Anna in Dublin – GPO Museum
The GPO or General Post Office is one of the most important buildings in all of Irish history.
It is the central post office here in Dublin and although it provides great postal service, that’s not what it is best known for.
It served as the headquarters for the leaders of the 1916 Easter rising. It was outside this building, underneath the great columns, that Patrick Pearse read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic on Monday 24 April 1916. Many people didn’t take the rebels seriously until the violence started.
I got to visit the GPO Museum for the first time recently. It was opened in 2016 to celebrate the centenary of the rising and I’m embarrassed to say I had never been even though it has been top of my list for years.
Now we have had quite a lot of centenaries lately in Ireland and since I was in TY back in 2016, I had really heard enough about the rising to last a lifetime. But it’s been a few years and my passion for history has vastly increased since my mopy teenage years. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit and brush up my history.
Now whether you know a lot or a little about Ireland’s fight for independence this museum is absolutely worth a visit!
We were lucky to be provided with a guide to bring us around the exhibition. We were all given headphones so that it was easy to hear what was being said and so that the group wouldn’t disturb other guests. Gregory, our guide, was a phenomenal teacher and took us right back to basics and explained all the politics leading up to the outbreak of the rising. Our group definitely had a range of knowledge levels so this was really a great way to make sure everyone had a base understanding of the history.
Now if you have a bit more knowledge of Irish history, like myself and Dara do, there are plenty of bits of information that were new to me. For instance I didn’t know that the GPO building had been renovated just the week before the rising! Looking at the photos of the building left an empty shell after the conflict, I can only imagine the frustration of the people who did the renovations.
I was really fascinated by the photos displayed on the wall as you enter the museum of O’Connell Street throughout the ages. It’s crazy to see how it has changed over the years and I couldn’t help but giggle at the fact that there used to be trams going up and down Sackville Street. I also found it really strange seeing Nelson’s Pillar!
Where the Spire stands now used to stand Nelson’s Pillar which was erected to celebrate Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar back in the early 1800’s. Naturally an independent Ireland wasn’t too pleased with this symbol of British power in the middle of their capital and after years of debating what to do with it, it was blown up in the middle of the night in 1966, supposedly by the IRA! It was cool to see pictures of it there, untouched surrounded by horse and cart.
The museum also shines a light on the story of the children who lost their life during the conflict which I thought was a really touching addition to the museum. They even have display of stones representing the life of each child in their court yard.
The GPO is also home to an original copy of The Declaration of Independence! It was so cool seeing it in person. You can really see all the makshift lettering they used.
Once our tour was finished we sat down to watch an immersive video that outlined the progression of the rising. I have never been able to picture the conflict so clearly. All the places were highlighted on a map as they spoke about them and it followed the timeline very clearly. I’ve been to many museums in my time and watched many a video but this was perhaps one of the most engaging I’ve seen. You can understand why the museum has won so many awards!
I highly recommend this tour especially for people who have a little to no knowledge of the complexity of Irish history. The museum really does a great job at highlighting the important bits of information and making it digestible for everyone.
Nowadays you will often see people protesting outside the GPO. The building has become a place to fight for what you believe in. It’s great that the spirit of the rising lives on with us today and I’m sure people will continue to fight for what they believe in outside the GPO for many years to come.