Exhibition captures reality of Troubled Northern Ireland

From the Women of Belfast series by FE McWilliam
From the Women of Belfast series by FE McWilliam

In a decade that saw Nelson Mandela freed and elected president of South Africa, the beginning of the Gulf War, Harry Potter arriving on bookshelves and the appearance of the Euro, Northern Ireland was wading through the fourth decade of the Troubles. Daily searches, bomb alerts, no-go areas, what was life like for those living in 1990s Northern Ireland? The Linen Hall Library is revisiting these turbulent times with an exhibition entitled We Lived It based on an oral history project capturing the day to day reality of life during the conflict. The display can be viewed at the library from August 2 until August 30.

On display will be an array of social history items such as key rings, badges, and t-shirts branded with slogans and logos from the 90s. There is also a small section of the HM Prison Maze wall (drilled out to make room for a television set).

Troubles-themed artwork by important local artists Sean Hillen and sculptor FE McWilliam has been loaned to the library by Newry and Mourne Museum and the FE McWilliam Gallery. This includes a piece from McWilliam’s well-known series Women of Belfast, a series of sculptures the artist created in response to the Abercorn bombing of 1972. The piece on display embodies both frantic movement and frozen horror.

A revealing oral history archive has also been assembled capturing people from all walks of life in Northern Ireland relaying their memories of difficult, and sometimes even humorous, times navigating through this very abnormal situation. Visitors can listen via MP3 players incorporated into the exhibition.

There will be a Divided Society – Reminiscence workshop on Monday August 21 at 1pm. This free event will invite people to discuss the project, listen to the oral archives and have an opportunity to put forward their own memories.

Divided Society education and outreach officer Rachel Brady says: “The Library’s Divided Society Project is delighted to launch this thought-provoking exhibition based on the Linen Hall’s Troubles collection which now numbers over 350,000 items. We worked extensively with community groups to gather a large selection of audio interviews which capture the good, the bad and the ugly days of 90s Northern Ireland.”

We Lived It is part of the Divided Society project which is digitising large parts of the Linen Hall’s Northern Ireland Political Collection concentrating on the decade from 1990 – 2000. It is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Ulster Garden Villages and the Department of Foreign Affairs Peace and Reconciliation Fund.

For more information about the Linen Hall Library visit www.linenhall.com.