Like many rural villages, picturesque Allihies, on the north-west tip of the rugged Beara peninsula, had seen high unemployment and economic decline throughout the nineties. Telling the extraordinary story of the development of the local copper mines since the 1800s, this community-driven interpretive centre has put this special place back on the map. Today, as the Wild Atlantic Way winds through Allihies, visitors flock to learn how local life was transformed by the discovery of copper in the hills.
The exhibition echoes themes of industry and the elements. It uses free-standing displays supported by oiled steel, riveted into a floor tiled with red fired clay tiles. Visitors can handle a collection of tools, rocks and minerals, evoking sensations through touch that the miners and their families would have experienced. Interactive mechanical models demonstrate mining processes and encourage visitors to bang and grind like the miners of the 1800s. The exhibition focuses mainly on the processes involved in taking the ore from the ground and transporting it to market overseas. It also compares the lives of poor local miners to that of the mine owner in the ‘big house’.