here too, as well as all the famous Irish writers such as W.B. Yeats and James Joyce. There is also a very popular and highly attractive depiction of the Lord’s “Last Supper”, which was based on the famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. All the displays are interactive, and a potted history of each figure can be had by the simple touch of a button. ~ ~ Another section features international figures of renown, and although not so large as Tussaud’s in London, all the major good and bad guys of history are here, including the arch-villain of the 20th Century himself, Adolf Hitler. The kiddies aren’t forgotten either, and two sections in particular app
eal to them immensely. The first is the “Children’s World of Fairytale and Fantasy”. This has all the old favourites, such as Snowwhite and her Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Red Riding Hood (and the big, bad wolf), a hall full of nasty goblins, some fantastic “bits” of a dismembered giant from Jack and the Beanstalk, and crazy mirrors that distort the image into all sorts of impossible shapes. The kids can hunt for Aladdin’s Magic Lamp, and, off course, the genie that it contains, who may or may not grant them a wish depending on his humour. (and whether or not he has a hangover from too much Guinness!) Best of all (and the most fun!) are a series of “secret tunnels” that lead “somewhere”. (if you dare!) ~ ~ The second most popular exhibit with the kids (and everybody else) is the Chamber of Horrors. Here you are met with some fairly dramatic sound effects, including rattling chains and horrific screams. There is yet another secret tunnel, which the young ones are sure to explore. But be warned, it is not for the squeamish, nor for those who suffer from claustrophobia, as it is a very tight squeeze in places. If this doesn’t take your fancy, there is a separate entrance here that leads instead into the hall of Megastars. All the big names are here, including Ireland’s very own super band U2, the Beatles, Madonna, and the King of rock and roll himself, the late, great Elvis Presley. ~ ~ Certainly worth a visit if you’re looking for a way to amuse the kids (and yourself) if you ever find yourself here in Dublin. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ National Wax Museum Granby Row, Parnell Square Dublin 1. Tel: 01-872-6340. From the UK (353-1-872-6340) Opening Hours: Open Daily: 10.AM to 5.30PM. Sunday: 12 Noon to 5.30 PM. Admission: Adults €4.40 Students: €3.15 Children: €2.50 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I actually visited this attraction by chance while looking for something to do. It was well worth the visit though. Basically there are hundreds of waxworks models - some are excellent but others are adequate, a couple were awful and didnt look like the person they were portraying. Most are famous Irish persons although there are several foreign stars. One of the best rooms is a model of political figures including Irish PM Bertie Ahern, Bill Clinton and John Major. There is also a decent kids wax section devoted to Bart Simpson, Batman and the like. There are many sporting models as well and Irish swimmer Michelle Smith gets a place. Okay this isn't madame tussads but there again it doesn't claim to be. It's a scaled down version but still has enough to keep you occupied for a couple of hours and obviously has an Irish bearing on the models chosen. A great addition to the museum are dark tunnels that you can crawl through. They are pitch black but you soon find your way through them. Overall this was a fun way to fill a couple of hours and was comparatively cheap so I'd recommend it to anyone visiting Ireland.