Most of the accounts you have read recently – of daring adventures and jaw-dropping journeys right across the furthest reaches of the globe – exist only in an online and, let’s face it, somewhat fleeting form. It’s a slightly sad fact about the world we’ve come to inhabit today that the most gruelling tales or most fantastical physical accomplishments are only flicked through briefly on the web browser; one eye on the photography, the other haphazardly skimming the text. As soon as you’re finished, or even before, we click off, onto emails or pictures of cats or whatever. The greatest achievements of adventuring become transient at best, disappearing like a stone to the bottom of the dark depths of our virtually-decimated attention span, with barely a ripple to show they were ever there in the first place.
It’s one of the reasons why I am so excited about the upcoming launch of Sidetracked’s print magazine, as to my mind it represents an opportunity to the take the very best stories we as journalists can possibly source from the outdoor community and present them to you – the reader – in a form and style worthy of lasting, and of remembering about. But the reason I’m writing this short editorial is on behalf of an organisation that has taken the idea of a lasting adventure legacy one step further; I wish to pen my support for the newly announced Explorers Museum in Charleville Castle, Tullamore, Ireland, which is about a 90 minute drive from Dublin.
There are, of course, many museums around the planet that exhibit items and artefacts found as a result of exploration in far off lands. But as far as I know not one of these – until now – has shown an expressed aim to celebrate the very process of exploration itself, in all its forms, both historically and in the modern day. The opening exhibit of the Explorers Museum will feature a collection based on Sir Charles Howard-Bury, the Anglo-Irish explorer and adventurer who lead the first team to attempt to summit Mount Everest in 1921 alongside the legendary mountaineer George Mallory.
Charleville Castle was Howard-Bury’s ancestral home. Indeed I’ve been there, as part of my personal connection with the man, after my own expedition to celebrate the centenary of his journey down the Post Roads of Eastern Kazakhstan in 1913. The castle, a grandiosely gothic affair, is a brilliant and fantastic space, one that had hit upon hard times in the recent past. Apparently being a building with British roots in Ireland is not conducive to receiving much central state support, no matter how impressive the architecture may be there. Instead, the grounds are maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers, who have put in a fanatical amount of hard work to raise the building back from the brink of utter ruin.
Navigating through the labyrinth of the site is an adventure in its own right. And that’s part of the reason why I’m excited about the announcement of this museum for explorers; if ever there was a building that really screamed out ‘exploration’ with all its heart and soul this would be the one. As I’ve already mentioned, this castle will offer the opportunity for the very spirit of adventure to be exhibited, rather than usual the results, findings and sterilised end-products of such trips. It will also offer a permanency somewhat lacking in the paper-castles of knowledge built on our backlit screens. Finally, as a Global Expedition Base, adventurers from all around the world will be able to seek out solitude and a mutually-supportive environment to etch into reality the vastness of the visions inside their heads.
It’s really great to see this castle opening up as a space to celebrate exploration as an intrinsic part of the human spirit. We should support more initiatives like this.
If you would like to know more about the Explorers Museum, please visit: http://explorersmuseum.org/