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The GPO's flashy new 1916 exhibit is a cross between Rebellion and Call of Duty

It opens the day after Easter Monday.

Immersive AV at GPO Witness History The audio visual screen at the GPO Witness History Exhibit. Source: An Post

AFTER YEARS OF debate over exactly how the GPO can be used to remember the 1916 Rising, the result is really very impressive.

An Post’s €10 million GPO Witness History centre opens to the public on 29 March and media were given a quick preview in Dublin yesterday.

One of the first things that strikes you about the tour is just how big the GPO is.

Despite it being a working post office with people using it every day, it feels like there’s so much to it you haven’t seen before.

First opened in 1819, the GPO is one of the world’s oldest working post offices but the tour feels exceptionally new.

HiRezGPOWitnessHistory11 Robert Ballagh's version of Walter Paget’s 'Birth of the Irish Republic' begins the tour. Source: RollingNews.ie

Before you’re led underground into the bowels of the building, above the stairs, you’ll see a large colour photograph that faces northwards over O’Connell Bridge towards what was Sackville Street back in 1916.

You’re told that this picture was taken the day before the Rising began and the bright sunshine of the day gives you a clear sense of a city unaware of what was to come.

As you enter the exhibition downstairs, there are a number of lifesize black and white cartoon drawings. They represent different political factions from the time, a nationalist, unionist, Home Ruler, suffragette and a republican.

It’s a feature that gives visitors to this permanent exhibition some background if they’re not familiar with the history of the time. 

IMG_2244 Historic cartoons as you enter the exhibition. Source: TheJournal.ie

The tour itself is a mixture of original artifacts like, guns, medals and clothing as well as several banks of interactive touchscreen games.

Always conscious of the GPO’s own history, communications is a key part of the tour with some of the games based around Morse code and the printing of revolutionary newspapers.

https://vine.co/v/igvle6uWI2l

The centerpiece of the exhibition is an extraordinarily immersive semi-circular cinema screen that shows eyewitness views of fighting inside the GPO and elsewhere.

The experience feels like a cross between a 3D movie and a game of Call of Duty with the emphasis heavily focused on how the fighting unfolded.

It doesn’t hold back on the brutal nature of the fighting either with unarmed people being shot right on front of you.

https://vine.co/v/igre1OKdvUP

It’s not completely serious though, with some stereotypical British baddies adding an almost comedic element to it.

It does feel a lot like a video game, and was clearly designed that way with younger visitors in mind.

After the fun and graphics of the film, the tour takes a turn for the sombre as you move out of the main room to a memorial for all those who fought in and around the GPO.

The alphabetical list has more than 2,500 names and can be updated as more names emerge from the military archive.

IMG_2263 Source: TheJournal.ie

But one of the most impressive parts of the tour is also the most simple. While many people may know about the courtyard in the centre of the GPO, standing in the newly refurbished yard gives visitors a chance for some quiet reflection.

The brickwork on the inside of the courtyard took seven months to restore and it shows.

Looking up at the white stone and The Spire it’s strangely quiet and you’d hardly believe you are only metres from O’Connell Street.

There’s also a touching memorial to the 40 children who died during the Rising, an aspect to the rebellion that Joe Duffy has been campaigning about for a long time.

The memorial consists of 40 pieces of black limestone that were taken from Jacobs’s biscuits factory. Itself one of the sites of Easter Rising fighting.

The GPO's flashy new 1916 exhibit is a cross between Rebellion and Call of Duty
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  • GPO Witness History

    Memorial to the children who died in the Rising.
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    A quote from Lenin in the entrance hall.
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    A first aid kit.
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  • GPO Witness History

    Irish Independent newspaper ad.
  • GPO Witness History

  • GPO Witness History

  • GPO Witness History

  • GPO Witness History

  • GPO Witness History

  • GPO Witness History

    The memorial to all those who fought near the GPO.
  • GPO Witness History

  • GPO Witness History

  • GPO Witness History

  • GPO Witness History

    The brickwork in the courtyard was completely restored. Source: TheJournal.ie

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Rónán Duffy

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