History of the Museum


EPIC is located in The CHQ Building in one of Dublin’s most historic locations on Custom House Quay. CHQ, formerly known as Stack A, or the Tobacco Store, was built between 1817 and 1820 to store valuable cargoes of tobacco, tea and spirits. It overlooks the River Liffey, which was the departure point for so many people who fled the country during The Famine so it’s a very fitting home for Ireland’s emigration museum.


Why was EPIC created?

About 70 million people all around the world claim Irish heritage or ancestry, which is pretty impressive for an island of under 6 million people. Given the vast numbers of Irish people who have left the country and built new lives for themselves, there was a strong need for a cultural institution that recognised the role migration plays in informing how we define who we are and the importance of the Irish diaspora in the cultural, political and economic development of both Ireland and the communities they settled in.


“My own experience of being an emigrant has always stayed with me. And as they say, I left Ireland but Ireland never left me. Before retiring as Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola in 2009 my career took me all over the world, to 151 countries, living and working in 5 different continents.  I’ve always believed that the story of Irish people around the world was one worth telling, and so, I founded EPIC in 2016.”

Neville Isdell, Founder, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum


Momentum gathered and grew for a National Diaspora Centre

Throughout 2012 and 2013 a number of feasibility studies were commissioned that explored what a ‘National Diaspora Centre’ might look like, where it should be located and how it might be sustained, though no state funding was made available for its creation. The momentum continued to grow with events like ‘The Gathering’, a tourism initiative to encourage those of Irish descent to visit Ireland in 2013, and the establishment of the office of ‘Minister of State for the Diaspora’ in 2014, all contributing to renewed interest in the initiative.


EPIC was founded by Neville Isdell, who was an Irish emigrant himself

Who better to found the Irish Emigration Museum than someone who experienced and understands the emigrant experience first-hand? Neville Isdell was born in Downpatrick Co. Down in 1943. He left Northern Ireland at the age of 10 with his mother and his father, who worked for the RUC as a fingerprinting and forensics expert, and they moved to Zambia. His grandfather was chief engineer at Harland and Wolff and received an MBE in 1929 for services to shipbuilding. Isdell joined Coca-Cola in 1966 and worked for the company all over the world, going on to become the chairman and CEO of the company.


EPIC celebrates the influence Ireland’s emigrants have had on the world

Isdell always believed that there was something unique and special about being Irish and wanted to celebrate the influence Ireland’s emigrants have had on the world.


EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum was voted Europe’s
Leading Tourist Attraction 2019, 2020 and 2021

The birth of EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum

In 2013 Neville Isdell bought the CHQ Building. As a philanthropist and a member of the Irish diaspora, he agreed to house the museum within the CHQ Building and to fund the project that would become EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. With his support, an academic advisory panel was assembled to research the exhibition content while a London-based specialist museum design consultancy, Event Communications, was appointed to design and develop the museum’s galleries.


Today, EPIC welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year

The museum was officially opened by former Irish President Mary Robinson in May 2016. Since then it has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and, as President Michael D. Higgins noted, has “…played a key role in highlighting Ireland’s emigrant experiences, its causes and consequences, and its relevance to the stories of those who are, today, escaping marginalisation, poverty and conflict.”


EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum was voted Europe’s
Leading Tourist Attraction 2019, 2020 and 2021


At EPIC we provide a powerful window into Ireland and its people by showing how Irish emigration has shaped the world.


We are a museum where innovation and interaction collide. We enable people from all corners of the globe to explore Irish history, culture and identity through the narrative of emigration.

We follow 3 guiding principles:

  • We research, collect and share the stories of Ireland’s diaspora through exhibitions, education and engagement (community and digitally).
  • We innovate to enhance the visitor experience.
  • We build connections with organisations worldwide to continuously represent the Irish diaspora.

See more from EPIC here, or visit those who fled Ireland during the famine on the Jeanie Johnston.