Case For A Heritage Centre

 

 

Background

Mallow and its neighbourhood are steeped in 4,500 years of history. The town lies at the heart of Munster where the major trunk routes (road and rail) between Cork, Limerick and beyond cross the River Blackwater, one of Ireland's most important waterways. It has been central to events throughout that period and has generated considerable physical and written heritage-relevant evidence. Today, Mallow is the administrative capital of North Cork. There is, however, a most serious paradox emerging. At a time when interest in history, heritage and genealogy is growing exponentially, the built infrastructure is under real threat. The years of the Celtic Tiger have seen rapid expansion of housing, industry and public amenities. While Public Authorities do what they can through e.g. planning rules and conservation orders, it is inevitable that some assets will be lost. Equally, the generation of Irish residents who lived through the tumultuous period of Irish history between 1900 and 1949 are in (or approaching) their dotage and we again face a significant loss of historical resource.

Fortunately in recent years a number of initiatives at State, County, Town, Society and individual levels have set about the unearthing, recording, cataloguing and preserving of the physical and ephemeral evidence. Unfortunately, this work is uncoordinated resulting in both duplication of effort on one hand, and gaps on the other. Because of the differing agendas, resources and motivations of these disparate bodies it is considered to be impossible to bring about any serious coordination without there being a central focal point.

The St Anne’s Heritage & Historical Society

In 1998, a group of Mallow and district residents who were all actively interested in the history and heritage of the area founded the St Anne’s Society. What brought them together was not just their mutual interest in the subject, but a realisation that the results of their freelance efforts should be available to a wide audience, and for others to access easily in future years. The best way to make this information available would be to bring together visual static and interactive displays of historical events to one physical, permanent location. The ideal solution would be to establish a Heritage Centre within or very close to Mallow Town.

Since 1998, membership has grown steadily and has attracted interest from well beyond Ireland. The role currently stands at around sixty members. The group is actively engaged in the measurement and recording of many historical sites. A vast quantity of written information is available on all aspects of the town and its hinterland.

The Society takes its name from the ruin of St Anne’s Church and graveyard, the oldest and most significant construction in the area.

The Case for a Heritage Centre in Mallow

To justify the development of a Heritage centre requires that we demonstrate

  1. That sufficient interest exists
  2. That such interest cannot be fulfilled elsewhere or by other means
  3. That the Centre would be financially viable by one of a number of means

That sufficient interest exists

We have identified the following interest groups who would be attracted by and are sufficiently interested to visit the Centre.

Tourists with heritage interests. Such persons will visit Mallow specifically to access materials held at a Heritage Centre.

Tourists passing through Mallow & district. The evidence from Cobh, Skibbereen etc. where similar (if larger) facilities exist is that such facilities, if adequately publicised, will draw in visitors who are not in the area primarily for heritage purposes.

Students At every level, students are being given assignments relating to heritage. They have no single central location to access physical and written materials relating to Mallow & district.

A significant proportion of the local population. Not only for their own personal interest but as a place to take visitors, friends and family.

It is our opinion that such numbers are sufficient to made the Centre viable based on surveys undertaken by Mallow Town Council, Cork County Council and Mallow Hub/Chamber of Commerce.

That such interest cannot be fulfilled elsewhere or by other means

If it could, the Society would never have been founded! The nearest Heritage Centre to Mallow is at Youghal and has no coverage of Mallow. There is no facility such as the library which could be adapted for the role. (Please note that the "Mallow Heritage Centre" referenced by Google is in fact a centre specifically aimed at genealogical research and has no interest in a wider role.) The World Wide Web goes some way to meeting needs in for example the life story of famous sons of Mallow, its key buildings and events of history. The web is however one-dimensional. It does not answer questions and lacks the tactile facility of a Heritage Centre. We embrace technology and our own (this) web site will do all it can to assist distant enquirers who are unable to visit us.

That the Centre would be financially viable by one of a number of means

Most heritage centres are supported by the relevant local authorities. We have approached same on a number of occasions without success.

Some attract sufficient visitors such that entrance fees alone support the running of the centre. This would not be the case in the early years of a centre in Mallow.

Some centres are sponsored by commercial organisations. Our current thinking is this is the best opion for us.

To this end, the Society is seeking to identify a Sponsor (or sponsors) willing to offer a suitable building/floor space/facility for the hosting of the Heritage Centre.

Features of a Heritage Centre

Considerable thought has been given to the layout of the heritage centre and a floor area of 233 sq. metres (2,500sq. ft.) is considered a minimum. This would be utilised as follows

Display area                  143 sq. metres
Library                 15 sq. metres
Map room            15 sq. metres
Office                             15 sq. Metres
Store room          15 sq. metres
Display preparation area 30 sq. metres

Ideally located at ground floor level with access for wheelchairs. Located near a car park which also has disabled parking. No provision is made for toilets or refreshments in this initial plan as it is envisaged that these would be provided by co-located premises. (?)

The public experience of the Heritage Centre would be in line with the proven successful format of similar facilities elsewhere. It would consist of a time-arranged walkthrough of displays, some static, some interactive, some video. Special consideration would be given to keeping children occupied while adults browse at their leisure. The target would be to keep casual visitors interested for up to one hour. Considerable work has been done on this and a more detailed presentation is available.

Action Plan

There are a number of actions to be taken to bring about the founding of the Heritage Centre


 - Identify our hosting partner/sponsor
 - Enter into a contract
 - Prepare the building/space
 - Move the Society's (stuff) into the Centre
 - Prepare the exhibition materials
 - Prepare the manpower schedule for public open days
 - Determine admission prices (if any)
 - Prepare & execute publicity (launch & ongoing)
 - Launch
 - Establish periodic reviews (sponsor/contract, display material, visitor feedback, web site)

Appendices

St Annes Heritage & Historical Society Ltd
Catalog of work done
Assets
Visitor numbers and surveys

St Annes Heriate & Historical Society Ltd.

Incorporated in Ireland in 2001. It is a limited Company by guarantee and not having a shared capital. Company Registration Number 342226.

It has charity status, registration number CHY13219.

It is a member of Cork County Development Board, Community and Voluntary Forum, registration number 06C676

As at 1st January 2009 it has 51 members including 3 honorary life members, 26 ordinary members, 7 overseas members, 15 council members of which 3 are Directors.

Principal contact in relation to the establishment of a Heritage Centre is Dan Doolan This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.