As the Decade of Centenaries continues it appears that people are still eager to find out more about Ireland’s past, as 40,385 people visited Mayo County Council’s Jackie Clarke Collection in 2019. This is an outstanding 30 per cent increase on the 2018 figures.
2019 was a particularly historic centenary year, commemorating the outbreak of the Irish War of Independence in 1919 and the Jackie Clarke Collection unveiled a new exhibition last January to mark the event, with Jackie’s War of Independence artefacts, some not seen before by the public.
Manager of the collection Edel Healy staid: "Our figures from 2016, 2017, and 2018 all showed a small but steady growth. However, this 30 per cent increase in 2019 has come from a combination of factors.
"It is a landmark year in the Decade of Centenary commemorations, our community events and education workshops have been over-subscribed, and there has genuinely been a huge increase in visitors to the North Mayo area.
"Our summer months were particularly busy but the shoulder seasons, April and October, showed a rise in visitors too, both bus tours, and smaller family groups and couples.
"There has been a mix of domestic visitors, groups from other counties, as well as international visitors who doing part of the Wild Atlantic Way. Fáilte Ireland’s WAW is still a huge influencing factor for international visitors coming west."
An extensive community programme in the Jackie Clarke Collection has also contributed to this increase in numbers. Under the guidance of Community Development Liaison and Volunteer Coordinator Anne Marie Forbes, the Jackie Clarke Collection has successfully combined historical traditions with community events during National Heritage Week, Culture Night, and the now hugely popular Christmas Lights. Over 3000 people filled the streets of Ballina on the last Sunday of November for the turning on of the town lights and to experience old Irish traditions at the Collection.
"Events like the Christmas Lights are really important to us because we know that when we are busy, then the town is busy. Families come in for the free festive fun but will hopefully spend a little money in local businesses in the town that day, from lunch to Christmas shopping. It’s so important to Mayo County Council that we can do our bit to help local businesses" added Edel.
Sinead Brennan, education co-ordinator at the Jackie Clarke Collection, has also seen an increase in younger visitors to the Collection, both through the school term via education workshops and specialist children’s history camps during the summer months. Workshops at the Jackie Clarke Collection are free for schools to attend and the variety of workshops on offer suit young children to leaving certificate age, making history truly accessible for all.
Finally, Edel Healy paid tribute to the hard working staff and volunteers at the Collection for a successful 2019. The Jackie Clarke Collection is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm and more information can be found on www.clarkecollection.ie