Clare Champion, Friday, January 4, 2002
By any standard, Clare's county museum called the 'Riches of Clare' is an excellent facility. With the help of artefacts, audio visual displays, pictures and documents, it tells the story of the history of Clare. However, the 'Champion' has learned that not many people know about the facility. The people of Ennis have spoken. The history of Clare, available on their doorstep, is being lost to them. That's because they know very little of the 'Riches of Clare' - the county museum. Some have never even heard of the facility while some of those who are aware of it have never been there and wouldn't know how to get there. That was the message on the streets of Ennis this week as the museum starts into its second year. "I have heard of it, but I have never been there. I'm also not sure where exactly in Ennis it is", Michelle Haugh told the 'Champion'. "I've never even heard of the place", said Flora O'Brien. "I've heard of it and know where it is but have never been there", said Ester Tobin.
For those who don't know, the museum is located in the tourist office building in the Friary carpark. Though in the heart of Ennis, old Ennis at that, the museum is out of mind to most and out of sight to many, something that disappoints the curator, John Rattigan. "It hasn't got a high profile with the locals", he says. "I think the people of Ireland generally speaking have been badly served by museums in the past and that they have been poorly educated as to what museums are all about. Also, it's only the last few years that money has gone into museums to make them as interesting as this one", he adds.
This interest may be lost on the people of Ennis and its environs but the place isn't totally deserted as John Rattigan explains. "We have both tour groups and school groups. It also depends on the season. Summer is the busiest time of the year. People also go into the tourist office and would come into the museum through that way. You would also have people coming in through our schools programme in the autumn and spring". Museums are always very popular with tourists and 'Riches of Clare' is no exception. But is it more popular with tourists, rather than the locals? "Yes", says John. "I think some of the reason for that is that most of the cultural infrastructure in the county is geared towards tourists and there is a perception that this would be a more tourist orientated facility. However, the long term aim of the museum is to be identified as a facility foremost for the locals".
The curator says that the museum is perfect for anyone with any historical interest in Clare. It is not just designed for adults in Clare, it is also aimed at the younger generation. "Riches of Clare caters for all audiences", says John. "What we are trying to do here is to appeal to both the older and younger generations. We have a bright museum. It's got both colourful text panels, computer interactives and audio visuals, which we hope will both inform and educate people of any age. I think the young people find the computer interactives an interesting element to the museum".
The museum is also advertised around Ennis. "On the local square, we have a map of Ennis and there's an advertisement of the museum there", says John. "Also at present, we are putting up a sequence of road signs around the town to direct people to the cultural influences in the town", he adds. Maybe then the 'Riches of Clare' facility won't be out of mind to most and out of sight to many.