A Surprising and Distinctly Irish Museum Experience

Before I visited Dublin this summer, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum was not at all on my radar.  And, I must admit that the advertisement “fully digital museum” did not excite me, but I am so glad we gave it a chance because it turned out to be one of the most interesting parts of our trip to Ireland—personally and professionally.

The museum tells the story of the many individuals who have emigrated from Ireland over the years.  You might first think Potato Famine, but the story of emigration is much, much bigger.  Tens of thousands of Irish have emigrated from the island, even in recent years.  The story the museum tells begins with pain—human tragedies including conflict in Northern Ireland, discrimination against the LGBT community, Magdalene Laundries, etc.  The media pieces designed to tell these stories were compelling, such as the one featuring animated individuals telling their stories with changing imagery in the background.  I also loved the small details of the exhibition design that added atmosphere, such as how the lighting projected onto the words “persecution”; “discrimination”; and “oppression” reflected on the walls.

Then, the museum, which follows a linear exhibition design, takes an interesting turn that only the Irish could make seem natural.  Have you heard the saying that “Irish diplomacy is telling someone to go to hell, and having them look forward to the trip?”  That about sums up the magic they conjure in this museum experience.  I left the first half of the exhibits feeling sorrowful, but after a short walk down a palette-cleansing hallway, you enter a celebration of all things Irish.  These latter exhibits highlight the stories of many people of Irish heritage (including JFK and Obama) and Irish traditions (music, dance) that have spread in popularity around the world.  In fact, there is a relevant quote shared in the museum  from the former President of Ireland that describes how the pain surrounding Irish emigration has turned into a treasure—the peoples who emigrated have spread Irish legacy around the world.  Pretty spectacular blarney, right?  I do mean this in a complimentary way.

As we left the museum via the gift shop, I asked the cashier about the acronym “EPIC” that precedes the museum’s name.  It stands for “Every Person is Connected.”  I certainly saw this thread during my visit, but I would love to hear even more about this in the museum, as I think it is a much-needed message worldwide.

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