In Northern Ireland, history has a particularly close relationship to contemporary politics and cultural identity. Historical anniversaries and associated commemorations have frequently contributed to community tensions, as with the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1966.  Events and figures from our past are often deployed to project cultural and political messages in the present.

Museums - through their institutional interpretation of history – can provide affirmation of identity, but can also expose people to new experiences and make them more receptive to new ideas. By presenting diverse narratives in an accessible and engaging way, museums can move public understanding beyond simplistic versions of history to more inclusive appreciation of the richness and complexity of our shared past. We encourage people to engage with not only with the histories they see as their own, but also those they consider belong to 'others'. 

Over the course of this significant year, we will be presenting a diverse programme of exhibitions and events designed to explore the complex legacy of partition and the creation of Northern Ireland. It will simultaneously recognise and celebrate Northern Ireland’s diversity of identities and accommodate cultural difference. The spirit of the programme will be to explore the future as much as the past.

Collecting the Past / Making the Future

Ulster Museum

The Collecting the Past/Making the Future. Marking Centenaries 2021 exhibition at the Ulster Museum draws on 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.

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The People’s Story

Ulster Folk Museum and Ulster American Folk Park

Perfect for families, our unique heritage assets at Ulster Folk Museum (Cultra) and Ulster American Folk Park (Omagh) will vividly bring to life the real-life impact of partition. Meet characters from the past and discover how their lives were impacted by the events of 100 years ago.

Willie Doherty Where

Ulster Museum

Twice nominated for the Turner Prize, Doherty’s practice in photography and time-based media has developed from his experience of the Troubles. Since the 1980s he has addressed themes of territoriality, surveillance and identity, and more recently themes of landscape and memory. The centenary of partition is an appropriate time to take the opportunity to mount a major exhibition of Doherty’s work in partnership with FMAV Modena and supported by the British Council.

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Culture Lab: Don’t Believe the Stereotype

Ulster Museum

This innovative and high impact exhibition was launched in February 2020 and will remain on display throughout much of 2021 to support the 100 YEARS FORWARD programme. It offers new opportunities to engage with culture, identity and the history of Northern Ireland. With the tagline 'Don't Believe the Stereotype', the exhibition takes a playfully provocative approach, and includes the famous 'Differences' blackboard from the hit TV series Derry Girls. Objects from National Museums NI collections on display offer a glimpse into how identities have been, and continue to be, shaped in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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Silent Testimony

Ulster Museum

First shown at the Ulster Museum in 2015, the works in this exhibition have an important and emotionally charged contribution to make to the dialogue around the centenary of Northern Ireland. The portrait paintings by Colin Davidson (born Belfast, 1968), reveals the stories of eighteen people who are connected by their individual experiences of loss through the Troubles. Silent Testimony is a powerful response which reflects on how the conflict has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on thousands of individuals - the injured, their families, the families of those who died and the wider community.

Discover Art THIS IS A TAKEOVER!

Ulster Museum

Making the Future is a cross-border cultural programme that has empowered people to use museum collections and archives to explore the past and create a powerful vision for future change.  Making the Future has instigated a TAKEOVER of Discover Art in Ulster Museum as part of the Collecting Our Past, Making the Future exhibition.

Visitors are prompted to explore, through art activities, how they can make the future, adding to an ever-changing exhibition in the space. Working with a series of project partners, visitors are encouraged to explore themes around environment, equal rights and technology and what their aspirations and hopes are for their futures.  Work from previous participants is on display demonstrating how they have used their creativity to project their hopes and aspirations for the future, giving them a platform not only for their amazing work, but for the voices of those who have engaged as part of the whole Making the Future project.

Find out more about Making the Future here >