“Worth the wait” was the general reaction to the newly designed Athlone Castle which visitors had a chance to experience for the first time on Monday.
There was widespread approval from councillors, Fáilte Ireland personnel, and schoolchildren from Cornamaddy NS, who were among the first groups to be guided around the modern, interactive exhibition in the castle.
Eight distinct exhibition spaces in the castle combine hands-on and fun experiences to appeal to both children and adults, with bold sculptural forms, 3D maps, audio-visual installations, and illustrations by renowned illustrator Victor Ambrus (best known for his work on Channel 4’s Time Team ) to bring the stories and characters of Athlone to life.
Some of the tour highlights include a 3D map featuring Viking and Norman invasions, touch screens and interactive ‘Build a castle’ displays, and a hands-on opportunity to try out some of the weapons of Athlone Castle’s first 400 years.
Particularly evocative is a 360 degree gallery entitled ‘The Siege Experience’, giving the visitor a multi-sensory perspective of the heat and intensity of the 1690 Siege of Athlone, putting them right in the midst of the fight.
Another gallery entitled ‘The Fabric of Athlone’ uses the form of a tapestry to weave together the many strands of Athlone life over the past 200 years, while another space presents a series of objects donated by the Old Athlone Society to reflect the self-sufficient element of the town’s past.
In the final moving exhibition, visitors are led through a dark corridor into a dimly-lit room in which contemporary sculptures and poetry tell the tragic story of the aftermath of the Siege.