SPIKE: The History of an Island

A new exhibition currently running in Cork and organised by the Masters in Museum Studies course in University College Cork aims to highlight some of the recent history of one of Cork’s most distinctive landmarks.

Spike Island, situated in Cork Harbour, is frequently cited as ‘Ireland’s Alcatraz’.

SPIKE: The History of an Island, is a new exhibition currently running in the Cork Public Museum that features a selection of artefacts recently found on the Island.   Along with showcasing these artefacts, the exhibition explores the varied history of Spike Island.

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Spike Island is a dominant feature of Cork Harbour and has had an interesting and diverse past. Spike Island may have been the location of a monastery in the 7th century. However, its purpose changed many times. In the 17th century, it was used as a convict depot during Oliver Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland. Prisoners were transported from there to the Caribbean as servants. At the end of the 18th century, it became a military base for the British army during the American Revolution and later the French Revolution and the wars associated with these.

It was used again as a prison during the Great Famine until 1883. It was retained by Britain at the establishment of the Irish Free State. In 1938, it was handed over to Irish control. In 1979, it was used by the Irish Naval Service for training and in 1985, it became a prison again until 2004. In 2013, excavations began on the Island by the Department of Archaeology in University College Cork in collaboration with the Institute of Field Research in California and Cork County Council. The focus of the Spike Island Archaeological Project is on the Victorian convict prison.

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The exhibition currently running in the Cork Public Museum has been organised by the Masters in Museum Studies course in University College Cork. The Masters in Museum Studies is a one year programme that was created in 2014 and is run by the Department of Archaeology. It is aimed at both college graduates and existing museum professionals hoping to develop their careers. The students plan an exhibition each year in collaboration with the Cork Public Museum and the Department of Archaeology. It is the aim of the Cork County Council, in whose care Spike Island is vested, to make the island an important heritage tourism attraction. The purpose of the exhibition is to highlight Spike Island and its history.

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The exhibition, which opened in May, is set to run until November. It was officially launched on May 24th 2016 at 6pm by Mary Cahill, Keeper of Antiquities, National Museum of Ireland and open to the public from May 25th 2016 in the Cork Public Museum in Fitzgerald’s Park, Mardyke. This exhibition is of particular interest to students and academics of archaeology with an interest in local history, but there is plenty on display to interest those that might stumble through the door on a summers day in Cork.

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Admission / Opening Hours:

Admission to the Cork Public Museum and SPIKE: The History of an Island exhibition is free.  

Monday – Friday: 11am-1pm, 2.15pm-5pm     

Saturday: 11am-1pm, 2.15pm-4pm

Sundays: 3pm-5pm April – September

T: +353 (0)21 427 0679

E: museum@corkcity.ie

W: http://www.corkcity.ie/services/corporateandexternalaffairs/museum/

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