To maintain and preserve the collections of the Library and to make them available in the most appropriate ways for the use and enjoyment of the public and for scholarly study and research, in order to promote a wider appreciation and understanding of the international cultural heritage embodied in the collections and to foster relations between Ireland and the peoples whose cultures are represented in the collections.
Description and Functions
A designated National Cultural Institution, the Chester Beatty Library is a public charitable trust established under the will of the late Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, which was granted probate in 1969. It is over 90% funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, so it is also a registered Public Sector Body.
It is also registered as a charity so is directly responsible to the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests and comes under the aegis of the Attorney General, in his role as protector of charities.
The Library is governed and owned by a Board of Trustees appointed under the terms of the will of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty as modified by an order of the High Court of 16 December 1997. The new arrangements for service of trustees, appointment of ministerial nominees to the Board of Trustees and of a new location for the Library were approved by the Court in accordance with an agreement made between the Trustees and Government in 1996 and are now in operation.
The Library is the pre-eminent Irish institution promoting the appreciation and understanding of world cultures, and the engagement with the peoples whose cultures are represented in the Collections. The Library contains some of the finest treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world. The Collections were bequeathed to the Irish people and entrusted to the care of the State by Chester Beatty (1875–1968), who was a successful American mining engineer, collector and philanthropist.
The role of the Library is to protect, preserve and make available to the public in the form of exhibitions, popular publications, lectures and other events the heritage enshrined in the Collections and to provide the world of scholarship access to this internationally important resource.
Since its move to Dublin Castle in 2000, the Chester Beatty Library has gone from strength to strength. In its original location on Shrewsbury Road in the suburbs of Dublin, the Library was able to accommodate scholars but had limited facilities for conservation and inadequate facilities at its disposal to display elements of Beatty’s Collection for the public’s enjoyment. On average, the Library attracted a few thousand visitors a year. By contrast, a steady increase in visitor numbers in the past five years, culminated in over 340,000 in 2015.
Today, the Library is one of the nation’s most favoured National Cultural Institutions. It enjoys consistently good reviews and feedback from its various stakeholders – visitors, scholars, funders, members and volunteers – and in articles and reviews published. Through international collaborations, it has brought extraordinary temporary exhibitions to the public, by drawing from the permanent Collection (such as Muraqqa, Shahnama and Chester Beatty’s A to Z) as well as by borrowing from international collections (such as Leonardo, Rembrandt and Matisse).
The Library has also broadened its offering/services to its many audiences. Today, we act as a research library to scholars from all over the world. Through our public programmes we engage with Irish audiences and international visitors to the country. In addition, we have carved a unique role among the National Cultural Institutions by reaching out to the culturally diverse communities in Ireland. By drawing upon and interpreting our extraordinary Collections we have sought to engage with, and forge relationships with, the newest members of our society.
Given the global appeal of Beatty’s Collections, the Library has a strong international profile, primarily amongst a scholarly community, but increasingly also among the general public, in no small part thanks to the development of digital resources and social media.
Through its permanent and temporary displays, its intercultural learning programme and broad variety of public activities for all ages and backgrounds, it is a vibrant, engaging and welcoming space for the appreciation and understanding of world cultures.