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Living history at the Fermanagh County Museum

Toni Johnson, wife of the late Gordon Johnson, donated a large part of their collection to the museum.  Here she is pictured with a clamp for attaching silver foil to wine bottles    RMG84

Toni Johnson, wife of the late Gordon Johnson, donated a large part of their collection to the museum. Here she is pictured with a clamp for attaching silver foil to wine bottles RMG84

 
THE rich history and heritage of Fermanagh is being brought to life at the new, refurbished County Museum at Enniskillen Castle. 
 
The museum, which has been shut for most of the year for the work to take place, is currently putting the finishing touches to its exhibits and installations ahead of its official re-opening on August 22, and last week the Herald was lucky enough to be allowed in for a sneak-peak preview of what awaits visitors. 
 
Housing various galleries including exhibits on the county’s earliest settlers, its rich early Christian history, local community heritage, and modern art, the new build is also home to Fermanagh Visitors Centre, a new cafe and shop, and Fermanagh Genealogy. It provides stunning, sweeping views of Enniskillen and Lough Erne, access to archives, the ability to change and update its exhibits, and a wealth of space for the local community to use for events and activities. 
 
Sharing the site with the Inniskillings Museum, the castle now acts as a one-stop-shop for visitors arriving in Fermanagh. 
 
“It’s the introduction point to the heritage of the county, so everything is under one roof making it very easy for everyone to discover more,” said museum manager Sarah McHugh. 
“If you’re a visitor and you want to have a first introduction to the heritage of the area you can come here and find out more.” 
 
Referring to the emphasis on the views from the building’s windows, Ms McHugh said you could see the entire history of the castle without leaving the building, from the Medieval Maguires’ keep, to the more modern military history. 
 
“The castle is here because of the water and the connection with the waterways. You can get views here you wouldn’t get anywhere else,” she added.
 
Ms McHugh said the new building “really opens up the castle site, signposting the wider heritage and making the link, making it connected to the rest of the landscape and the townscape” and made it accessible for the community “to use in different ways” and “to take ownership of the castle.” 
 
Ms McHugh said the museum’s new ability to rotate the items on display meant people had a reason to come back over and over again, and added a key part of the development had been the museum’s interaction with the local community. 
 
“It wouldn’t have happened if people hadn’t donated or leant objects, and also the stories behind those objects,” she said. 
 
Such invaluable contributions have come from people like Toni Johnston, wife of Gordon Johnston, whose famous shop full of curious items and beautiful everyday objects with the ability to transport people back to an age not-so-long passed has been painstakingly recreated at the museum, and from the McKeagney family who have donated their father Johnny McKeagney’s vast folklore archive, including countless drawings, which now forms the Fermanagh Hearth Gallery, preserving the importance of the Fermanagh home in terms of rural heritage and tradition.   
 
Or from talented local artists who have donated pieces to the gallery, such as Mavis Thompson who kindly gifted the museum with an emotionally-crafted piece representing the musical talents of celebrated Fermanagh composer Joan Trimble. 
 

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA