Clare Champion, Friday, March 26, 2004
By Gordan Deegan
Clare’s heritage centres have come together to showcase and protect all aspects of Clare’s history including its archaeology, geology, genealogy, folklife and natural and built heritage. The Clare Heritage Circle incorporates the following community-based heritage centres and museums: Clare Museum (Ennis), the Corofin Genealogy Centre, the Burren Centre (Kilfenora), East Clare Heritage Centre (Tuamgraney), Lahinch Seaworld, Dysert O’Dea Castle (Corofin), Vandeleur Walled Garden and the Shannon Dolphins, both based in Kilrush. It was initiated in May 2003 at a meeting convened by John Rattigan, curator of Clare Museum, to investigate establishing such a network.
According to a spokeswoman for the new network, “Initial objectives include devising a system of exchange between the centres and production of a joint promotional booklet”. Representatives from Corofin Genealogy Centre, the Burren Centre (Kilfenora), East Clare Heritage Centre (Tuamgraney), Lahinch Seaworld, and Dysert O’Dea Archaeology Centre, attended the first meeting with the aim of devising systems of exchange and networking for the purpose of enhancing the heritage assets that exist in the county. As a result, the Clare Heritage Circle was born. Financial support from Clare County Council, the Heritage Council and the Clare Museum was used to purchase eight showcases facilitating outreach exhibitions to be exchanged between the centres. For example, artefacts from the Patrick Hillery Collection at Clare Museum are currently on display at the Vandeleur Walled Gardens in Kilrush.
“Long term objectives of the network include developing a co-ordinated educational plan targeting primary and secondary schools, increased standards in collection and visitor care, continued joint promotion, joint staff training and staff swaps to increase knowledge of each member centre”, she added. “There is also an ongoing commitment to networking for the purpose of enhancing heritage assets”.
At the Irish Museums Association Spring Seminar held in Ennis on March 5 and 6, members of the circle launched a joint promotional booklet providing information on each of the eight centres and mapping a heritage trail for visitors to follow around the county. In conjunction with this, a joint discount system has also been implemented in each centre. Manager of the Burren Centre, Paddy Maher, described the move as a step forward in promoting the county’s heritage. “It has got us working together and will allow the various centres exchange expertise”, he said. “The network also helps us to build up a relationship with other centres in the county. I believe it will help spread heritage appreciation in the county”. On the fortunes of the Burren Centre, he admitted that the previous two summers had been tough. Though visitor numbers in 2003 stood at 32,000 – up 3,500 on the previous season – the spend was down by 4-5%. Overall the Burren Centre broke even last year, and Mr Maher paid tribute to Clare County Council, which provided €25,000 in funding last year. “That is extremely important and helped us survive. This is a community project and receives great backing from the area,” concluded Mr Maher.
At the launch of the Clare Heritage Circle Brochure are Deputy Mayor,
Michael Hillery; Breda Considine of Dysert O'Dea Castle; Tomas MacConmara
of East Clare Heritage; John Rattigan of Clare Museum; Sinead McSharry of the Vandaleur Walled Gardens and Clare Heritage Officer, Congella Maguire.