On Good Friday the Ulster Museum will open their new The Troubles And Beyond gallery.
When the Ulster Museum reopened its doors after refurbishment in 2009, it didn’t take long to walk through the drab gallery devoted to Northern Ireland’s most recent history. A stack of books and some soft seating encouraged visitors to read what academics and historians had written about the Troubles, rather than interact with objects in the way they could when looking at ancient history a few hundred feet away in other galleries.
William Blair, director of collections, commented at the launch that the museum’s thinking and approach had “evolved” since 2009.
“The most important difference from the previous gallery is that this is now a collection-based exhibition. The gallery’s new title ‘The Troubles And Beyond’ captures the sense of the impact on society, something we’ve amplified based on feedback from museum visitors.”
Chief executive of National Museums NI, Kathryn Thomson, explained that the Ulster Museum has worked closely with the public, international museums and with universities and academics to curate the new exhibition.
“It’s a complex and challenging project that goes to the core of our role and purpose as a museum in this society. Unlike the previous gallery, we are displaying many objects. It’s a shared space, multiple perspectives can be represented and multiple voices can be heard. This gallery is a place to start a conversation.”
The collection includes items sourced from the public and has been supported by supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. A programme of events will follow the gallery’s opening and the collection will continue to evolve and be updated.
Kathryn Thomson and William Blair walked around the new gallery and talked about the collection.
Organised by decades, the exhibition isn’t afraid to present objects that come from right across the security forces, paramilitaries, political parties, organisations and members of the public. A CS gas canister and other RUC memorabilia are mounted in a display case a few feet away from an IRA beret and republican material. Loyalist material is nearby too.
A wreath recovered by the man who laid it at the Enniskillen cenotaph sits alongside the striking front page of The Impartial Reporter reporting on the Poppy Day bomb. There’s a bomb disposal robot sitting next to the Peter Mandelson’s Splitting Image puppet. A Brexit poster is mounted next to a steward’s tabard from the flag protest.
And you’ll find Mary Peters’ gold medal, a picture of Barry McGuigan and a Love Equality badge elsewhere in the exhibition.
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about and reports from civic, academic and political events, reviews cultural performances, chairs discussions, and live-tweets, streams and records lectures and conferences. He delivers social media training, coaching and consultancy, produces podcasts, is a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, FactCheckNI board member, and is a member of the Corrymeela Community.