FROM anti-aircraft guns, to Army uniforms and Home Rule artefacts, the War Years Remembered collection is a unique hands-on experience allowing visitors to see and touch history.
But it could be lost from Northern Ireland following the withdrawal of funding and an offer for it from a museum in Canada.
The huge collection, which covers the First World War, Second World War, Home Rule and the Home Front, has been exhibited on a mobile basis until now.
It is without a permanent home and instead travels to different venues across Northern Ireland to be enjoyed by visitors.
Yesterday the entire exhibition was laid out at an old warehouse in Ballyclare as military historian David McCallion made an emotional appeal for help to keep this collection in Northern Ireland.
“We have anti-aircraft guns, searchlights, armoured vehicles, jeeps and our Home Rule exhibition which is unique in its own right,” he told the News Letter.
“We also cover the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Irish Volunteers.
“Our First World War artefacts tell the stories of the soldiers in the trenches, and our Second World War exhibition follows the different regiments from across Ireland who went to fight.
“The Home Front exhibition is a big hit with children and ties in with the Key Stage 2 curriculum.
“As well as being educational, the collection could be a massive tourist attraction if we got a permanent home.”
Maintaining the collection has always been a labour of love for Mr McCallion but since losing funding last year, the future of the exhibition is now in doubt.
Mr McCallion said: “We lost funding just before November which put me in a vulnerable position. That is the main problem that has brought this to a head.
“A museum in Canada has made a serious offer for the whole collection. They are very into their heritage and share much history with us from immigration, particularly to places like Newfoundland.”
The museum which has made an offer for the collection is at St John’s Point.
Mr McCallion said he would prefer to be able to keep the collection in Northern Ireland, describing it as “an important part of our heritage”, and has appealed for funding help to do this.
He started his collection at the tender age of eight when his grandfather, who had served in the First World War, gave him his belt and chocolate tin.
“The biggest impact on my life was him telling me about serving in the trenches,” he said.
“This clear passion for history has led to scores of donations of artefacts.
“People come and donate their family medals, it is because of the way I talk to them, they know how passionate I am about it all.
“It’s the biggest accolade I could have.”
If you can help contact David McCallion on 07787 117271 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.