artist placing hundreds of glass potatoes in historical tower

‘1845: Memento Mori’ Irish tour of glass famine memorial launches at Strokestown Park

An installation of 1,845 hand-blown glass potatoes 1845: Memento Mori is set to arrive in Ireland from the USA for the first time, to be exhibited as a touring exhibition in multiple venues across the island of Ireland in 2021/22.

The site-specific work will be firstly presented at the historical gazebo tower within the walled gardens of The National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, Co. Roscommon from 29th May –10th July 2021, kicking off a multi-venue tour over the next few years. This touring exhibition will be virtually launched on Saturday 29th May at 12noon (GMT) by Irish Ambassador to the US, Dan Mulhall as part of the Irish Famine Summer School Conference.

1845: Memento Mori is a Famine Memorial dedicated to the Irish Potato Famine, made by Seattle based Irish artist Paula Stokes and has taken 15 years to complete. 1845 is significant as it references the year that the potato blight came to Ireland, marking the beginning of a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration. This Famine Memorial will also be exhibiting at Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens in County Wexford (17 July - 21 August); the Ulster American Folk Park in County Tyrone; and the National Museum of Ireland- Country Life in County Mayo.

The form of the installation differs in response to specific locations, changing shape and volume depending on light, accessibility and exposure of each site. In previous installations it has taken the form of a cairn - a traditional stone pile - which implies a grave or burial mound that represents the one million people that died from starvation and related diseases in Ireland between 1845 and 1852.

“We are delighted that the Irish Heritage Trust is hosting such a memorable outdoor exhibition at two of our historic properties in Roscommon and Wexford (Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens) .It is fitting that the first venue for artist Paula Stokes on Irish soil is to be here at The National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, and launched during the Irish Famine Summer School”, said Dr. Emma O’Toole, Collections & Interpretation Manager at the Irish Heritage Trust, which cares for and manages the property. “The story of the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s has particular resonance at Strokestown. Tenants on the estate were hugely impacted, many emigrated or died, and a previous owner of the house and local landlord, Major Denis Mahon was assassinated in November 1847 at the height of the Famine,” she continued.

As a modern-day member of the Irish Diaspora, Paula Stokes reflects on her own history as an immigrant to examine historical events that have shaped the present. “In creating this work, I honour my Irish heritage and culture, and I’m thrilled to be bringing this installation to my home country after 15 years of working on the project,” she said. “I would like to thank the Irish Heritage Trust for believing in me, and for the opportunity to premiere the work in Ireland at Strokestown Park. Its specific history and connection to the Famine adds significant meaning to the interpretation and viewing of the work.  I believe 1845: Memento Mori will resonate with a wide variety of audiences as it reminds us of our own fragile humanity and serves as a connection between shared human experiences in the past and present”, concluded Paula Stokes.

  • Video about 1845: Memento Mori:
  • Entrance to the Installation is included in the gardens entry fee €9.25.
  • The 1845: Memento Mori catalogue is on sale at €7.00.
  • This project has been generously supported by the Thomas Dammann Junior Memorial Trust.
  • Social Media: #1845FamineMemorial
  • Photo: Ann Welch “1845: Memento Mori, blown and sandblasted glass, 2019”



Songs of the Great Hunger released for National Famine Commemoration Day

Songs of the Great Hunger released for National Famine Commemoration Day on May 16th, 2021

The National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park and The Irish Heritage Trust have released a short film entitled Songs of the Great Hunger for National Famine Commemoration Day on May 16th, 2021. It is funded by the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme.

Songs of the Great Hunger shares the songs of Brendan Graham performed at famine commemoration events in Ireland, Australia, and Canada. The film explores the historical experiences of Irish emigrant communities during the Great Hunger that inspired his classic songs such as Ochón an Gorta MórCrucán na bPáiste, and Orphan Girl. Song performances will include Cathy Jordan, Eimear Quinn, Aimee Banks, and Sarah Calderwood with the Australian Girls Choir. Linguistic Anthropologist Eileen Moore Quinn provides commentary on the songs and their resonances within the Irish diaspora.

Brendan Graham’s songs such as You Raise Me Up and Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears, have become modern day classics, while his Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids and The Voice, were Ireland’s two last winning songs at the Eurovision Song Contest.

He is also the author of the best-selling The Whitest Flower, a ‘documentary novel’ set in the times of An Gorta Mór.

“I am honoured to have my work used in tandem with this year’s National Commemoration of Ireland’s Great Famine to honour the memory of those who died, suffered, were dispossessed and driven into exile as a result of  An Gorta Mór,” said Brendan Graham. “We are in a time of reflection and remembering…and many today in a time of loss and grieving. The past, our history, is always present and so, we are the present-day bearers of that past. We carry it with us, but sometimes, it is only through song that we can express the inexpressible of what we carry. It is what led me to write these songs and I thank all the wonderful artistes who gave such sensitive voice to them.”

“Brendan Graham is a uniquely gifted lyricist and composer whose songs about the Great Hunger resonate with Irish diasporic communities around the world,” said Dr. Jason King of the Irish Heritage Trust. “We are honoured to be collaborating with Brendan on our Songs of the Great Hunger short film and to be hosting a live online event with him and Professor Quinn after the National Famine Commemoration Day ceremony on May 16th,” he added.

Songs of the Great Hunger can be viewed at and is the first of two documentary films which use the vehicle of Brendan Graham’s songs to look at events in Ireland’s Diasporic history. The second documentary Songs of the Irish American and Canadian Diaspora will air June 6th.


On May 16th, a live online discussion will be held with Brendan Graham and Eileen Moore Quinn following the National Famine Commemoration Day ceremony at 1pm in Ireland, 8am in the United States and Canada (Eastern time). This online discussion will be hosted on

This online discussion will take place after the National Famine Commemoration Day Ceremony. The ceremony, which will be led by President Michael D. Higgins, will take place in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin at 12pm on Sunday 16 May and will include military honours and a wreath-laying ceremony in remembrance of all those who suffered or perished during the Famine. President Michael D. Higgins will give the keynote address at the ceremony. The ceremony will be broadcast on the RTÉ News channel, and on RTÉ News across social media.

Brendan Graham is available for interview. Please contact Dr Jason King at with enquiries.

Photo of Johnstown Castle with lake view in front

Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens nominated for prestigious International Tourism Award

November 11th 2020: The majestic Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum and Gardens, in County Wexford has been nominated for the British Guild of Travel Writer’s International Tourism Awards.

The fairy-tale neo gothic Castle which opened to the public for the first time in its history just last year is the only Irish visitor attraction to secure a nomination in the prestigious British Guild of Travel Writers (‘BGTW’) International Tourism Awards 2020. The BGTW International Tourism Awards (‘ITA’) scheme recognises excellence in tourism projects.

In 2019 Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum and Gardens was opened featuring a 200-metre servant’s tunnel, a new world-class visitor centre and café plus a playground and stunning lake walks. Situated in 120 acres, the property saw the completion of €7.5m investment by Fáilte Ireland and the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine which was overseen by The Irish Heritage Trust. This investment enabled the estate to deliver a stunning destination visitor offering in Ireland’s south-east, enticing international and national visitors.

Following a visit to this historic property, Travel writer, Isabel Conway nominated Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens for their new tourism offering, calling it "a national treasure" and saying it truly merits being nominated for an International Tourism Award.

At Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum and Gardens, visitors are invited to enjoy a three-in-one experience with tours of the ornate gothic revival castle on offer, a self-guided experience at the Irish Agricultural Museum as well as the Daniel Robertson designed gardens. The lush parklands, which are adorned with three lakes bordered by woodland walks, offer the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the views or explore the abundance of wildlife and nature on offer.

I nominated Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens as a national treasure as at last, it is fully accessible to the public for the first time in its history. This jewel of Ireland's Ancient East has had a roller coaster fascinating history dating back to the arrival of the Normans, offering a snapshot into the privileged lives of the gentry who occupied the sumptuous neo-gothic mansion that evolved from the original turreted building.  No stone was left unturned in this new visitor attraction including the restoration of the castle, to make this a world-class, successful tourist attraction and local amenity including a lovely visitor centre, gift shop and café. The Irish Agricultural Museum in buildings used for soil research over decades explores rural life in Ireland and houses a fascinating collection of 19 permanent exhibitions” said Isabel Conway.

“I felt there is no better example of community spirit pulling together with the Irish Heritage Trust's expertise than this important Irish landmark. I was delighted to nominate Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum and Gardens for a British Guild of Travel Writers Tourism Award of excellence,” she continued.

Destinations and attractions can only be nominated for these awards based on merit and can only be voted for by international travel writer members of the BGTW. The Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens nomination has gone through a rigorous screening process to make it to the 2020 voting stage.

Commenting on the nomination, Anne O’Donoghue, CEO of The Irish Heritage Trust, an independent not-for-profit which manages and cares for the property said, “We are delighted to be nominated for this international award recognising the huge success to date of Johnstown Castle Estate Museum & Gardens which would not have been possible without the significant involvement of many supporters since our opening. These include the local community, our team of over 120 dedicated volunteers and our 6,000 plus members. Our work at The Irish Heritage Trust is guided by the principles of ‘People, Place and Participation’ because we believe that the greater the number of people who build relationships with special places, the stronger those properties will be into the future”.

The next stage of the awards process is a private guild member voting opportunity to choose a shortlist for the four categories: Best UK and Ireland Tourism Project; Best Europe Tourism Project; Best Wider World Tourism Project and NEW for 2020 – ‘The Armchair Award’ which will be hosted online by very well-known veteran BBC presenter best known for the travel programme ‘Wish You Were Here’ Judith Chalmers.  The winners will then be announced at the awards ceremony, which will be held in London in 2021.


Old drawing of Johnstown Castle, Wexford


The Irish Heritage Trust is delighted to have received two grants from the Heritage Council’s “Community Heritage Grant” for the conservation of two significant archives at its properties, Johnstown Castle, Estate, Museum & Gardens, Wexford and Strokestown Park and the National Famine Museum, Roscommon. A total of 313 applications were made to the Heritage Council of Ireland for the Community Heritage Grant, and the Trust has been awarded two of the 68 that were successful.

These archive conservation projects are now underway with our dedicated and specialised teams on the ground and we look forward to sharing the progress of this work, as part of the Irish Heritage Trust’s “Conservation in Action” programme. Please check our social media for updates on the work which will be completed before the end of November.

The Irish Agricultural Museum (IAM) Archive at Johnstown Castle, Wexford, was awarded a grant of €15,000 from the Heritage Council of Ireland to improve the preservation, conservation and access to the Archive which is currently inaccessible to visitors.

The Irish Agricultural Museum Archive is one of Ireland's great, but little known treasures. The archive holds one of the most comprehensive collections of documentary material related to Irish agricultural machinery in Ireland and offers an invaluable representation of Ireland's agricultural history and heritage. The primary threat to the archive is the unsatisfactory environmental conditions and fragile state of the rare estate maps, both of which inhibit their positive public use, research and interpretation.

The grant will support upgrading the archive equipment which will greatly facilitate in safeguarding the collection of 6,000 books, a rare collection of 19th-century estate records, maps, and 1,000 agricultural records for future generations. Paper conservation of seven rare estate maps and architectural plans of the Johnstown Castle estate will be carried out by Dr Pat McBride of The Paper Conservation Studio. A new display case will allow the archive, and newly conserved estate records, to be showcased to the public in the Museum for the first time, and for many years to come.

"We look forward to safeguarding the Irish Agricultural Museum archive collection which will significantly help in preserving this rare collection for future generations. The general public will have access to the archive through temporary displays in the Irish Agricultural Museum and we look forward to creating greater visitor engagement with the archive, both locally and nationally. The project will also build awareness and understanding of Irish agricultural history", says Dr. Emma O'Toole, Collections and Interpretation Manager at the Irish Heritage Trust.

At Strokestown Park, a grant of €8,000 has been awarded for the “Professional conservation of 90 paper leases in the Strokestown Park Archives, as part of the professional cataloguing and preservation of the documents”. The Archive at Strokestown Park is a rare example of an intact Estate Records Collection dating from the late C18th to the mid C20th centuries. In 2019 a professional archivist, Martin Fagan, was appointed to process the collection with the aim of making this resource publicly accessible to researchers.

Conservation work will be carried out by an ICRI accredited conservator, Benjamin van de Wetering of The Ox Bindery. The aim is to make these C18th-C19th leases accessible to the community of historical researchers who will be encouraged to use these newly opened records as a historical source. These will also be interesting for academics, who will extract quantitative data on tenant-occupied land on a typical landed estate prior to the Famine. "This fascinating resource will be of great interest to local or family historians who will find references to tenant names and townlands for a period in Irish history where few census records survive", said Archivist Martin Fagan who is working on the project. "These C18th-C19th leases, used in conjunction with Estate Rentals and 100 previously-conserved leases, will provide researchers with a unique overview of small-scale landholding on the estate prior to the upheaval and depopulation of The Famine", he continued.

The National Famine Museum at Strokestown will open as a new state-of–the-art Museum in late 2021 thanks to funding from Fáilte Ireland and private philanthropy. An example of a conserved lease will be displayed in the new museum. /

This project received funding from the Heritage Council and the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage in 2020.

Poster Irish Famine & Cottier Cabins

Irish Famine and Cottier Cabins Exhibition

The "Irish Famine and Cottier Cabins" virtual exhibition brings together leading experts who explore the lives of some of Ireland's poorest and most vulnerable people during the Great Hunger in the 1840s and the cottier cabins (third and fourth class housing) they inhabited on a North/South basis.

In this series of videos, discover how the cabins' occupants endured the Famine as reflected in their vernacular architecture and sparse furnishings, archaeological remains, folk memory, and visual and literary arts. Learn more about the archaeological excavations and archival records of famine era evictions and emigration from the Strokestown Park Estate, home of the National Famine Museum.

I) the Single Room Cabin from Altahoney townland in the Sperrin Mountains in the Ulster American Folk Park,

II) the Meenagarragh’s Cottier’s House in the Ulster Folk Park

III) An Bothán (recreation of a famine mud cabin) erected on the University College Cork campus, and

IV) the Cabin of the Poor in the Irish Agricultural Museum and Famine Exhibition at Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens, Co. Wexford,  an Irish Heritage Trust property.

The Irish Famine and Cottier Cabins exhibition is hosted by the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, the Irish Agricultural Museum at Johnstown Castle, Estate & Gardens, and the Irish Heritage Trust. It is supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the 2020 Cooperation with Northern Ireland Funding Scheme.

Learn more and watch the videos here.

People strollng along path beside Royal Canal in sunshine

Launch of National Famine Way Passport/Guide


  • Printed passport, map and guide with 27 stage stamps
  • Local communities to benefit with expected €2 million economic impact
  • Trail available 365 days a year for walkers and cyclists

10th September 2020: A new interactive outdoor experience the National Famine Way, was launched today by the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park with the establishing of a unique National Famine Way Passport/Guide and OSI Trail Map.

The 14-page National Famine Way Passport/Guide highlights local historical landmarks and allows walkers and cyclists to record their progress with 27 stage stamps along the specially developed route. The Trail details the ill-fated journey of 1,490 famine emigrants who walked from Strokestown Park to ships in Dublin in 1847, at the height of the Irish Famine. A completion certificate is awarded at the end of the Trail at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum.

The National Famine Way is an accredited 165km Heritage and Arts Trail from Strokestown Park, Co. Roscommon through six counties to Dublin, mostly along the Royal Canal. With its captivating layers of history and culture, the Trail is designed to be accessible for families, schools, casual walkers and cyclists, through to famine and historical enthusiasts. It offers a safe, recreational option available 365 days a year in a self-guided and paced format with signposting and trailheads along the route.

The new Passport/Guide is centred around the walk of one of the original famine walkers from Strokestown Park - 12 year-old Daniel Tighe - who remarkably survived the horrific journey to Quebec, Canada on one of the worst famine ships. Award-winning author Marita Conlon-McKenna has written vignettes reimagining Daniel’s journey in 1847 and connected to over thirty pairs of bronze children’s shoes interspersed along the route.

The National Famine Way is an integrated County collaboration between the National Famine Museum, Waterways Ireland and County Councils along the route. The Trail is topped and tailed by iconic museums – The National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park and EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum / Jeannie Johnston Replica Ship. The Passport/Guide explains the historical and cultural landmarks, broken down into distinct sections from 1km to 15km, through Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Kildare, Fingal, ending in Dublin City Centre.

Describing what walkers and families are likely to experience, John O’Driscoll, General Manager of the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park said: “We look forward to welcoming official walkers starting from the National Famine Museum where they can get a real understanding of the Famine. We are delighted that we are now offering a Passport/Guide and OSI Trail Map to accompany this thought-provoking Trail where the #Missing1490 embarked on their journey. Walkers/cyclists are also given a ship ticket and information on one family whose footsteps they will follow, making the Trail especially evocative. As the Trail is over 165km long we envisage that many walkers and cyclists will wish to complete sections of the trail over time. The official Passport/Guide includes a 10% discount to the entrance price of the National Famine Museum as well as the Jeanie Johnston Replica Famine Ship/ EPIC The Irish Emigration and other Museums along the route”. *

Acknowledging the commitment and support of numerous partners in the project, Anne O’Donoghue, CEO of the Irish Heritage Trust, which cares for Strokestown Park and the National Famine Museum, said: “We would like to thank Roscommon County Council for their generous support and vision for this significant project which is designed to make history and heritage accessible in an engaging way.  In addition, the commitment over the last ten years of Waterways Ireland in creating the Royal Canal Greenway by investing over €5 million, means that the National Famine Way is now available to everyone. This Heritage Trail not only links two significant Irish Museums but also makes the connection between Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and Ireland’s Ancient East. In addition to the health, historical, cultural and arts impact, the Trail also has the potential to open up rural Ireland and offer an economic boost to local communities with cycling hire, cafés, bars, shops and accommodation all benefiting with an expected economic impact of over €2 million spent along the route.”

Commenting on the historical and cultural importance of the initiative, Caroilin Callery, of the Irish Heritage Trust and National Famine Museum added, “As walkers and cyclists experience the natural beauty of the National Famine Way Heritage Trail, the Passport/Guide and OSI Map incentivises them to explore lesser-known sections by slowly unfolding the rich local history wrapped in the journey of famine emigrants. They will also be reminded of our history, through a mix of evocative storytelling, song, art installations and cultural centres along the route. The Passport/Guide brings the historical journey of the 1,490 Famine emigrants alive by allowing them to follow in their footsteps 173 years later.

To book your participation along the route, or for more information please go here:

*Although walkers and cyclists can avail of the Trail for free, the passport is on sale for €10 and available online and from the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park.  In addition to the passport stamping, guide and map it also offers discounted access to Strokestown Park House, Croke Park Museum, the Jeannie Johnson Famine Ship and EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum.

The National Famine Way Passport/Guide and OSI Map is an integrated inter County collaboration between Waterways Ireland and county councils along the route: Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Kildare, Fingal and Dublin. It has been developed by Strokestown Park House, the National Famine Museum, and the Irish Heritage Trust in partnership with Waterways Ireland and EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. This project was part funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development under the Outdoor Recreation improvement scheme


In May of 1847, the worst year of the Famine, 1,490 people from Strokestown in Co. Roscommon walked 165kms from Strokestown to Dublin and were then transported to Liverpool.  They then boarded some of the worst “coffin ships” which took them on a nightmare journey to Quebec in Canada – only half of those who set-off arrived in Quebec.

The group of walkers, who subsequently became known as the “Missing 1,490”, were tenants of the local landlord Major Denis Mahon who offered them the grim choice of emigration (through “assisted passage”) or starvation on their blighted potato patch farms or a place in the terrifying local workhouse. The story of the #Missing1490 has led to a research programme by the University of Toronto to uncover the life stories the ‘#Missing 1490’ which is slowly following family threads in America and Canada.

Strokestown Park and the National Famine Museum

Archival documents discovered in Strokestown Park House reveal that 1,490 men women and children were “walked” under the close surveillance of the Mahon estate bailiff John Robinson along the canal towpaths, from Strokestown to the Quays in Dublin and then on to Liverpool where they boarded four different ships for the perilous voyage to Quebec.  Since 2015, Strokestown Park House & The National Famine Museum has been managed by the Irish Heritage Trust, an independent not-for-profit organisation. 

Take the Trail


The Irish Heritage Trust is to host the historical exhibition "A Forgotten Polish Hero of the Great Irish Famine: Paul Strzelecki’s Struggle to Save Thousands" at its properties during the summer and autumn 2020.  This exhibition by the Polish Embassy in Dublin explores the fascinating life and achievements of one of the great humanitarians of the 19th century, whose contributions to Irish Famine relief have yet to be widely known and commemorated.  The tour of the exhibition begins at the National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park, Roscommon from 1st July to 4th August.  

“The Irish Heritage Trust is delighted to display this exhibition at the National Famine Museum and at our other historic properties in the summer and autumn; Fota House & Gardens, Cork  (15th August – 4th October) and Johnstown Castle, Estate, Museum & Gardens, Wexford, (17th October – 29th November),” said Dr. Emma O’Toole, Collections & Interpretation Manager at the Irish Heritage Trust. The exhibition is in English and entrance is included in the entrance fee to the property.

Count Paul (Paweł) Strzelecki, a world-renowned Polish explorer and scientist, volunteered to work in Ireland to combat raging Famine over a three-year period (1847-49) as the main agent of the British Relief Association (B.R.A). Despite suffering from the effects of typhoid fever he contracted in Ireland, Strzelecki dedicated himself tirelessly to hunger relief. His commitment was widely recognized and praised by his contemporaries, and this exhibition endeavours to bring his achievements and legacy back into the public eye.

The content of the exhibition was commissioned by the Polish Embassy from leading experts in the field – Prof. Peter Gray (Queen’s University Belfast) and Assoc. Prof. Emily Mark-FitzGerald (University College Dublin) – and includes several rarely seen images of Famine relief and charity, drawn from collections of major museums and libraries in Ireland, Britain, Australia and the United States.

In order to alleviate the critical situation of famished Irish families and especially children, Strzelecki developed a visionary and exceptionally effective mode of assistance: feeding starving children directly through the schools. He extended daily food rations to schoolchildren across the most famine-stricken western part of Ireland, while also distributing clothing and promoting basic hygiene. At its peak in 1848, around 200,000 children from all denominations were being fed through the efforts of the B.R.A., many of whom would have otherwise perished from hunger and disease.

For information on other venues and dates visit


Three people looking up at columns in hall at Fota House

Fota House Receives Museum Standards Award


Tuesday 30th June 2020: On the eve of re-opening Fota House, Cork on 1st July, the Irish Heritage Trust is pleased to announce that Fota House has been awarded full Museum Re-Accreditation in recognition of its high standards in museum management, collections care, education and visitor services. This is awarded by the Heritage Council of Ireland under its Museum Standards Programme for Ireland (MSPI).

Fota House is one of five Irish Museums to be re-accredited with the top award of Full Accreditation this year which requires complying with 34 standards under the MSPI. Four more Irish Museums will be awarded Full Accreditation. Fota House was awarded Full Museum Accreditation status in 2016 and has undergone a comprehensive assessment over the last year in order to maintain this status.

In receiving full Re-Accreditation, Fota House joins the distinguished list of sites and historic properties with full Museum Standards including Farmleigh House, (Dublin) Castletown House (Kildare), Muckross House (Killarney), Chester Beatty Library & National Gallery of Ireland (Dublin).

The MSPI was established by the Heritage Council of Ireland in 2006 to benchmark and promote professional standards in the care of collections and to recognise the achievement of those standards through the Irish museum sector. The programme recognises excellence in caring for collections, museum management, education, exhibition and visitor services

Speaking about the MSPI Re-Accreditation in advance of the re-opening of Fota House, Anne O’Donoghue, CEO of the Irish Heritage Trust, which owns and cares for the property, commented:

“We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to prepare to re-open the house in a safe manner for all to enjoy once again. The recent news of Museum status from the Heritage Council is a very welcome boost for our team who have worked very hard on the detailed process to attain and maintain this prestigious award. We are delighted that Fota House will offer a new art tour that will highlight our unique art collection, and showcase new acquisitions and temporary exhibitions.”

Speaking about the Fota collection and the importance of this Museum Standards Award, the Irish Heritage Trust’s Collections and Interpretation Manager, Dr Emma O’Toole said:

“Achieving full Re-Accreditation under The Heritage Council of Ireland’s Museum Standards Programme marks a significant milestone for Fota House. It is the culmination of years of work by the Irish Heritage Trust team, by improving our visitor experience through exhibitions, new acquisitions, and conservation projects. Fota House and its collection are of local and national importance, and it is through participating in the MSPI that we have enhanced our ability to preserve and protect these collections for future generations”.

Commenting on the Re-Accreditation achievement, the MSPI Assessor stated: “It is very encouraging to see ongoing progress as the Irish Heritage Trust continues to apply and invest in standards underpinning the MSPI programme. Particularly evident is a strong emphasis on the quality of visitor experience, and a high standard in volunteer management, both of which are contributing greatly to the sustainability of Fota House, with a growing number and range of volunteers…These strengths are supported by a core of excellent collections management and care, underpinning the richness of the offer at Fota House. It is particularly heartening to hear about new acquisitions relating to the history of Fota House, adding depth to the authenticity of the interpretation”.

For more details about Fota House’s re-opening, please click here:

Investment of €5.1 million for National Famine Museum

Strokestown Park, 23rd October 2019:  Brendan Griffin T.D., Minister of State for Tourism and Sport today announced Fáilte Ireland's investment of €3.9million for the new National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park in Co. Roscommon. This is the largest investment to be made in a visitor attraction in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands over the last 10 years.

The total project cost, including funding from the owners of Strokestown Park House, Westward Holdings Ltd – in partnership with the Irish Heritage Trust – will be €5.1million.  The existing famine museum at Strokestown Park will be transformed into the new state-of-the-art National Famine Museum which will tell the complete story of the Great Famine for the first time.  The new National Famine Museum will use cutting-edge technology including projections and soundscapes to immerse visitors in the culture and day-to-day life of Ireland in the years before, during and after the Great Famine.

The museum will bring visitors on a journey through the Great Irish Famine across 11 distinct zones; from experiencing how the ascendancy rose in Ireland from 1620 onwards, when Catholics owned two-thirds of the land, to the early 1800s when the majority of the land was owned by landlords. While journeying through the museum, visitors will find out what a Victorian party at the ‘Big House’ was like before moving into the contrasting ‘Cottier Life’ zone, where life for a rural labourer is depicted in the pre-famine years, followed by sections dedicated to the Great Hunger, eviction and migration. Artefacts and documents from Strokestown’s extensive archive – which is home to the largest collection of material relating to the Great Famine – will be showcased throughout the new museum including the Cloonahee Petition. A new visitor centre and café will also be developed at Strokestown Park.

The Fáilte Ireland investment of €3.9million in the National Famine Museum comes under its Grants Scheme for Large Tourism Projects 2016-2020. The total project cost, including funding from the owners of Strokestown Park House, Westward Holdings Ltd – in partnership with the Irish Heritage Trust – will be €5.1million. This is one of 47 large capital projects Fáilte Ireland is supporting across the country – all of which are designed to deliver new and significantly enhanced experiences. According to Fáilte Ireland’s Director of Product Development, Orla Carroll, the redeveloped museum “is expected to bring 50,000 more visitors and €13.2million in additional revenue to the region over the next five years”.

During his visit to Strokestown Park, Minister of State Brendan Griffin, said:
“For the first time, Ireland will have a museum dedicated to telling the local, regional and national story of the Great Famine and the immense and devastating impact it had on Ireland. This is not only an important museum for Irish citizens, it will also stand out to overseas visitors looking to immerse themselves in one of the most significant periods of our country’s history. The Government is proud to support innovative visitor experiences like this which are critical in reinforcing Ireland’s reputation as a top-class visitor destination and, in turn, stimulating job creation across the country.”

(Left to right) Mary Stack of Fáilte Ireland, John O’Driscoll, General Manager Strokestown Park and the National Famine Museum, Jim Callery of Strokestown Park and Westward Holdings, Clare McGrath, Chair of the Irish Heritage Trust and Orla Carroll, Fáilte Ireland.

Welcoming the investment, Anne O’Donoghue, CEO of Irish Heritage Trust, said:
“The National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park House and the truly remarkable Strokestown Famine Archive tell many compelling stories of the Great Irish Famine and offer enormous potential for Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. The Irish Heritage Trust is delighted with this opportunity to create a distinctive and engaging experience at the National Famine Museum, while offering a sustainable heritage visitor experience for future generations to enjoy. We would like to thank Fáilte Ireland and our partners Westward Holdings Ltd, Jim Callery and Patrick Kenny for their significant investment and support which enables us to realise this world-class heritage tourist attraction of national and international importance”.

Fáilte Ireland’s Director of Product Development, Orla Carroll, added:
“Tourism in Ireland has experienced serious growth in recent years, but this growth is slowing due to a range of factors including the uncertainty caused by Brexit. This means that we cannot rest on our laurels when it comes to developing top-class visitor experiences, particularly in the context of strong competition overseas. The National Famine Museum will appeal to what our core markets are actively looking for – immersive experiences that bring to life the moving stories that have shaped Ireland’s heritage and culture. This is our largest investment in a visitor attraction in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands in the last ten years. It will be a major draw to the area and will bring significant visitor numbers and revenue to the wider region.”


Conservation in Action at Johnstown Castle

During July and August 2019, one of our most valued artworks, the portrait of Hamilton Knox Grogan Morgan and his family by the artist E. T. Parris, was conserved by painting conservator, Pearl O’Sullivan. This painting has resided in the castle since its completion in the 1830s and over the years, layers of dust, UV light and gaseous pollutants caused the surface of the painting to become yellowish in colour and the varnish to desaturate, which created a pattern of cracking to appear across the paint surface.

This important piece of artwork was moved from the Dining Room to the Flag Hall, where - over the course of five weeks - discoloured varnish was removed and retouched, which brought the artist’s palette back to the forefront. Visitors to the castle were able to look on and enjoy 'conservation in action' while Pearl conserved the painting by removing layers of surface dirt that had gathered on the painting since it was first created in the mid-nineteenth century.

Pearl painstakingly removed the surface damage, while simultaneously retouching areas that had deteriorated. She then re-varnished the painting using a conservation grade synthetic resin, which will protect the painting, giving it long-lasting stability for up to one hundred years. On completion of this restoration work, during National Heritage Week in August  Pearl gave a talk to members and volunteers, taking them through her discoveries and the different conservation stages involved.

Watch a short clip of the restoration taking place by clicking here