It was such an honour and privilege to launch the Leaders and Learners exhibition in the Witness Gallery of the GPO in O’Connell Street on Friday.
The social history exhibition based on the work of Primary Schools students from City Quay National School and Drimnagh Castle National School, is part of College Awareness Week.
In this fascinating project, the students researched the lives of many of the 1916 leaders, their educational background and what they might aspire to study if they were alive a hundred years later. They also wrote about their own ambitions to attend college and study in the future.
Looking around at their colourful portraits of Grace and Nellie Gifford and Countess Markievicz, Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Elizabeth O’Farrell and so many others, I felt that I was amongst friends.
The students were awarded certificates for their participation and it was great to chat to such a bright, interesting crowd of students who had made their own of 1916 and enjoyed researching and working on all the projects which are now on display. The Leaders and Learners exhibition will run until the end of the month in the GPO.
Afterwards I took the opportunity to visit the GPO’s Witness History 1916 Exhibition, which is just brilliant. By just being in the GPO, you are already part of Irish history, but the exhibition helps to give an overall concept of Dublin at the time of the Rising.
There is a spectacular film of the days of the Easter Rising itself, which almost surrounds you and makes you feel like you are looking down at all that is happening. As you watch the leaders of the Rising talking in the GPO, they make their plans and study a map which brings the visitor to that part of Dublin and the action there. Throughout the visitor centre there are displays of mementos and uniforms, letters and even sections of the Post Office. I also found the walls covered with theatre and army recruiting and advertising posters of the time added to the experience.
Outside there is a wonderful new courtyard with a sculpture of stones to commemorate the children who died during the 1916 Rising. There is also a bright new coffee shop and gift shop and of course there is the wonderful Post Office itself, which is where it all began.
The GPO Witness History 1916 Exhibition opened as part of the 2016 Centenary, but is a permanent exhibition. If you are in the city or planning to visit Dublin, it is well worth exploring.