In little over six weeks time, a multimedia museum, funded entirely by an Irish emigrant and former CEO of Coca Cola, will open in the vaults beneath the iconic 19th century CHQ building on Dublin’s docklands.
Epic Ireland is the brainchild of Neville Isdell, who left Co Down with his parents for Zambia in the mid-1950s and became the chairman and CEO of Coca Cola. He long believed his Irishness “opened doors” for him in his life and Epic Ireland is his opportunity to give something back.
The exhibition has been developed by Event Communications, who designed the multi-award-winning Titanic Belfast. They’re hoping it will appeal to international tourists — many of whom will be the descendants of the 10m people who left these shores — and to domestic tourists, too.
Actress Grace Kelly, Israel’s former chief rabbi Isaac Herzog, France’s president Charles de Gaulle, US presidents John F Kennedy and Andrew Jackson, Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, and former All Black Dave Gallaher are some of the personalities who come to life in the interactive museum.
“There are four themes to the experience,” said spokeswoman Dervla O’Neill. “We begin with migration, an introduction to Ireland, and the arrivals and departures that shaped it, and also look at motivation: Why people left and then their influence overseas. Finally, we look at where the Irish are now, and what they are doing in today’s highly-connected world.
“It’s the influence of the Irish worldwide that will really drive home to visitors how Irish emigrants contributed to their new homes.
“For instance, you will experience the story of James Barry, the doctor who conducted the first caesarean section operation, where mother and baby survived.
“But James Barry was actually Margaret Buckley and it was her mother who encouraged her to present as a man if she wanted to succeed in the world of medicine.”
The spread of GAA throughout the world, our stellar reputation in the field of arts, how the Irish influenced discovery and learning, international politics, and the global recognition of cultural exports like Riverdance, Irish traditional music, the Irish pub, and Guinness are all explored using the latest technology.
“On admission, visitors are given a passport, which will be stamped as they move from gallery to gallery and experience the various Irish waves of emigration, the routes emigrants followed, and how religious belief, hunger, work, conflict, the rule of law, and opportunity were behind their decision to go, “ added Ms O’Neill.
According to Epic Ireland, the project is the largest investment in a tourist package in Dublin in 15 years. It will also contain a geneology centre operated by Eneclann genealogical services and will offer DNA testing so visitors can learn about their Irish roots.