Every so often the Irish Family History Centre (IFHC) gets a visitor who has no overt desire to find out about their family tree, does not want to buy our excellent pack of genealogical goodies, and does not want a personal consultation on how to break down a pesky family brick wall. Yet, that same visitor has come a long way to talk to us. Such an occurrence happened in mid-March 2017. We were visited by an architectural undergraduate student from Northern Ireland. What did he want?
The student was Darren Lynass [A great surname to research, if only he had asked!], and he was visiting us from Queen’s University Belfast. Everyone in his year at college had been instructed to design a building that would in some way engage with locals and tourists and promote some aspect of a region’s character. The brief was broad and the options many; this was purely an undergraduate exercise. Darren knew that the IFHC had been relatively recently set up, and he chose to design a family history centre for his local area in Northern Ireland. Thus, he had come to us for advice. The two people on duty that day were myself, Patrick Roycroft, and our Education Officer, Claire Murray.
Darren asked many questions and made many observations about the space that we were in. He was particularly interested in the relationship between the space that we have within the EPIC gift shop area (in the CHQ Building on Dublin’s north docks, near the city centre) and its impact on our customers and on us, the staff. He also asked about our ideal type of space and what ideal types of materials we would like. For me, I like relatively cosy spaces in which to work, natural light, wooden fittings … and natural rock table tops. Which is pretty close to what we actually have! He also asked about getting customers in during the ‘off season’, something that Claire was expert at answering: outreach, schools, retirement groups, etc.
I made the point to Darren that the one things that governs a multitude of decisions on setting up a venture like a family history centre [leaflet design, signage, materials, the general layout of the centre, etc] – is to make it people friendly. Family history is personal: it is about people and about generating a certain ‘warmth’. A genealogy centre needs to take that fact and apply it to every facet of the design concept and implementation. Something that we at the IFHC are continuing to do.
Darren left very happy, buzzing with ideas, and promising to keep in touch with the outcome of his project. And he made us think as well.
By Patrick Roycroft