When I first heard that a Leprechaun Museum was opening in Dublin my first reaction was "oh no." I was sure it was going to be nothing more than a tacky attempt to con Americans and other tourists out of their money.
Then I thought about it and I figured that if they did this right it would provide some information on the legend of leprechauns, the people who told such tales and the world they lived in. And, I thought, if they do a great job it will be a magical experience for children and something special for adults.
As it turns out it's none of those, although at least the aspirations are more towards the informative/magical experience than to simply part Americans from their dollars.
There are many, many things wrong with the new museum, but basically there's nothing to it. It's simply not worth the time or the money - $14 per adult & $9.50 per child.
I went alone and spent about 30 minutes in the exhibit, but I could easily have been out of there in 15 or less. The exhibit consists of nine (maybe ten) sparsely decorated rooms. I'm sure if I was a designer or interior decorator or an art student I could use all sorts of explanations for the manner in which this museum is decorated, but I'm just an average Joe.
Sparse is the best word for it. Lifeless would suffice. Obtuse might also do, but that would be stretching my vocabulary. However, there were no leprechauns in the exhibit. None. Figurine or painted there wasn't one.
The best room was the one with the pot of gold. A pot of gold in the middle of a fairly big circle of hard wood. That was the best room.
The most interesting room - potentially - had a large relief map of Ireland which lit up as the history of ancient Ireland was told. The voice was too quiet to hear above the music, the names and the story were raced through so quickly that you left none-the wiser. Children lasted about 30 seconds in the map room, but you needed four minutes for the full audio clip.
A few of the other rooms were way too dark and the whole thing just left me wondering, "What was that?"
As I said, I went alone, but conversations at the end of the visit with adults and children told me I wasn't wrong. Some of them felt like they'd been duped out of their money.
Oh yeah, it's also about as easy to find the Leprechaun Museum as it is to find a Leprechaun's pot of gold. There was no sign or even a banner to let you know when you'd walked by it. I had an address and I still couldn't find it. It was only a chance glimpse of a woman in a green shirt that showed me the way.
I could go into endless detail on all sorts of other things that were wrong, but I'd rather finish with a few positives. First, I liked the fact that it was intended to attract Irish people as well as tourists. That was reassuring actually.
The best thing about the Leprechaun Museum, however, is the people who work there. They seem to love it.
From the girl who took my money to the woman who spoke to us by way of introduction - easily the best part of the exhibit - to the people we met at the end who wanted our views, everyone is enthusiastic. They also assured me that there would be a sign hanging out front by today. I hope so.
Most hopeful was a conversation our tour group had with the man behind the museum. We gave it to him with both barrels - waste of time, waste of money, incomprehensible, too dark, too much like the work of a designer, etc. - he didn't get all defensive.
He took notes on our criticisms and then our suggestions. He genuinely seemed keen to get this right. He promised he would change it and make it great. He took our contact details and asked us to come back again after he'd improved it. I told him I would.
Like I said at the top, with the right presentation it could provide the story adults want and the fantasy children require. With the right changes it could still provide all that. So we'll see. It may yet be a worthwhile experience for both Irish people and tourists.