A leading Irish academic says Dublin Magdalene Laundry should be converted into a museum as a Japanese hotel chain plans to build a hotel — with a memorial — at the site.

Dr Gillian O’Brien, Reader in Modern Irish History at Liverpool’s John Moore’s University, has said that the last Irish Magdalene Laundry to close its doors should be turned into a museum to commemorate the women and children who suffered there.

The Convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity on Sean McDermott Street was the last of all Magdalene Laundries to close,  in 1996.  Toyoko Inn, a Japanese hotel chain, has offered Dublin City Council €14.5 million for the site.

Read More: “Nuns took my childhood”: This Irish woman escaped from a Magdalene Laundry as a teen in 1993

The company intends to convert the building into a 350-room hotel with 55 one-bedroom apartments for social housing, a supermarket, a cultural center, and plans to include a laundry memorial.

Children at work at a Magdalene laundry.

Children at work at a Magdalene laundry.

A petition to the Dublin City Council not to sell the site has gathered over 10,000 signatures, The Irish Catholic reports.

O’Brien, who has been a historical adviser on projects at Nano Nagle Place in Cork City, Spike Island in Co Cork and Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, said she doesn’t think building a hotel on the site would be appropriate, and that a museum telling the history of the laundries “would be better than a memorial.”

“Memorials often reflect the time in which they were erected rather than what they memorialize,” she told The Irish Catholic.

Read More: Two hundred Magdalene Laundry survivors gather in Dublin to tell their stories

She said the women and children who were in the laundries homes “deserve to be better treated by both State and Church.”

She added: “Women have been second class citizens for a very long time in Ireland and there is still much to be done. Telling the many stories of the laundries and the homes is vital. I think it’s important that those stories are told in a symbolically important location.”