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National Museums NI and Nerve Centre Announce Major Exhibition Exploring Centenary

Collecting the past exhibition at Ulster Museum
Ulster Museum
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Ulster Museum will reopen with a major exhibition to mark the centenaries of partition and Northern Ireland. ‘Collecting the Past/Making the Future. Marking Centenaries 2021’ will explore the impact and legacy of the events of 100 years ago while encouraging visitors to reflect on the future. 

The exhibition is part of Making the Future, a cross border cultural heritage programme from National Museums NI, Nerve Centre, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and Linen Hall Library, funded through the PEACE IV programme which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

The unique exhibition is part of National Museums NI’s 100 Years Forward programme, a planned multi-site series of activities throughout 2021, marking the centenary of Northern Ireland.  The programme builds on previously delivered exhibitions including ‘Remembering 1916’ and ‘Poppies – Weeping Window’ that also marked the Decade of Centenaries.

‘Collecting the Past/Making the Future. Marking Centenaries 2021’ will draw objects from key collections at National Museums NI, and from partners across the island, to offer a view of the events up to and around partition and the formation of Northern Ireland. The exhibition explores events over the past 100 years and shows how they are relevant to us today and how the legacy of partition has had an impact on our lives.

Over 200 objects are on display within the exhibition which includes a series of portraits by Sir John Lavery including one of John Redmond, on loan from the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin and a portrait of James Craig, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.  Other highlights include an NHS Tribute quilt loaned by the North Down & Ards Volunteers Scrubs Group; a t-shirt showing support for the 2019 Harland and Wolff shipyard workers protest from the LGBT community and a bomb disposal suit.

William Blair, Director of Collections for National Museums NI, said:

“After such a prolonged closure, we are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to the Ulster Museum with this significant exhibition. Collecting the Past/Making the Future. Marking centenaries 2021 showcases objects that illustrate events and experiences from the past 100 years to encourage reflection on partition and the formation of Northern Ireland.

“The objects on display will mean different things to different people. In fact, to some degree, the audience will curate their own experience.  Visitors will also be encouraged to become active participants in the exhibition and contribute their viewpoints about our collective future of the next century.  The exhibition looks at the diversity of identities in Northern Ireland and we hope to encourage conversation and debate about, not only the past, but also the future.  Visitors will have the opportunity to have their say on issues they feel will be important in the next 100 years, contributing to an active discussion both within the exhibition and online.”  

Interactive displays in the exhibition include a large-scale, visitor-controlled projection asking the public to contribute their voice on some of the issues they feel are most important to them personally as we move into the future.

Niall Kerr, Project Manager of the Making the Future Programme at the Nerve Centre said:

“Making the Future is about giving the public opportunities to engage with our past, learn how it has shaped our present and to project ideas for the future. The impact and legacy of the events of 100 years ago are critical to understanding our shared history and the Collecting the Past/Making the Future exhibition is a unique opportunity for visitors and participants to understand some of the issues that have shaped the lives we lead today.

“Making the Future gives a voice to people of all ages and backgrounds, and we’re delighted to include the voices of some of our younger participants as recordings in the exhibition as they reflect on collections that speak to issues of conflict, culture, society and identity. Throughout 2021 there will be increased opportunities for the public to get involved in innovative community engagement programmes and activity.”

William concluded:

“All of our teams across our four museums are genuinely excited about opening the doors to visitors again after five months.  We will be taking every precaution to offer visitors safe and enjoyable experiences.”

Admission to Ulster Museum and the ‘Collecting the Past/Making the Future. Marking Centenaries 2021’ exhibition is free.