Thursday 5 December 2019

Witness history from GPO at the heart of Rising

The GPO Witness History exhibition
The GPO Witness History exhibition

With its central role in Easter Week, it was inevitable focus would fall on the GPO for the Rising commemorations. And with the opening of the GPO Witness History exhibition, An Post hopes to immerse visitors in the building's 200-year past.

According to Anna McHugh, Head of Communications, the centre expects to welcome 300,000 visitors per year to O'Connell St following its March opening. 

The existing postal museum had limited capacity so extensive building work has been taking place to develop permanent, more expansive exhibition space.

"We have built a centre within the courtyard at basement level, and at ground level, it cuts into the existing GPO," McHugh explains. "There will then be a new level courtyard where people can reflect on what they have experienced."

From campaigners to newlyweds getting their photos taken, the GPO has always been a seat of "gathering, protest and celebration", according to McHugh. When it comes to its political past, the immersive, interactive centre does not set out to interpret the events of the time.

"It will show the facts as they were," McHugh says. "It allows you to tell a story without casting judgement in any way. There will be soundscapes, postering; it's loud, it's colourful. And at the very centre of the exhibition, there will be a 15-minute video experience where you will be at the centre of the activity that week; you will get a bird's eye view of the decisions being made, the brutality, the individuals involved."

It is hoped that the centre will 'evolve' over time to take in travelling exhibitions. Meanwhile, the interest from the tourism trade has been extremely positive. An Post expects that the centre will appeal to an international audience, as well as those closer to Dublin 1 who want a "window on Dublin at the time" and its residents.

As part of the exhibition, visitors will get to see inside a middle-class child's bedroom in a Georgian home, alongside a room where "you could have a tenement family of ten living in a room", McHugh says. 

Visitors are encouraged to visit the centre at their leisure; there will be guided and self-guided tour options available. In addition to the permanent exhibition, additional events planned include dance performances and drama from theatre group Fishamble, among others. The GPO is also the subject of a forthcoming RTÉ fly-on-the-wall documentary.

GPO Witness History is open to the public from Easter Tuesday, March 29. See AM

Irish Independent

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