Strokestown Famine Museum
STUDIO / DESIGNER
Exhibition, Pop-up and Set Design
Structures & Spaces
Kelbuild (Main Contractor), E Clarke (Electrical Installation), Lighting Design (Lightsource), Marcon Fit-Out Ltd (Fit-Out), Graphic Print Production (Leach & Alexander Boyd Displays), DJ Willrich Ltd (AV Hardware), Noho Ltd (AV Content), Click Netherfield (Display Cases), Artefact Mounting (Tony Jones), Artefact Conservation (Oxbindery), Hard Landscaping Specials (Hardscape & Irish Stone), Acoustiguide (Audio Guides), Illustration (Sam Hunter & David Goodman)
Historical Advisory Panel:
o Professor Christine Kinealy, Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University
o Professor Mark McGowan, University of Toronto
o Dr Ciaran Reilly, Maynooth University
o Michael J. Murphy, Head of Cartography, University College Cork
Design Challenge and Design Ideas
Strokestown Park and the National Famine Museum in County Roscommon is one of the most important heritage
destinations in Ireland, dedicated to the impact and legacy of the Great Irish Famine. Tandem were commissioned by the Irish Heritage Trust to deliver a compelling and emotive visitor experience, telling the story of one of Ireland’s greatest tragedies through the lens of the vast Strokestown estate archive.
This archive of around 55,000 documents offers a complete record of the economic and social history of the estate over a 300-year period, and sheds light on the harrowing experiences at Strokestown during the Great Irish Famine. Our interpretive design principles included a commitment to authenticity, the utilisation of the extensive estate archive, the scope for dialogue and international conversations within the Museum and the creation of a reflective experience that sensitively explored the legacy of the Famine.
How the brief was fulfilled
The Strokestown project was completed in two phases. In phase one, we undertook a scoping exercise and developed an extensive Interpretation Plan for the entire Strokestown estate, including a new exhibition for the National Famine Museum.
This plan explored how the site could be used to its full potential and presented an updated and dynamic visitor experience that would appeal to a broad audience.
In phase two, Tandem applied the design strategy to deliver a state-of-the-art, multi-sensory, interpretation-rich visitor experience for the National Famine Museum. Working closely with an external historical advisory panel assembled by the Irish Heritage Trust, we undertook extensive research, drawing on the rich primary source archive at Strokestown Park, to develop the narrative content and AV briefs for the new exhibition. With themes and topics agreed, we produced the complete interpretation design scheme for the Museum (encompassing all interpretive delivery mechanisms and graphic/visual language) from concept to detailed design and artwork, which included interpretation for the new visitor orientation and arrival space designed by AXO Architects. All elements of the design were thoroughly co-ordinated with the wider design team and appointed building contractor.
Our design explores the parallel lives of Strokestown’s aristocratic landlords and their tenants during the Famine period, incorporating a range of delivery mechanisms to support the compelling story. Visitors are taken on an immersive journey through the Museum, using local and national stories from this harrowing period in Ireland’s past to bring them dramatically to life. Evocative large-scale illustrations contribute to the atmosphere of the exhibition, enhanced by historic photographs and a carefully curated selection of artefacts from the archive. Soundscapes, projections, immersive sound/light displays and touchscreens help to bring people from the Famine period to life, through original scripts informed by archive material. We
designed an accompanying activity trail for younger visitors to the museum, to help them engage with the challenging story in a meaningful and age-appropriate way.
We procured and art-directed AV content development and supervised the fit-out installation. At all times, design choices ensured that a coherent and compelling narrative was retained across the whole Strokestown estate.
I loved the fact that they took the time in phase one to understand how best to use the assets to create the most compelling story. The atmosphere created feels appropriate to the content and the context."