The launch of the 3 lives 3 deaths one life unlived exhibition was respectful, poignant and powerful – everything one could have hoped to acknowledge the incredibly difficult lives of three Kilkenny citizens whose remains were laid to rest inside the city’s Medieval Mile Museum.
Representatives from local and national government, Fáilte Ireland, the arts community and an Oscar-nominated director provided a befitting welcome to three of the city’s ancestors - ordinary working-class citizens - in a way they could never have imagined.
Speakers on the night took time to introduce and describe the age and lifestyles of the three remains featured in the 3 lives exhibition.
Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council, Peter ‘Chap’ Cleere, thanked all involved in creating the exhibition.
“It is fitting that the remains of Kilkenny’s less fortunate citizens from history now have a resting place in the Medieval Mile Museum,” he said.
Cllr Cleere outlined that Kilkenny County Council, Fáilte Ireland and Kilkenny Civic Trust had originally invested about €8million to transform St Mary’s Church into the award-winning museum and are now investing a further €120,000 into the 3 lives exhibition.
“The new permanent exhibition will add further to the appeal of the flagship attraction on Ireland’s Ancient East,” he said.
The Cathaoirleach acknowledged the work of the archaeologists and the museum team led by curator Grace Fegan as well as the collaborative efforts of Kilkenny County Council and Kilkenny Civic Trust in delivering the Medieval Museum and its new permanent exhibition.
Ciarán Conroy, CEO of Kilkenny Civic Trust, operators of the museum, said that the opening of the exhibition was a proud moment for the Trust.
“It is another proud milestone on our journey to show visitors from all over the world the rich history that Kilkenny has to offer,” he said. “I sincerely thank archaeologist Coilín Ó Drisceoil and osteoarchaeologist Lynda Lynch for their painstaking and wonderful work on this project.”
Jenny de Saulles from Fáilte Ireland said, “When overseas visitors come to Ireland, they not only want to visit these great attractions, they want to hear first-hand the stories about Ireland at that time and the people who lived and worked in the area. The new 3 lives, 3 deaths, one life unlived exhibition offers just that – it brings to life Kilkenny’s past in a way that is compelling and emotive.”
Grace Fegan, manager of Medieval Mile Museum and curator of the 3 lives exhibition thanked the museum staff for their hard work.
“Please tell your family and friends about the 3 lives exhibition and suggest they too come and experience this fascinating story about the women of medieval Kilkenny and their daily struggles,” she said, addressing the guests.
The exhibition was officially launched by John Paul Phelan, Minister of State at the Dept of Housing, Planning and Local Government.
“The objective of the exhibition was to really connect the visitor with the lives of these medieval people,” he said. “They have done this.”
The opening of the exhibition led into a most poignant and spinetingling moment in the proceedings. A bespoke choir, co-ordinated by Mary Hogan and Harry Meehan, and entitled ‘Cantores Mortes et Vitae Tres’ (The Three Lives Three Deaths Singers, in Latin) sang a chant familiar during the women’s lifetime.
The lights dimmed and representatives from Jesters Stage Academy - Marie Cashin, Laurie Moylan and Isabel Hayden - walked through the museum in burial robes, representing the spirits of the women of the exhibition. They held hands in front of the exhibit before removing the covers to reveal the remains.