As I spoke of previously, the Volvo Ocean Race finale came to Galway and took over the entire world – or at least every part of the city that affected us. As part of the university’s participation, there was a space featuring courses relevant to the local area and the Innovation Pavilion housing the Computer & Communications Museum of Ireland.
The curator of the museum is an amazing man called Brendan Smith. Typically the museum lives in a small room on the second floor of the DERI building off campus. But during the Global Village it occupied a space that was about ten times larger than the usual space. It features communications from the very beginning with small carved tablets through to modern-day hand-held electronic tablets (of approximately the same size!). The computers featured are mostly from the UK and Ireland, along with a display of electronic devices made or facilitated by companies based in Ireland and Galway in specific. The museum contains an incredible display that does not get nearly as much attention – or space – as it deserves.
So a call went out for volunteers to staff the museum while it was occupying the space in the Global Village. A combination of my desire to see the Global Village up close along with my relentless inability to turn down a tempting volunteer opportunity and a need to keep my mind occupied before the girls arrived for our vacation meant that I went ahead and committed to several shifts at the museum.
Turns out it was a very good decision – I had so much fun! I met a several people wanting to donate their old equipment and people who had fond memories of the old computer systems being displayed. A number of people expressed wonder at how recent the computer revolution really is in terms of time. The kids really loved the old Nintendo, Atari and other classic video games that were set up. (At one point my daughter had to show one little kid just exactly what a floppy disk was and where to insert it!) The telegraph machine was also very popular. I met several people associated with DERI and spoke with interesting people of all ages and from all walks of life.
Another display included in the pavilion was a large character board painted to look like Lt. Uhura and Mr. Spock with the heads cut out so people could stick their heads through and have their picture taken. Don’t ask me why DERI would have such a thing, but it was a lot of fun and offered a great deal of amusement to the public. While I was manning this display I was engaged by a handsome young man who it turns out was an occupational therapist born in Nigeria and currently living in Ennis who asked me if I was a geek… to which I responded, “Since before you were born, young man!” He told me he was a Voyager geek who had never seen an episode of the original Star Trek (say what?!). I expressed my surprise and we talked about the virtues of all the Trek incarnations. He told me someone had given him the entire original series on DVD for Christmas but he still had not watched any of it. After some fast talking I think I convinced him to go home and watching those DVDs!
I missed the visit by President Michael D. Higgins but was on shift when the word came down that the Taoiseach (the Prime Minister of Ireland, pronounced tea-shock) Mr. Enda Kenny was going to visit the museum. The volunteers ran around prepping things, picking up trash, and just generally muttering amongst ourselves for over an hour before he finally showed up. Claude was hanging around waiting for me to get finished but stuck it out while we waited for the Taoiseach. Once Mr. Kenny finally entered the tent, Claude’s was one of the first hands he shook. Brendan went into teacher mode and began taking Mr. Kenny around, showing him the displays and explaining things. All during the visit the Taoiseach was shaking hands and answering questions, listening to what people had to say. At the end of his visit there was a photo op with the volunteers and I got my chance to shake hands with the leader of Ireland. Very cool.
Our girls arrived on the 6th of July and we spent the rest of Ocean Race week taking them around the city – with a visit to the Computer & Communications Museum of Ireland included. The exposure the museum got during that time has been potentially very beneficial. An email from Brendan imparted this information: “Sean Sherlock Minister of Research & Innovation said he was committed to securing funds for its long-term development; City Hall officials said they wanted it to become a major tourist attraction for Galway.” Here’s hoping it comes true!