My trip to Ireland’s newest Museum – courtesy of EPIC Ireland.
When I told a few friends I was planning a visit to the Irish Diaspora museum
EPIC Ireland – A Journey of A People
I got some typical Irish begrudging reactions. “That’s just for American tourists” and similar views.
Well begrudgers, you can eat that begrudgery followed by humble pie. EPIC Ireland doesn’t just live up to its name but redefines the whole museum experience. It delivers history through deft use of 21st Century technology while mixing sparse and thoughtful design in the CHQ building which has a cool history all of its own.
When you descend into EPIC you are greeted with a charming ‘passport’ to the Irish Diaspora Museum. I see this being embraced by the generations of schoolchildren who will pass though the museum. We are told to stamp our passport (which doubles as a handy map) in each room.
At the entrance you are greeted with columns of dazzling colour and a video of an incoming tide splashed up against the 200 year old walls of the CHQ building’s lower level. The lights are low and this creates a fittingly eerie atmosphere.
When I think of the Irish diaspora two time periods spring to mind; the mid to late 1800s and the 1960s – 80s. But EPIC, (living up to its name) charts many of the reasons, some of the journeys and many of the kinds of people who left throughout the history of our country from 500 A.D. to our present century.
Within the ancient walls the designers have considerately fashioned a theme for each room that suits the information being relayed. The first three rooms chart the journey from Ireland to the various countries that my ancestors found refuge. It then proceeds to focus on the descendants of those people who left and the impact they had on those countries.
EPIC untangles hundreds of their stories at the touch of multiple screens and audio experiences. There are stories of bravery, of hope, despair, creativity, achievement in many spheres, infamy, deception, even cross-dressing and much more. These stories are from both the Irish who first arrived on the shores of their new worlds and in subsequent room the stories of their descendants.
EPIC delivers a refreshing balance as we hear the positive aspects of our Irish History standing shoulder to shoulder with the negative ones.
There are also a number of amusing quizzes to take which proves that EPIC is not without a sense of humour.
One of the many highlights of the tour was reading the scanned letters that Irish immigrants had sent home. Seeing a digital image of the original letters and reading the words of these ordinary people brought me closer to the struggles of the original Irish Diaspora.
I could go on but I don’t want to spoil the experience any further. I spent three and a half hours there and could have spent the same amount of time again and still not taken in everything it has to offer.
One more thing, don’t forget to look at the floors.
This Museum goes to Eleven.