Housed in the former Provincial Bank building on Pearse Street in Ballina, the collection--whose existence is owed to a visionary local fishmonger and history enthusiast--captures the county’s turbulent as well as quotidian history. The archive is the result of Clarke’s collection of what many might have considered detritus--from maps, newspapers and photographs, to political cartoons, diaries and films. His tireless interest in the artifacts of people’s lives unwittingly led to the growth of one of the most important collections in the world, with historical artefacts such as the 1916 Easter Proclamation and the cockade worn on the hat of 1798 rebel leader Wolfe Tone, as well as documents dating back to the 1600s. The museum also offers a unique opportunity to continue recording history in its Sound Booth which invites visitors to share their own memories of Mayo for future generations.
The son of newsagents, it was little wonder Jackie took to collecting newspapers, including an impressive 3rd edition of the Oxford Gazette dated December 1665. It wasn’t until the death of Jackie Clarke that the full extent of his work came to light. News-sheets, circulars, reports, political autograph books, letters, posters, periodicals, minute books, theses and proclamations are all in the archive. In addition to the rare 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic is a rarer 1917 Proclamation.
It is now considered a centre of academic excellence, allowing scholars to view one of the largest collections of Irish historical material comprising over 100,000 items. The Collection has three distinct areas– the exhibition centre, the repository, and the walled heritage garden. You can take your time and study the artefacts in detail and then retire to the café to absorb the experience.
With the variety of media in the Newspaper Room, you can search and read world news on a touch screen and send an ecard too. In the Memory Room a pod-like sound booth entices visitors to record their own memories inspired by the collection. Political cartoons and maps dating as far back as the 1600s give you an immediate connection with the past. The letters written by Douglas Hyde, the first president of Ireland, are a significant glimpse into Ireland’s struggle with England. Rare books, hunger strike materials and personal items from Leaders of the 1916 Rising. Rare treasures such as letters from Michael Collins, Michael Davitt and O’Donovan Rossa are also on view. The exhibit humanises Ireland’s great political journey to freedom in its display of the stuff of life as well as the history-making documents which are rare treasures indeed.