The Irish Wake Museum has been officially opened today by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O'Brien.
The Irish Wake Museum is located at the former Dean John Collyn's Almshouse.
Commenting on the new museum, Minister O'Brien said, "I am delighted to support this imaginative initiative which celebrates how death has always been a community event in Ireland. I'd like to congratulate Waterford City and County Council on another remarkable conservation project demonstrating yet again their commitment to our heritage. Many people have supported this project, and I would particularly like to mention David Boles, the co-founder of the extraordinary Irish Museum of Time as well as the late Dr Tom and Mrs Marie Cavanagh of the Tomar Philanthropic Trust. I’d like to also thank the conservation master mason Brian Whelan whose craftsmanship cannot be underestimated. Finally, I'd like to acknowledge all the staff of Waterford Treasures Museums, including director Eamonn McEneaney, acting curator Rosemary Ryan and museum keeper Donnchadh Ó Ceallacháin, whose hard work and dedication brought this project to fruition as well as the support of the Chairman Des Whelan and the entire board."
Mayor of Waterford Cllr John O'Leary said, "The Irish Wake is a unique and intrinsic element of Ireland's heritage. It brings communities together, it is a time to grieve together but it is also a celebration of life. This distinct and historic act is one that holds an air of intrigue and the Irish Wake cultural traditions are held in fascination. The new museum is a distinct tourism proposition in a global sense and added to the award-winning collection of museums in Waterford City it re-affirms Waterford not only as Ireland's oldest city, but an ancient City which celebrates its own heritage and that of Ireland for its locals and visitors alike."
The new museum houses an array of objects associated with death in Ireland, which the Waterford Museum of Treasures has been collecting for the last 10 years, The museum will offer visitors an opportunity to explore rituals that are entirely unique to Ireland on a guided tour experience.
Director of Waterford Treasures Eamonn MceNeaney said, "The Irish wake is one of the iconic parts of our national culture, and visitors will get to experience a sense of this at The Irish Wake Museum as we trace the customs, traditions and superstitions associated with death from the earliest times to the 20th century.
"At the new museum, visitors first arrive at the area once occupied by a shop, the rent from which was used to maintain the almshouse, a new audio-visual showcase explores how the Irish landscape was etched by death over 6,000 years.
"Moving into the almshouse proper, visitors will experience storytelling through six rooms chronologically from the 15th to the 20th centuries, with different themes associated with death being explored. The exhibition ends by urging people as others have for centuries to Memento Mori - remember death - and to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, to rejoice in life for its own sake and understand that life is no brief candle but a sort of splendid torch which we get hold of for the moment, in order to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."
In keeping with the spirit of the founders of the almshouse, Waterford Treasures will donate €1 from each admission ticket to the Waterford Hospice Movement. The museum is now open to visitors. Further details and tickets can be found at WaterfordTreasures.com.
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