Case,  Indoors,  Older Audience,  Tours (virtual)

A museum about history is writing history (Galway, Ireland)

The Galway City Museum is, as one might guess by the name, a museum about the history of Galway. In this article, it will be discussed how the museum has changed and innovated during covid-19, and which of these implications they will keep in the future. What really stood out, is that the museum tried to connect with locals even more than before. Besides the fact that this might lead to more visitors, online and physical, it is a really nice way to help with the societal issue of loneliness that the pandemic caused. 

Background

The Galway City Museum was first established in 1971. The repository began with a residual collection of medieval stones, which were acquired from the city. The original museum closed in 2004. The new museum as we know it today, opened in 2007, and is located next to the Spanish Arch. Galway City Museum’s exhibitions focus on the history of Galway and Ireland. Many items, photos, videos and story showcase the interesting history to the museum’s visitors. The museum is a non-profit organization; therefore, entry is free. The organization’s mission is to be a center of learning, inspiration, engagement and enrichment for all of their visitors, by collection, preserving and displaying the material heritage of Galway. One of their targets is to help stop global warming. Another target is to support the local economy. Therefore, after a grand reconstruction, an entrance fee will be asked for foreign visitors. Foreign visitors are part of their target group, but also Irish adults are a major part of their target group.

The parent company of the museum is the Galway City Council, the two organizations exchange a lot of knowledge with each other. The museum also has some other partners, like the Marine Institute, with whom they’ve created a sea science gallery. Other partners are Fáilte Ireland, a national state tourism body, and, of course, Galway 2020 was an important partner last year.  (Clancy 2021)

Description

Galway City Museum collects objects and materials from the past and the present that relate to Galway. This includes the city, but also the people. Currently, the collection has over 1000 pieces of which most were donated by the inhabitants of Galway. With these donations and the participation of the locals, the Galway heritage is still noticeable. 

Not only with donated pieces does the museum keep true to the Galway heritage. The museum plans to build onto the protected building, which is adjacent to the current museum building, and thus keeping its heritage and preserving the historic building. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum started ‘’spotlighting’’ pieces from their collection online (see photo) which would not be in an exhibition at that time. The history and background information would be given. Galway City Museum hopes to be able to do this physically in the new building as well by having a little intimate room for a piece to be highlighted. During the pandemic, the museum also started offering online experiences. This was already the museum’s plan, but the pandemic helped the process along. (Galway City Museum sd)

Currently, until the reconstruction is complete in approximately 2024, the entry to the museum is free. Galway City Museum relies on donations from the public and funding from the government. When Galway was Cultural Capital in 2020 there were more funding bodies such as Creative Ireland. With more funding also came more partners. Galway City Museum often partners with students from the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) and other people and organizations who want to tell a story in a unique way, while making sure the story represents the museum’s values. For the Cultural Capital, there were wavemakers. These wavemakers are volunteers who helped with organizing. As Galway City Museum is part of the Galway City Council, they often exchange expertise and work together on mutually beneficial projects, such as sustainability.  (Clancy 2021)

Some risks the museum could experience are exhibitions not being as popular as expected or losing customers because the museum will ask a fee upon entrance in the future. However, the latter does not have to be a problem as most people who would like to learn about Galway and its heritage will often not mind paying for the experience. Having a fee will also eliminate the customers/tourists who often will only quickly walk through the museum without having a real interest.

Impact

Since Galway was chosen as a European Capital of Culture 2020, the Galway City Museum had expected 2020 to be a booming year for the museum. They expected lots of new visitors and even created a new multidisciplinary exhibition dedicated to the Galway 2020 project, called MONUMENT. Sadly, the year that should have been so wonderful for the museum and the city, turned out to be the opposite. The museum had to be closed multiple times due to covid restrictions and there were no international tourists in Galway. However, the Galway City Museum did not just throw their hands in the air. They thought of different innovations during the pandemic that might even be worth keeping after covid-19. (Galway 2020 sd)

Firstly, the museum created a virtual tour. This is an online experience where visitors can see every exhibition, including MONUMENT, in 360 degrees. Furthermore, a video that is part of the MONUMENT exhibition, can be viewed on YouTube.

Next to the virtual tour, the Galway City Museum has come up with some other online activities to engage with their community. Before the pandemic, the museum would organize mulitple educational activities for children throughout the year. They have tried to organize as many of these online during the pandemic. For instance, they organized a virtual easter camp where they had artists and speakers make short videos for children, focused on the four themes of the museum. 

The museum found that because of the pandemic, they had to focus on Irish visitors, instead of international tourists. That’s why they created Explore From Home, a project where locals made a video diary of what their daily life was like in the middle of a pandemic. This way, the locals could document history for the museum in the future. This was a great way to connect with the locals. (Clancy 2021)

Another project that the museum launched during covid, was to raise awareness for the refugees in Galway. Galway City Museum did this by letting different people tell a story about important objects and displaying these objects in the museum. By doing this, the museum enlarged the empathy for refugees among the locals.

References

  • Clancy, Cliona, geïnterviewd door Amy Tijs, Imke De Jonge, Ivana Mahes, Monica Hesselink en Lotte Stichter. 2021. Interview Galway City Museum (13 October).
  • Galway 2020. sd. MONUMENT. Geopend October 22, 2021.

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