Radio Museum in Cork City Gaol Heritage Centre

Previously we published a post all about the Cork City Gaol Heritage Centre.  Did you know that on the same site there is a Radio Museum which you can visit for an extra €2 per person? If this seems a bit random to you remember that RTE took over the building as it’s broadcasting house from 1927 to the 1950s so really it makes perfect sense.

Viewing the collection is self-guided but you are provided with some guide notes. The first room has a display charting some of the most influential men in radio science and their discoveries. There is even some Irish representation in among Bell, Hertz and Morse! In the same room there are small morse keys and oscillope machines and you can attempt to create some messages. It was hard work so now I know why messages were kept so short.

Wall of radio men

Wall of radio men

Next it all got a bit Fallout and I loved it. There is a huge display of radios from throughout the decades. Big ones, small ones, twirly ones, fancy ones, there was one to suit any and all tastes. My favourite one was a radio disguised as a toaster, imagine all the fun you could have with that one.  Also on display were gramophones and various bit of radio technology that I am astounded that anyone thought to make, and that actually worked! One brilliant item that was on display was a framed picture with a built in radio. Subversive and space conscious, I really would love these to make a come back. As you walked through the display soundbites from various eras of radio played, giving you a feel for what it was like to be a listener.

Radios from throughout the ages

Radios from throughout the ages

There is even a studio set up to give the visitor a feel for what it would have been like to be a part of Cork Radio Broadcasting. One fun fact I picked up from the visit was that Sean Neeson the first director of 6CK was actually once imprisoned in the gaol during the Irish Civil War. But the best feature of his studio was the radio and giant map with frequencies which allowed you to try and tune into the world. I didn’t manage to do it so I don’t think I would make a very good radio pioneer.

6CR broadcast studio

6CR broadcast studio

There were also some items of great significance. One was the actual morse key used by Eugene Ring to “leak” information about the 1916 rising to America. He did this from Valentia cable station. This is such a wonderful object to have and to have seen.

Eugene's morse key

Eugene’s morse key

Another object worth seeing was the microphone used by John F Kennedy on his visit to Ireland in 1963. It was quickly bundled away so nobody else has used it, just JFK. As it is the 50th anniversary of his visit it would be worth going to see if you are in Cork.

JFK's microphone

JFK’s microphone

So if you are in the area do pay it a visit, even to get more foot traffic through. Most people were visiting the gaol and leaving, in fact we were the only people in the radio section on our visit. I am not sure if this was due to a lack of interest per se, the radio museum was not signposted very well and only that I had read about it previously I would not have known about it myself. It does feel a little unloved up there, with dust and cobwebs among the exhibits. This is a real shame as there are some objects of real historical significance. Spread the word everyone and let’s see if we can encourage some tech enthusiasts to swing by and drum up some attention!

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