ArticleThe Irish Emigration Museum, Part II: Just EPIC!
As Neil Sedaka knows all too well, “breaking up is hard to do”. Separation is always challenging, often stressful, and sometimes tragic - be it separating from a friend, a lover, a pet, or the home country. In most cases, it's a forced decision - even though, when it comes to emigration, there is an occasional silver lining in shape and form of professional opportunities or creative self-fulfillment. Partially, EPIC is about all of that, hardships and breakthroughs. Each room is an independent exhibition exploring various reasons for emigration, such as wars, “famine that never was”, ethnic and religious oppression - as well as various incentives. Irish nurses working in English hospitals; Irish doctors saving lives in Indian villages; Irish missionaries building schools in African communities; Irish workers whose “sweat built American great cities”… Thousands and thousands of personal stories merging to create a story of the country. Hundreds of facts, figures,
interactive maps, personal belongings, and historical documents and footages.
All that is laced with occasional self-irony
and multiplied by the scope as the exhibition as a whole covers almost literally every aspect of human daily life - from warfare and politics to science, sports, entertainment, religion and social activism…
While all the above (and there is also a perfect balance between Fact and Emotion) provide for a full-fledged wonder in its own right, it also helps to shed light on the wonder mentioned in Part I - the phenomenon of celebrating something as sad as emigration. EPIC does a truly breathtaking job of planting a seed of the only possible explanation and letting it grow inside the visitors' minds. It does take time, a lot of it, because once the realization strikes, one literally stops dead in hir tracks - so seemingly impossible but completely logical the explanation is. It's also seminal because it potentially changes the paradigm humankind has cultivated for many centuries. Millions of Irish emigrants have in fact never left Ireland, they extended it! They almost literally rebuilt and recreated their homeland through their language and music, traditional Gaelic sports and typical menus, and many other little but oh-so-Irish things. They brought Ireland everywhere they went - and they stayed in touch with each other, to ensure all those “Irelands” would remain connected. That's what the proverbial soft power is really about - while barbaric countries are trying to impose their will upon others by using brute force of weapons and intimidation, talented nations win the world over by coming in peace and sharing their talent and its creations. Ultimately - by simply being their good old selves and forging connections over time. And when they do, the result is truly EPIC - because that acronym stands for “Every Person Is Connected”!