The Easter Rising 1916 centenary trail continues, this time taking in a visit to the GPO Witness History attraction nestled in the basement of the iconic General Post Office building on O’Connell Street.
Billed as a ‘highly immersive and engaging exhibition’ that ‘puts you right inside the GPO on Easter Week in 1916’, this is definitely one of the most comprehensive and imaginative museum exhibitions that I have visited. As the designated headquarters for the rebel leaders during the Rising and one of the only buildings to survive the shelling, the historical and cultural importance of the GPO cannot be overstated and this exhibition certainly does it justice.
The self-guided tour begins with a model of the GPO as it currently stands, reminding visitors of the sheer size and scale of the building in which they are standing.
In the next room, the exhibition begins in earnest. Space is divided between tall glass display cabinets choc-a-block with memorabilia including an extensive collection of uniforms from both sides.
A touch screen accompanies each display cabinet, giving a comprehensive overview of the contents of each and a more detailed account of the individual artefacts. Some of the more interesting items I encountered were the signed orders from Dev and Frank Aiken to ‘dump arms’, a Volunteer cap badge, signed letters from Michael Collins and, of course, an original copy of the Proclamation.
The jewel in the crown is the 15 minute audio visual display, shown on an arced screen on a continuous loop. The video begins with the lead up to the Rising; Roger Casement’s arrest on Banna Strand and the scuttling of the Aud, the Castle Document and Eoin MacNeill’s subsequent discovery that it was a forgery and the chaos of orders and counter-orders for the Volunteer movements due to take place on Easter Sunday. Flash forward to Patrick Pearse on the steps of the GPO reading the Proclamation and the viewers are plunged into the heart of the action. The video cleverly uses an old map of Dublin to zoom in and out on the areas of action, bringing the events of the Rising to life on the screen.
Audiovisual booths also run along the length of one wall showing leading academics and scholars debate the success/failure and the consequences of the Rising and are well worth sitting down to watch for a deeper understaing of the Easter Rising.
Overall, this was a fantastic exhibition and well, well worth a visit.
Tickets: €10 adult, €7.50 student, €5 child. Open daily 9 AM – 5.30 PM.