Roscommon Town Interactive Heritage Tour
So, you arrive in small town midlands Ireland en route to somewhere along the coast in dire need of refreshment and a stretch of the legs. It’s an attractive little place that’s been well kept and has the added bonus of free on-street parking, so you decide here is as good as anywhere to stop for a while. The town is Roscommon and you’re immediately struck by a unique heritage building right beside where you’ve parked up. It’s a structure with character, still in use and obviously well cared for but your interest is piqued, and you’d like to know a little more, but the door is shut and not due to open for the rest of the day. Then you notice to the side of the entrance gate is an unobtrusive sign giving a paragraph description about the building and a QR code and indicates that this building is part of a heritage tour. You remember you have a QR code reader on your phone (you downloaded a free one when you wanted to enter a competition on a breakfast cereal box) so you give it a go. Expecting to be brought to a website with written descriptions, to your surprise it links to a 4-minute YouTube video. The video is informative and its easy delivery by a local from the town make it very watchable with anecdotal stories and facts. Footage of internal and external features of the building not readily accessible to a visitor can now be seen by all and the video can even be saved on YouTube to view later along with the rest of the videos on the tour. You pause the video and make your way to one of Roscommon’s many welcoming cafes and watch the remainder of the video with the use of their free Wi-Fi. On the journey back to the car you resolve to book a night’s accommodation in Roscommon to take the time to travel around on the 9 remaining points of interest on the tour and learn more about the wonderful heritage of this town from some of their buildings. The Points of Interest on the Tour are: Dr John Harrison Memorial Hall, The Bank of Ireland, The Old Gaol (Stone Court Centre), Roscommon Castle, St. Coman’s Church, The Courthouse, Sacred Heart Church, Roscommon County Library, Roscommon Abbey and the Sacred Heart Home. Three of the oldest points of interest on the tour are; the site at St. Coman’s Church where the Patron Saint of Roscommon St. Coman reputedly founded his Abbey in the 8th Century; Roscommon Castle, a Royal structure dating back to 1269 and Roscommon Abbey founded by the King of Connacht in 1253. Some of the highlights of the tour include the harrowing story of Ireland’s notorious Hang-Woman, Lady Betty of The Old Gaol; The Hidden Tunnel under The Courthouse that brought convicts to the nearby prison awaiting their transportation to Australia never to see their families again; and the sad account of the effects of the Great Famine on the inmates at the Workhouse. So much of Irish History through the centuries can be discovered through these buildings from a local perspective. The other advantage to this tour is that the videos exist in their own right on YouTube and can be searched for on the internet from anywhere in the world – perfect for a tourist planning their trip to these parts. The idea for the Roscommon Interactive Heritage Tour was based on the success of its companion tour, another Roscommon enterprise, the Mote Park Interactive Heritage Tour developed by Mote Park Conservation Group and Mimar Media. The Mote Park Tour was praised and singled out by the Irish Tidy Towns Competition as being an initiative that could be rolled out elsewhere in the town. The Community Tourism Centre/County Museum in the Town is fortunate to have a group of committed volunteers who provide information and tours of the town, but it was felt that a permanent information presence at points of interest would be of benefit to visitors. In keeping with the guidance offered from the Heritage Council, large information panels were ruled out in favour of more discrete signage containing a means to access further information. Taking on board this advice, Roscommon Tidy Towns approached the Roscommon Town Team about developing the idea. Roscommon Town Team is comprised of representatives from Community Organisations, Voluntary Groups, Business and the County Council and its aim is to develop projects that enhance Roscommon Town and its environs. Roscommon Town Team’s Project Coordinator applied for and was granted funding for the project from The Heritage Council of Ireland and Roscommon County Council. Following a tender submission, Mimar Media who produced the Mote Park Interactive Heritage Tour, were commissioned by the Roscommon Town Team to produce 10 concise, informative and visually appealing videos for the tour. They worked with the Town Team who project coordinated the research of material for the films alongside volunteers from the Roscommon Heritage Group and some well-known local historians. This was a very cost-effective project, utilising the best assets of professional enterprise and volunteers with local knowledge. Mimar Media were delighted to produce this project for Roscommon Town Team and gave credit of the volunteers from the different community groups who gave of their time and worked together to see this to fruition - this project is a testament to the spirit of community belief and pride in their town.