Bringing Places to Life

President Higgins Visits National Famine Museum at Strokestown

We were honoured to welcome President and Sabina Higgins to the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park in early July. The President officially opened the newly refurbished National Famine Museum in 2013 (which was opened in 1994 by President Mary Robinson) and was delighted to return to enjoy the fascinating Strokestown Park Famine Archive. Containing over 55,000 documents in relation to the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s, it is a complete record of economic, social and estate history over a 300-year period which was discovered by chance by Jim Callery in 1979 and led to the establishment of the National Famine Museum.

President and Sabina Higgins then took a detailed tour of the National Famine Museum with John O'Driscoll, Strokestown Park's General Manager and Jim Callery as well as members of the Irish Heritage Trust Board. The Museum tells the story of the Famine and highlights the parallels between a tragic chapter of Irish History and contemporary global hunger, and President Higgins has spoken to this theme on many occasions.


President and Sabina Higgins reading documents from the Strokestown Famine Archive


We were delighted to report that in April, building and improvement works began at Johnstown Castle, Estate & Gardens, Wexford. There will be significant conservation and upgrading works undertaken on the Castle itself, allowing it to be opened to the public and a new Visitor Centre is also being constructed on the property. The new facilities will open in early 2019.

Teagasc, the owner of the property, is partnering with the Irish Heritage Trust and the Irish Agricultural Museum to secure the future of Johnstown Castle and its gardens, thanks to the generous support of Government. “We are delighted to report that in 2019 the Castle will be open to the public for the first time in thirty years”, said Tom Doherty of Teagasc. “We will be offering an exciting visitor experience with access to three floors of the castle, access to the original servants’ tunnel and a new visitor centre with a café and shop.  “We are also working on a new road layout which is safer for cars and buses as well as improved paths in the gardens and grounds,” he continued.

“Johnstown Castle, Wexford’s greatest surviving country estate, is a significant building of national importance and we are carrying out conservation works required to allow greater public access, including essential repairs and electrical work,” said Clare McGrath of the Irish Heritage Trust. “Later it is hoped to refurbish the main rooms but in the meantime, visitors can see inside the wonderful Castle for the first time in many years. We are delighted with the interest and passion local people have in this special place and we hope, as the project develops, everyone will find ways to get involved at the property to help us care for Johnstown Castle and share it with everyone,” she continued.

In the meantime the Johnstown Castle Gardens and the Irish Agricultural Museum are open for visitors where they can enjoy a nostalgic journey through Irish farming and social history, enjoy the stunning views or meander through the lush woodland gardens and around the lakes. Visit to learn more.

Interested in Volunteering at Johnstown?
We are excited to have already received enthusiastic offers of volunteering at Johnstown.  If you are interested in volunteering at Johnstown in 2019, please contact:


We are delighted that Poetry Ireland and the Irish Heritage Trust have received planning permission for ambitious plans to restore No. 11 Parnell Square, a historic Georgian townhouse in Dublin's north inner city and open it up for public access as a new home for poetry in Ireland, the Poetry Ireland Centre.

Learn more here where you can watch journalist Olivia O'Leary, commentator Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, comedian Dara Ó Briain, actor Aidan Gillen, poets Paula Meehan and Paul Muldoon, Marie Heaney and the people behind the restoration of No. 11 Parnell Square tell us why Ireland needs a home for poetry.

The wall-mounted telephone at Strokestown Park

Roaring Twenties Telephone at Strokestown Park

Learn more here about the fascinating history behind Strokestown Park's Magneto battery powered wall-mounted telephone. Visitors to Strokestown will find it located in the corridor connecting the formal dining room with the galleried kitchen.


Jim Callery Strokestown EU Prize Cultural Heritage


Jim Callery has been awarded Europe’s top honour in the heritage field - a prestigious European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Award for the “restoration and establishment of the world renowned Irish National Famine Museum & Archive which has been the largest act of private philanthropy for cultural heritage in the history of modern Ireland”.   Mr Callery's award is in the Category “Dedicated Service”. Pictured above is Mr. Callery receiving his Award from the Chairman of the Dedicated Service Jury, Álvaro Fernández-Villaverde y Silva.

Jim Callery, founder of the Irish National Famine Museum & Archive and owner of Strokestown Park, Co. Roscommon, is among this year’s winners in the category dedicated service to heritage and the only winner from Ireland. Independent expert juries examined a total of 202 applications, submitted by organisations and individuals from 39 countries across Europe, and chose the winners. The 29 laureates from 18 countries are being recognised for their notable achievements in conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training and awareness-raising.

Mr Callery  joined the other winners of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2017 at a high-profile event co-hosted by EU Commissioner Navracsics and Maestro Plácido Domingo on 15 May in the historic city of Turku, Finland. The European Heritage Awards Ceremony assembled some 1,200 people, including heritage professionals, volunteers and supporters from all over Europe as well as top-level representatives from EU institutions, the host country and other Member States.

“I warmly congratulate this year’s winners and pay tribute to all those who made these exceptional achievements possible, thanks to their formidable talent, passionate commitment and great generosity. They are now among a select group of some 450 remarkable accomplishments awarded by Europa Nostra and the European Commission in the past 15 years. All our winners demonstrate that heritage is a key tool for sustainable economic development, social cohesion and a more inclusive Europe. EU leaders should seize the historic opportunity of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 to recognise the multiple benefits of heritage and its fundamental value in bringing countries, communities and cultures together in Europe and beyond,” stated Plácido Domingo, the renowned opera singer and President of Europa Nostra.

"I congratulate all the winners. Their achievements demonstrate once again how engaged many Europeans are in protecting and safeguarding their cultural heritage. Their projects highlight the significant role of cultural heritage in our lives and our society. Especially today, with Europe facing many big societal challenges, culture is vital in helping us to raise awareness of our common history and values and to foster tolerance, mutual understanding and social inclusion. The European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 will be an ideal opportunity to focus on what binds us together as Europeans - our common history, culture and heritage. The European Commission will continue to support this prize and other heritage projects through our Creative Europe programme,said Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.

Click here to see video about Mr. Callery's work at Strokestown.

CD Cover Beatrice Elvery


"Engaging with communities and unlocking the unique story of the properties within its care lies at the heart of the Irish Heritage Trust’s ten-year history".

We are delighted that the Irish Heritage Trust is featured in a four-page article in the Winter 2016/17 issue of the Irish Arts Review.  The article, written by Sandra Andrea O'Connell explores the highlights of the Trust's first decade.



Museum Standards Fota House Irish Heritage Trust


The Trust was honoured with Full  Museum Accreditation for Fota House during the summer of 2016. This is the result of over five years of hard work at Fota and means that nine years after the Irish Heritage Trust took responsibility for the house, it is now a house with Full Museum Status.

This Accreditation takes about five years to achieve all the standards. It is officially part of the Museum Standards Programme of Ireland (MSPI), which is run by The Heritage Council.  The awards’ adjudication was announced at a ceremony in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin on the 4th of July by the Chairman of The Heritage Council, Mr. Conor Newman.

The Heritage Council Assessors reported: “There is a strong visitor focus with the provision of an excellent guided tour, an informative, lively and current website, high quality printed materials and a good range of formal and informal learning opportunities for schools, families and lifelong learners. The Irish Heritage Trust clearly demonstrates a strong commitment to the Fota House volunteers, with training, CPD and good communications. Fota House is particularly strong on collections care and has very quickly established and implemented good practice from scratch.  Since applying for Interim Accreditation, a new post of Museums Standards and Property Care has been established at Fota House which shows the Irish Heritage Trust’s commitment to attaining and maintaining the standards of the MSPI”.

Fota House was one of seven of Ireland’s museums to be awarded the top standard of Full Accreditation in 2016, which requires complying with all 34 designated standards under the MSPI. Of the 57 participants in the programme, 29 museums have achieved Full Accreditation and 11 others have been awarded Interim Accreditation.


Conference Jim Callery

The Irish Famine Summer School

When you bring together leading scholars in a small heritage town it feels like a boutique experience. The Irish Famine Summer School and Conference combine academic excellence with charming informality. Amazing conversations happen at coffee, at dinner … and of course in the pub! The conference is open to academics, students and local historians which allows for incredible richness – from the overview, to historiography, to the local case study. The sessions are small and informal, held in authentic heritage spaces. The question and answer sessions are open and inviting. Great papers are combined with many other social events, such as drama, book launches and trips. ‘I loved it all, and only regretted afterwards that life couldn't just be a long famine summer school!’ Learn more here.

8 Independent Objects Strokestown

8 Independent Objects at Strokestown

At Strokestown Park we commemorated the centenary of 1916 with an exhibition of objects that belong to local people and embody the changes that occurred in Irish society between 1914 and 1922. An original Proclamation of the Irish Republic is on display, one of only around 50 in the world. We used this to convey the declaration of a republic as ‘something striking to capture the imagination of the world.’ A Cumann na mBan jacket owned by a Strokestown activist conveys the empowerment of women, a 1919 motorbike embodies new kinds of mobility and an autograph book containing the signatures of the second Dail  cabinet  shows the power of the ‘democratic path’. We ask visitors to think about which ‘development’ was most important in Ireland’s struggle for independence, cast their vote, and tell us why.

School Trips Irish Heritage Trust

Making School Trips Brilliant

How do you make school trips brilliant? At the Irish Heritage Trust we’ve been working pretty hard on this. We aim to turn every school trip into a creative mission. We ask student teams to find something out about aspects of our houses and make something … a video, a story, an artwork. And students always rise to the challenge and amaze us with how energised and creative they can be in the limited time a school visit allows. What do we hope to achieve with our schools education programme? To develop intense interest and delight while students are learning in the hope that this will spark a long-term, personal interest in heritage. Personal interest and self-directed learning are key factors in educational success.