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For the second part of our event we took part in an interactive workshop in Dublin Castle.  I have been to Dublin Castle on visits before and was excited to get the opportunity to return as part of my first event with NI ROI Museum Professional Network. Jenny Papassoutoriou facilitated this part of the day. DSCF0251

I have to say this was one aspect of the day I was slightly apprehensive about,  not in the sense that I thought it wouldn’t be good but it was the part of the day that we had the least control over.  Participants were given the opportunity to explore the State Rooms and contribute to a discussion based around development of the Castle.
The event began with Jenny inviting us to ‘Attack the Castle’. This may seem slightly extreme and by the looks of many people’s faces it appeared they also agreed.  This was the part of the day where our opinions and views were most needed, in essence this was where we had to do some work.!! Everyone was handed a sheet of paper with various questions that we were to answer as we ventured around the State Rooms. Jenny asked us to be honest and be as detailed as possible. We were then set loose to explore and investigate the Castle,  we were tasked with recording what we did and didn’t liked, areas that needed development and ideas for collaboration in the future.

To begin with I could see that some of the participants looked slightly lost, unsure of where to start.  I think some people were afraid of insulting Jenny, or saying the wrong thing,  however with a little encouragement and reassurance everyone soon got into the swing of things and spirit of the event.
The workshop was so much fun, everyone was enjoying the feeling of freedom in exploring the space. As you walked around you could see how much people were intrigued by the workshop and their sheets were filling up questions and answers.  The banter as we discovered the successes and failures of the Castle was fantastic.  It was a great way for the attendees to get to know each other as many of us worked in teams and shared our insights and opinions. I loved this part of the day,  it was interesting to see how the participants interacted with the space and each other.  Dublin Castle is a site steeped with history, many people visiting will have a preconceived idea of what they expect it to be.  The State Rooms are quite institutionalised and dare I say very ‘British’.  The King’s and Queens Rooms hark back to a turbulent time in Irish history and this period is something that is definitely felt when walking the Castle hallways.

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Some of the State Rooms

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Items like the Throne were interesting but also create many questions.  For instance as one participant pointed out,  who is the throne for, what king or queen? In Ireland we automatically presume it is the British monarch but foreigners won’t necessarily jump to this same conclusion. 

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After being let loose on the halls we all reconvened to share our findings. This was done simply by writing your opinion or idea in a post it and then placing it under the relevant headings which were dispersed around the walls.As one of the event leaders and organisers I felt I should set the ball rolling by places some post its up. I need not have worried about people being shy as the walls quickly filled up with everyone’s opinions and views.

The room was buzzing,  everyone was so enthusiastic and were genuinely thrilled to be given the opportunity to have their opinions heard. After some discussion we could see that there were some issues that needed to be addressed.  The biggest problems raised were that of labeling and signage. There appeared to be a complete lack of labels with no indication of where or what the items on display were. Signage in places was deemed to be too aggressive.  The feeling of there being a lack of engagement and interaction with the Castle was also felt. In the State Rooms you are very much a spectator viewing these exquisitely furnished rooms from behind a rope. This feeling of us and them was clearly felt.However there was also a huge amount of positives. The venue and location for one is fantastic.  The furniture is exquisite and it is stunning to be able to view them so close up. 

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This workshop was great. There was a huge amount of discussion and collaboration, with the attendees getting the opportunity to interact and socialise in an informal setting. Everyone really enjoyed the event. There were points for improvement and ideas for the future. Jenny later at dinner told me how much she enjoyed the day and how much she had gotten out of the workshop,  we had given her much to think about.
The event was held at the perfect time, the Castle is in a state of transition changing from guided tours to self guiding. We acted as guinea pigs testing out what worked and what didn’t. I think this is what appealed in particular to many of the participants. This opportunity to be involved and influential in the development of a national monument was a great confidence boost for the attendees.
I was delighted with how well this workshop went. It was a super workshop, so engaging and interactive. All the attendees seemed really impressed with how it went and how fulfilling and worthwhile it was. As an organiser you always worry that things won’t go to plan or people simply won’t enjoy what is on offer but that was not the case here. Everyone left excited, feeling that they had really made a difference. This feeling is something I hope we can replicate for our next event.  The workshop was so inclusive and engaging and was definitely one of my favourite parts of the day and event.

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