Simon O’Connor appointed director of Ulysses Centre at Newman House

Posted July 11, 2017

The search for the first director of the Ulysses Centre, who combines a strong background in literature and the Arts with a proven capacity to build a centre that attracts the “culturally curious”, has been completed with the appointment of Simon O’Connor

The Ulysses Centre is being developed by University College Dublin in partnership with the National Library of Ireland (NLI) in UCD’s Newman House on St Stephen’s Green and will open in Q4 of 2018.  Newman House was the original location of UCD when its antecedent Catholic University of Ireland was opened by John Henry Newman in 1854.

A composer by training, Simon O'Connor was the founding curator of the Little Museum of Dublin, building the museum from scratch in 2011 to managing its highly ambitious exhibition programme to date. Under his tenure, the museum achieved exponential visitor growth and won numerous awards, including the European Commission's Europa Nostra award for Cultural Heritage, the Business to Arts Judges Special Recognition Award, and was shortlisted for the European Museum of the Year Awards.  He has worked across the arts and creative sector, and continues to be active as a composer – his most recent song cycle, ‘Left Behind’, formed the centrepiece of the Irish State’s International Women’s Day 2016 centenary celebration.

"It is an honour to be appointed first Director of this incredibly exciting centre in the heart of the capital city", said O'Connor. "This is a huge opportunity to create a focal point for 20th and 21st century Irish writing in the unique location where James Joyce and many generations of later writers studied.  Our ambition is to engage visitors with the creative spirit at the core of our society.”

The unique partnership of UCD and the National Library of Ireland, combined with the incredible generosity of our philanthropic supporters, ensures the centre will be at the very heart of the city's cultural life. I look forward to working with our stakeholders to develop a centre and visitor attraction that amplifies and illuminates Ireland's literary and creative offering for audiences of every age, both local and global."

“One of the National Library’s strategic priorities is to connect people everywhere with our wonderful collections”, said NLI Director Dr Sandra Collins. “The Ulysses Centre and our partnership with UCD is an important part of this goal. Simon O’Connor’s experience, drive and fresh perspective will ensure that the Centre becomes a welcoming and vibrant cultural destination, attracting visitors of all ages and nationalities and opening up the riches of Irish literature in exciting new ways.”

Professor Margaret Kelleher, Chair of Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama, UCD added:  “We warmly welcome the appointment of Simon O’Connor, and the creative expertise and vision which he will bring to the post of director. The Ulysses Centre at Newman House will provide a landmark literary venue, sharing with the public the unique cultural heritage and resources which UCD and NLI possess, and supporting the continuing vitality of Irish writing in the present and future.”

The Ulysses Centre is located in the former aula maxima of UCD, which has lain dormant for many years. Architects Scott Tallon Walker are designing the structure and the project includes additional conservation and fire and safety work in numbers 85 and 86 St Stephen’s Green, the core houses that make up Newman House.

The exhibition design is being undertaken by Ralph Appelbaum Associates and is planned to balance the period details of the building with an immersive visitor experience.

Funding for the Ulysses Centre has come from philanthropists Martin and Carmel Naughton, Failte Ireland and University College Dublin.