Project Description

Allihies Copper Mine Museum

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’.

What we delivered

Operating at the time as Sandmount Studios, Theo produced a complete small museum. It included

  • a handling collection of tools and minerals
  • bespoke displays fashioned out of board and oiled steel with detailed interpretive content
  • images, maps and illustrations printed on display boards
  • bespoke individual displays in Perspex/glass/board
  • built-in storage areas
  • interactive digital model of the evolution of the world
  • digital multi-screen model of ‘The Man Engine’ (a unique ‘elevator’ used in the mine)
  • mechanical, two-metre wall-mounted model of a steam engine operated by putting a coin in a slot
  • a hand-turned crusher machine
  • large illuminated Perspex scaled model of the mines’ underground workings.

He also designed the logo and branding for the museum in collaboration with a colleague, still in use today. With Aileen O’Connor, he developed an audio tour for the museum, translated into Irish, French, Dutch and German.

Interpretive Content
Interactives & Models
Interactives & Models


The 2011 winner of two awards from the UK’s Association of Industrial Archaeology, including ‘best site visited’. An iconic local attraction and busy social and cultural hub for both locals and visitors. The museum has continued to receive positive reviews on Trip Advisor.

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