The Book of Kells had 78,827 visitors between its reopening on May 10 and October 5, according to official figures.
Trinity’s Old Library, which houses the Long Room and Book of Kells, closed for the third time on 23 December 2020, as Ireland entered level five restrictions during the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic
Under the government’s phased plan to lift restrictions, cultural attractions were permitted to reopen from May 10 of this year.
After 138 days of closure, the Book of Kells reopened to visitors, amid calls by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) to halt the reopening until after students’ assessment period, which also commenced on May 10.
At the time TCDSU stated on social media that “after the year we’ve had, it’s disappointing that @tcddublin would even consider re-opening the Book of Kells in the middle of a pandemic and during the most stressful time for students”.
Speaking to Trinity News at the time, former TCDSU president Eoin Hand said he asked that the reopening “be postponed until after exams”.
“I have since brought it up two more times asking for a postponement of the opening of the Book of Kells until after the exams,” Hand said.
He said that students “haven’t had access to campus for many different reasons due to restrictions”.
“I’m really disappointed to see that the Book of Kells will be reopened again and tourists will be allowed back on campus when so many students still can’t access campus,” he said.
Once it reopened, the facility saw an average of 3,728 visitors per week.
The Old Library was first closed to the public on 11 March 2020, reopening on 10 August 2020.
A second closure took place from September 19 to 1 December 2020.
From the initial closure in March 2020 to the most recent reopening in May 2021, the Old Library was closed for a total of 363 days, approximately 85% of the fourteen month period.
Visitor Centre Administration Officer Noel Phelan told Trinity News that 78,827 people have toured the Book of Kells since it reopened to visitors on May 10.
This approximates an average of 668 visitors per day, or 4,675 per week. According to the Book of Kells website, visitor capacity “has been greatly reduced”, and “social distancing is carefully monitored” in the Old Library, as part of the Covid-19 safety measures.
Before the pandemic, a record one million people visited the exhibition in 2018.
Standard entry costs €18 per adult, with lower ticket prices for concessions, families and groups. Based on these prices the Book of Kells could have generated a maximum of €1.4m in the five months it has been open this year.
The Library gift shop generates further revenue, while Trinity students, staff and alumni have free admission to the Old Library.
The Irish Examiner reported that Trinity’s Old Library sustained a total loss of €14m in revenue in 2020, including a €4m revenue loss from the gift shop.
€12.7m was generated in revenues by the Book of Kells exhibition in 2019. In 2020, revenue fell by 77% to €2.9m. An additional €5.2m was generated by the Library shop in 2019, falling to €1.2m in 2020.
Entrance tickets for the Book of Kells exhibition have increased since the beginning of the pandemic and the Old Library closures.
In March 2020, adult tickets ranged from €11 to €14, with family tickets priced at €28. Currently, tickets are priced between €14 at €18, with family tickets costing €34.