UB receives federal grant toward design of James Joyce Museum in Buffalo

A visual rendering of the UB James Joyce Museum in Abbott Hall on the UB South Campus that helps conceptualize the exhibit space.

Release Date: April 26, 2022

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Portrait of a person with long hair and glasses sitting at a desk. A window is in the background.
“The UB James Joyce Museum will provide UB the ability to highlight and share its James Joyce Collection with a broad global audience that has a curiosity and appreciation for literature, culture and history. ”
Evviva Weinraub Lajoie, vice provost
University at Buffalo Libraries

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo Libraries, home to the world’s largest collection of materials by and about famed Irish author and poet James Joyce, has received a $100,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) toward the design of a new UB James Joyce Museum in Western New York.

The UB James Joyce Museum was among 245 projects selected from around the nation for funding. The award, an Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grant, aims to leverage federal funds to spur nonfederal support for the humanities.

Through the university’s $1 billion Boldly Buffalo campaign, the UB Libraries has begun fundraising to design the UB James Joyce Museum in Abbott Hall on the UB South Campus. By creating a museum, the university aims to attract thousands of visitors each year from across the globe to discover and experience the rare materials and literary life and history of Joyce. 

Fundraising will also support a preservation and acquisitions endowment, a Joyce endowed curator position, and programming and exhibition funds. As part of the challenge grant from the NEH, UB aims to fundraise $300,000 to match the award three-to-one.

To learn more about the UB James Joyce Collection and its campaign, visit the collection website. Matching gifts for the NEH challenge grant can be made online to the James Joyce Museum Fund.

“Having distinctive scholarly treasures like our James Joyce collection elevates our libraries and enhances our university’s international reputation,” said UB President Satish K. Tripathi. “We are so proud to be home to this unique trove of literary artifacts, which, for seven decades, has drawn visitors, dignitaries and scholars from all over the world to UB. Now, we look forward to showcasing this magnificent collection in a dedicated UB James Joyce Museum, which will contribute significantly to the cultural renaissance taking place in our region while greatly expanding the public’s access to the life and work of James Joyce.”

“The UB James Joyce Museum will provide UB the ability to highlight and share its James Joyce Collection with a broad global audience that has a curiosity and appreciation for literature, culture and history,” says Evviva Weinraub Lajoie, vice provost for the UB Libraries. “It presents an opportunity to bridge local, regional and international communities, and will strengthen the cultural tourism of the region by not only adding another destination to the rich list of visitor experiences, but by further expanding the scope of literary arts offerings available in Western New York.”

A visual rendering of the UB James Joyce Museum in Abbott Hall on the UB South Campus that helps conceptualize the exhibit space.

Celebrating the legacy of Joyce with a new WNY landmark

James Joyce is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. 

The UB James Joyce Collection is the world’s most comprehensive collection of materials by and about Joyce, containing more than 10,000 pages of his working papers, notebooks and manuscripts, as well as photographs, portraits, memorabilia and his Paris library. The materials provide unmatched glimpses into the author’s writing process and literary relationships. 

The collection has been a destination for scholars around the world for more than 70 years as Joyce is among the most highly researched literary figures. However, a lack of adequate exhibition space has prevented the general public from accessing this significant cultural and literary collection.

“In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ in 2022 and recognizing that we have a responsibility to make the collection more publicly accessible, UB is committed to creating the UB James Joyce Museum,” said James Maynard, PhD, curator of the UB Poetry Collection, the library of record for 20th- and 21st-century Anglophone poetry. “The design phase is the critical first step in bringing to life this vision of a new landmark attraction in Buffalo.” 

A dedicated museum space will open the collection to visits by the public through permanent and changing exhibitions, extended viewing hours, docent-led tours and school trips, sophisticated digital displays and other programming.

The museum will also promote Irish heritage in Western New York by celebrating one of Ireland’s most significant cultural exports and providing Buffalo and its large Irish community with a notable, new Irish landmark. Joyce dedicated his life to writing about the city of Dublin and is inextricably linked around the world with the history and culture of Ireland. 

Fundraising for the design phase coincides with the 100th anniversary of the publication of Joyce’s iconic book “Ulysses” in 2022, which will feature a global series of “Ulysses”-related programs, exhibitions and events throughout the year, including on Bloomsday. The international holiday, held on June 16 – the same day “Ulysses” takes place – remembers the enigmatic story of a day in the life of protagonist Leopold Bloom in Dublin. “Ulysses” is considered by many to be the most significant novel of the 20th century.

A potential floor plan of the UB James Joyce Museum in Abbott Hall on the UB South Campus that helps conceptualize the exhibit space.

A mission made possible by public support

Last year, UB extended its successful Boldly Buffalo campaign goal to $1 billion. Through the campaign, funds are being raised for student support, faculty research and innovative programs that benefit the world — with a particular emphasis on the Western New York community.

Fundraising for the UB James Joyce Museum, completed through Boldly Buffalo, is part of UB’s efforts to continue its revitalization efforts on the historic South Campus. This project will focus on the architecturally significant Abbott Hall and strengthen its connection with the Western New York community by inviting the general public to the museum and campus, as well as expand the region’s importance as a premier international destination for research and discovery.

“UB is proud of its role as a cultural and educational hub in Western New York. Through donor support of our campaign, we are amplifying opportunities for our incredible students while also continuing to help change the landscape of our city and region,” says Rodney M. Grabowski, vice president for university advancement at UB. “Helping to launch the planning phase for the UB James Joyce Museum is a signature achievement of our Boldly Buffalo campaign.”

The design phase, an early stage in the development of the museum, is estimated to cost $1 million. The funds will support the hiring of an architectural firm that specializes in museum design to ensure a premier, state-of-the-art and immersive visitor experience befitting the world-leading archive of one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.

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