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The free and accessible visitor experience explores evidence of life dating back to the Mesolithic period using artefacts, film, and virtual reality.

An exciting new cross-border visitor experience exploring the life of our earliest settlers has opened at Waterford Treasures Museums. Researchers from the Portalis transdisciplinary pilot project, working with six coastal communities, have been exploring the earliest connections between Ireland and Wales dating back to 10,000 years ago. The Portalis visitor experience enables visitors to step back in time and discover what life was like back then for our earliest ancestors. 

Deeper understanding of our natural and cultural heritage

Launched by the Portalis project team in partnership with Waterford Treasures Museums, the visitor experience features an inclusive display of excavated Mesolithic artefacts from The McDonagh and The Bally Lough Collections and a cross-border film documentary produced by Nemeton TV titled ‘Portalis: Exploring the earliest connections between Ireland and Wales’. Content also includes 3D interactive elements and an immersive Virtual Reality (VR) experience developed by Walton Institute in South East Technological University (SETU).

The visitor experience was officially launched on Friday 28 April by MEP Grace O’Sullivan and Dr Suzanne Denieffe, Head of SETU School of Humanities, with local stakeholders, archaeologists and historians in attendance. Speaking at the opening MEP Grace O’Sullivan, commented on the importance of this project: “Exciting new data is emerging from the Portalis core sampling at Forenaught Strand, supporting the exploration of our natural and cultural heritage in the context of contemporary climate change. Protection of our natural and cultural coastal heritage and its habitats is at the heart of this project. The interactive visitor experience will create a significant resource for our coastal communities and visitors, helping to support a deeper understanding of our natural and cultural heritage.”

The work of the late Noel McDonagh

The Portalis transdisciplinary pilot project owes its origin to the late citizen archaeologist Noel McDonagh, the key experts McDonagh engaged with, notably Prof Peter Woodman and Prof Stanton Green, the subsequent voluntary work of the Creadan Waterford Estuary Steering Group and the great support of its local coastal communities. Joy Rooney, Portalis Senior Responsible Officer and Design Lead, Lecturer and Researcher in Design, SETU, added “We work with the National Museum of Ireland, National Monuments Service and a wide range of stakeholders locally, nationally and in Wales, exploring evidence based accessible narratives, supporting the protection of our coastal heritage for our six coastal communities and their visitors, in this time of climate change.”

Entry to the Portalis visitor experience at Waterford Treasures Museum is free, with no prior booking required. Speaking of his excitement for this new addition, Des Whelan, Chair of Waterford Treasures said, “We are delighted to partner with SETU and others for an exciting exhibition about the first peoples to live in this area, showcasing that for 10,000 years, Waterford has been a gateway into Ireland for new peoples and ideas.”

Sustainable local tourism 

With the upcoming new series of citizen workshops in Ireland, this visitor experience is the next step towards creating the Portalis permanent visitor experience resource at Waterford Treasures Museums later this year adding to the rich tapestry of sustainable tourism locally.

The Portalis project, €1.95m, is supported with €1.5m funding from the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme. The project is led by South East Technological University and is supported by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Ceredigion County Council and Waterford Chamber of Commerce.

Main Photo Caption: Dr Suzanne Denieffe, Head of South East Technological University School of Humanities: Des Whelan, Chairman of Waterford Treasures Museums & Mount Congreve Gardens; Joy Rooney, Portalis, Senior Responsible Officer and Design Lead, Lecturer and Researcher in Design, South East Technological University (SETU); Cllr. Lola O’Sullivan, Deputy Metropolitan Mayor, Waterford City & County Council; Gerald Hurley, Chief Executive, Waterford Chamber of Commerce; Rosemary Ryan, Acting Curator/Manager, Waterford Treasures Museums in the Viking Triangle; Grace O’Sullivan , MEP for Ireland South.

Photo Credit: Patrick Browne, Brownes Photography