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STORY | Major New Collecting The Past, Making the Future Exhibition to Open at Ulster Museum

19 May 2021

Collecting the Past/Making the Future Marking Centenaries 2021 is a major new exhibition at the Ulster Museum exploring the impact and legacy of the events of 100 years ago while encouraging visitors to reflect on the future.

The exhibition draws 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. 

It 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 around some of the issues they feel are most important as we move into the future. 

Niall Kerr, Project Manager of the Making the Future Project at Nerve Centre continued: '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.'

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

Visitors are asked to pre-book time slots online to visit.