Clare Champion, February 15, 2002
Clare's county museum in Ennis was placed among the premiership of museums in the country when it went on line with its new, comprehensive and interactive website.
And while the honour of launching the website fell to Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and The Islands Minister Sile de Valera, she had further good news when she designated the County Museum under the Cultural Institutions Act (1997). Under this legislation, the museum is now a recognised repository of archaeological artifacts.
Museum Curator, John Rattigan was conferred with designation under the National Monuments Act (1994) which he considers a great honour.
"As a designated person under the Act I am allowed to collect artifacts on behalf of the Director of the National Museum of Ireland. It also provides me with a platform to develop community relations providing advice to developers and farmers with regard to the conservation of National Monuments", he said.
Over the past decade there has been a great upsurge in the provision of county museums as they continue to expand their collections and explore and develop new ways to allow people access them.
No longer just buildings or institutions, museums have become community resources used by people regardless of where they live. Clare, a county which has often been described as an open air museum of Irish life, is to the fore in this new development.
The first message received since the County Museum website went live last January was from Ms Pat Brady of Australia, who had very recently donated her Clare-born grandfather's indenture, dating from 1876.
She wrote: "My sister, Joanne and I have viewed your website where you have placed Grandfather Browne's indenture and photo. We just want to let you know what a wonderful experience it was to see them there on the web for all to view them. We were quite thrilled and very much affirmed in our decision to entrust these precious things to your care".
The second message received came from local historian Martin Breen.
"I have just been checking the museum site and have to offer my congratulations. The quality of the photos and their enlargement is unbelievable. It is really a super site", he said.
These two messages show that this website can bring the museum into the home or school, irrespective of where people live. They are also remarkable, in that they were received before any publicity or promotion of the site had been done. As indeed is the fact that there have been over 500 visitors to the site before its official launch.
The museum website is fully integrated into the library site which contains a host of information on the culture, archaeology, history and topography of County Clare. It is important to stress also that this new museum site is not just a "virtual" version of the physical museum.
The museum website takes full advantage of the rich resources of the world wide web, linking artifacts to other websites which give a fuller picture of these objects and the world in which they originated.
The Clare Museum is now open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year through the world wide web at HYPERLINK http://www.clarelibrary.ie.
Councillor Tom Gylnn has welcomed the designation of the Clare Museum and the link up with the National Museum. The new website, he said, would enable greater access to a world wide audience and was a great facility for students and browsers in both the educational and heritage field.
He congratulated John Rattigan, Curator on his elevation to legal collector of artifacts and complimented his on his endeavours and proactive role in inviting teachers and pupils of schools in Ennis and Clare to come and visit the museum.
Councillor Glynn said he was delighted that, at last, after long advocating it, that Clare County Council and Ennis Town Council could now invite and welcome school groups from Ennis and county Clare to visit and view with advance booking free of charge in a most comfortable and modern environment the Riches of Clare mirroring the same free access to all the Duchas Heritage sites on school education trips.
The teaching staff of Ennis National School were very impressed with the range and modern presentation of exhibits on the occasion of their visit on the same day as the official designation of the museum and would be delighted to come back with their classes over the next few months and expose children from the town to the riches of the Banner County.
Indeed, Mr Noel Crowley, County Librarian, in his address at the official launch of the website, said that this was the way to open our heritage riches to our own people.
Minister Sile de Valera with
John Rattigan at the launch
of the County Museum website.