Global Voices, Local Choices: Diversity of museums celebrated at Parliament Buildings event
Pictured left to right: Inna Shynkevich a participant from the Armagh Robinson Library & No5 Vicar’s Hill group; Kate Nicholl, MLA; Agrippa Njanina, Project Engagement Officer, National Museums NI; Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive, National Museums NI; Rev Dr Livingstone Thompson, Chairperson, ACSONI; Eva Lynch, Development Officer at NI Museums Council; and Ali Mursi, a participant from the Ulster Museum group.
National Museums NI, in partnership with the African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland (ACSONI) and Northern Ireland Museums Council (NIMC), has been working on a new decolonisation project, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund. Taking place over the last 12 months, and designed to engage marginalised communities, the success of the ‘Global Voices, Local Choices’ project was celebrated at an event in Parliament Buildings this past weekend.
Attendees, who included Kate Nicholl MLA, reflected on the importance of providing people from all communities and backgrounds a fair opportunity to make choices relating to Ulster Museum’s World Cultures collection, and how the objects within it might be interpreted in museum spaces in the future.
Approximately 60 people took part in a series of workshops in museums across Northern Ireland, including Carrickfergus Museum; Tower Museum; Armagh Robinson Library and No. 5 Vicar’s Hill; Fermanagh County Museum; Causeway Coast and Glen Museum Service; and Ulster Museum. Professional creative facilitators supported the groups to focus on the meaning and cultural significance of objects that reflect their history, identity and culture, and encouraged open dialogue to help greater understanding into the future.
Agrippa Njanina, Project Engagement Officer at National Museums NI said,
“It’s been wonderful to witness how this project has raised awareness and understanding of the World Cultures collection and amplified the voices of people from various ethnic backgrounds. Our museums are for everyone so this commitment to community engagement is crucial. By bringing diverse cultures and perspectives into Northern Ireland’s local and national museums, our hope is that marginalised global experiences are represented as we consider and develop our decolonisation approach.”
Alliance MLA for South Belfast, Kate Nicholl, attended the event and commented on how important a role museums play in good community relations. She said:
“Diversity enhances every aspect of our lives. It makes us more creative, more accepting, more inquisitive. I commend the work of Northern Ireland’s local and national museums and partners for bringing diverse perspectives to the fore. It’s a privilege to be sponsoring a celebration event of ‘Global Voices, Local Choices’ at Parliament Buildings. Their transformative decolonisation project doesn’t just raise awareness and understanding of different perspectives, it inspires us all to be more inclusive.”
The reflections of the participants, whether through art and crafts, music and dance, poetry or creative writing, are being displayed and interpreted in the museums to encourage better public understanding and celebration of diversity in Northern Ireland.
Takura Makoni, Policy Officer at ACSONI said:
“We’re delighted to partner on this project and pleased with the progress made. The need to do justice to the memory and heritage of ethnic communities is clearly appreciated. This project’s approach - empowering people to share their thoughts through creativity - has helped participants share valuable insights that will ultimately help us all to become more connected into the future.”
In 2022 Ulster Museum launched Inclusive Global Histories, an exhibition which demonstrates a commitment to decolonisation, diversity, and inclusion. It positions the need to better understand the complex global stories of thousands of items within the World Cultures collection - how and why they came to be here, how they may be shared with audiences, and what options there might be for their future.
Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive at National Museums NI, said:
“The legacy of Global Voices, Local Choices project will be significant to our work long into the future. By increasing representation and facilitating respect, tolerance and understanding, museums and their collections can play a greater role in promoting diversity and inclusivity.”
NI Museums Council Director, Dr Johnathan Dalzell said:
“Northern Ireland Museums Council is delighted our member museums came together to engage their respective communities in this journey of mutual learning and understanding. Raising awareness of the rich complexity and diversity of cultural heritage and identities is a priority for the sector as it challenges misconceptions and promotes empathy and understanding.”