Share your experience of the Troubles

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The Ulster Museum has invited the public in Ballymoney and Coleraine to share their experiences of Northern Ireland during the ‘Troubles’ as part of a major new initiative.

Entitled ‘Collecting the Troubles and Beyond,’ the project aims to widen the scope of the museum’s contemporary collection relating to this complex period of Northern Ireland’s history. The museum is engaging with communities to develop its Troubles archive through a series of community collecting events, collection workshops and outreach activities and is making an open invitation to the public to contribute.

An associated programme of events and activities will explore how museums and their collections can promote public understanding of the impact and legacy of our recent past.

The revamped Troubles gallery, which is due to open in Spring 2017, will provide a broader context to the Troubles period and will examine the wider social, economic, cultural, as well as political, influences which have shaped Northern Ireland. Highlights from some of the community collecting events to date include photographs by the internationally-recognised photo-journalist Martin Nangle, a remarkable collection of paintings by former prisoner Geordie Morrow recording prison life and a comprehensive and valuable archive of material from the LGBT community. A selection of these and other objects are already on display in the gallery to support the launch and ongoing development of this project.

National Museums Northern Ireland’s Head of History William Blair explains, “We have been planning the rejuvenation of the Troubles Gallery for some time. The traumatic events of the years after 1968 touched almost everyone who lived here and many others from further afield. Inevitably the interpretation of these events is contested in terms of significance, meaning and responsibility. While we have a shared past we do not have a shared memory. The intention of the interpretation of the gallery is to ensure a balanced and inclusive approach, to incorporate the wider social context of the time and encourage community involvement. The aim of this initiative is to enable the gallery space to evolve and change over time and bring more objects and the personal stories that connect them to the fore. The Troubles did not take place in a vacuum, major changes were taking place in society and the economy at the same time. The reality of life is reflected in our personal memories and the photographs and mementoes that underpin our family history.”

Karen Logan, Project Curator, stated: “We are asking the public to get involved and share their objects and stories with us. We have already engaged with local communities throughout Northern Ireland and will continue to do so as we develop our archives, collections and breadth of perspectives. As well as seeking community input, we have also been engaging with representatives from academic institutions including experts from Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University and Nottingham Trent University who can advise on overall approach, context, accuracy, inclusiveness and balance.”

The initiative is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Paul Mullan, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Northern Ireland, commented: “Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures grants have made a real difference to how heritage organisations approached their long-term collecting strategies. Thanks to National Lottery players we have been able to help museums, such as the Ulster Museum, to expand their collections, increase public involvement, refocus and shape new exhibitions and carry out new activities. We’ve been delighted to see the thoughtful work that the Ulster Museum team have delivered through their ‘Collecting the Troubles and Beyond’ project and congratulate them on all they have achieved.”

If you would like to share your story with the Ulster Museum, please contact Karen Logan via e-mail karen.logan@nmni.com or phone 028 9039 5160.