De Valera and Carson portraits hang side by side in Ulster Museum

Ulster Museum will reopen with a major exhibition to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland and the partition of the island of Ireland in 1921.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 12:19 pm
The exhibition includes portraits of De Valera and Lord Carson

‘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.

Over 200 objects are on display within the exhibition, including portraits of former unionist leader Lord Carson and former Irish President Éamon de Valera, which will hang side by side.

Other portraits, painted by Belfast-born Sir John Lavery, include one of John Redmond, on loan from the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin and one of James Craig, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

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Weapons, uniforms, political pamphlets and posters will also be on display as well as copy of the legislation which ultimately divided the island, the 1920 Government of Ireland Act.

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.

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.

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.

“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.”

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.

Admission to the Ulster Museum is free but visitors must pre-book time slots online.

The exhibition is due to open on May 25.