14 Henrietta Street – 2020 Winner of the Silletto Prize

14 Henrietta Street, Dublin, Ireland



Silletto Prize 2020 goes to a museum which preserves an important historic building and the stories and objects of the people who lived here, while remaining embedded in the living community. Its people-centred approach provides a multi-layered experience that is meaningful for all visitors, through connecting local stories with universal human experiences.


Within the walls of one house – an 18th-century man- sion that became a 19th-century tenement dwelling
– 300 years of city life in Dublin unfold. More than 100 people lived in the 19 tenement flats. The last families left in the 1970s. 14 Henrietta Street re-opened its doors as a museum after a 10-year, 5 million Euros, award-winning restoration and redevelopment project. The building has been restored with great sensitivity to its multiple layers of memory.

The museum’s team has been gathering everyday stories, personal experiences, and objects of former residents. The goal of recording oral histories and conducting research into the social and architectural history of the building and life within it is to preserve and interpret memories of the building and its inhabitants. Guides bring small groups of visitors through the house, tell them its many stories, and offer a truly evocative journey to the past. The guides have strong local connections and bring a wealth of personal knowledge to each tour. As a visitor, you can feel their passion for the building, the neighbourhood, and local history.

The public quality of 14 Henrietta Street lies in the deep engagement of everyone involved in its making: museum staff, architects, historians, visitors, and especially local communities, who were consulted every step of the way. Throughout the process of developing the museum, local community consultation and the oral history collection played an important role in creating the visitor experience. The process began with a series of memory evenings in the building and in locations on the outskirts of Dublin to which former tenement residents moved. These events encouraged former residents to come forward and share their memories, which were recorded for the collection. Many of their memories now feature in the guided tours. Former residents have been directly involved in creating the exhibition. They have donated artefacts, helped furnish and decorate certain rooms, and served in museum advisory groups both before and after the opening.

The young, enthusiastic, and creative team not only welcomes visitors and local communities at the museum, but also reaches out to them beyond the museum’s walls. They organise activities in the neighbourhood and throughout the outskirts of Dublin – and serve lots of tea and biscuits. With this people-centred approach, the team provides a multi-layered experience that is recognisable and relevant for all visitors: young and old, from Dublin, the rest of Ireland and abroad, by connecting local stories to universal ones.

Source: EMYA2020 Winners Brochure

Photo captions and credits: 

First photo: Peter Brannigan, resident at 14 Henrietta Street. Image by Daniel Keane

Second photo: Mrs Dowlings Flat. Image by Daniel Keane