The latest addition to EPIC’s tour is an immersive audio-visual experience which tells the contrasting tales of two Irish emigrants.
Sitting in EPIC’s historic vaults, visitors are transported on board the Jeanie Johnston tall ship. Lights dim and candles flicker on screens around the room as Patrick Kearney tells his story on the main screen. The 23-year-old gardener left Tralee back in 1849 to escape the poverty and hunger engulfing Ireland during the Great Famine.
After sitting below deck with Patrick, viewers are then brought on board a modern Aer Lingus flight where Dubliner Emma Dabiri highlights a very different emigrant experience. Though she lives in London, she regularly returns home and chats to her family on the phone.
Ireland Never Leaves You
Since EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum first opened back in 2016, it has welcomed thousands of visitors. To keep people coming back, its permanent installations are constantly updated and expanded. Lots of temporary exhibitions come and go too.
But this month, five years after opening its doors, EPIC officially launches the final conclusion to its visitor experience. Ireland Never Leaves You is a 360° audio-visual experience that engages every sense.
By comparing the 19th century experience with today’s, the installation highlights how utterly different advances in technology and transport have made the emigrant experience. Yet, emotions of love, longing, loss and guilt still remain the same.
This contrast will be all the more poignant for Irish families and migrants that haven’t been able to see loved ones during the pandemic.
“In many ways Patrick and Emma’s stories couldn’t be more different,” says Nathan Mannion, the museum’s Head of Exhibitions and Programmes. “Both left for different reasons, travelled to different destinations in different centuries, faced unique challenges and availed of different opportunities yet their stories attest to the universal need for connection.”
Putting it all together
The idea for EPIC’s grand finalé was inspired by the words of its founder Neville Isdell. When telling his emigration story, the former Coca-Cola CEO said: “I left Ireland, but Ireland never left me.”
This is a sentiment echoed by many Irish emigrants. Although keeping touch with home is much easier today than it was during famine times, the decision to emigrate is never easy.
The space was brought to life with twelve integrated screens, surround sound audio and advanced LED fixtures. To create a fully immersive experience, Nineyards then used innovative video mapping software to co-ordinate all these elements and bring them in line with the storytelling on the main screen.
A satisfying ending
Ireland Never Leaves You aims to leave a lasting impression on EPIC’s visitors. With a future completely unknown, stepping into the shoes of 23-year-old Patrick Kearney is daunting.
But viewers will be glad to know that he went on to have a successful life in the US.
After landing in Baltimore, he travelled to Harford County in Maryland where he found work on a farm. Just ten years later, records show that he had a wife, five children and his own farm valued at $1,500.
Meanwhile, Emma Dabiri is still leaving her imprint on the world. Since leaving Ireland she has become an internationally celebrated academic, author and broadcaster and has lived in the USA, Ghana and Great Britain. She represents the experiences of many modern Irish emigrants and has maintained a connection to Ireland that would have proved impossible for Patrick.
Access to EPIC’s newest gallery is covered by entry to the museum. Book your tickets here.