Searchlight: Stories of the Second World War

An ongoing project to uncover stories from our collections and our audiences relating to the Second World War and the Holocaust.

The stories of the Second World War and the Holocaust are less well-known in Northern Ireland. Through ‘Searchlight: Stories of the Second World War’, we will illuminate the stories of objects that live in our collections – like those that belonged to Kenneth Brown, a young man from Northern Ireland who trained as an RAF pilot in Canada, and who later used those skills to fly evidence to the Nuremberg trials. The press pass pictured above gave him the chance to bear witness to some of the most important legal trials of the twentieth century.

Over the coming months we will be working with community groups to share some of these stories, and we’ll be creating a new website that brings together stories from Northern Ireland and the wider world.  Keep an eye on this webpage for updates.  

’Searchlight: Untold Stories of the Second World War’ is part of the Second World War and Holocaust Partnership Programme led by Imperial War Museums and generously supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. National Museums NI is one of eight partner sites across the UK joining Imperial War Museums in sharing less well-known local stories to coincide with the reopening of IWM London’s Second World War and the Holocaust Galleries. Click here to learn more.

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National Museums NI


The Belfast Blitz Walking Tour

We are launching a new self-guided walking tour with our partners at the Northern Ireland War Memorial that explores the impact of the Blitz on the centre of Belfast. Hundreds were wounded or killed in four air raids in the spring of 1941, and houses and businesses were destroyed.

Using archival photographs from Northern Irish collections – like this one showing the devastating aftermath of an air raid on Donegall Street – the tour explores the impact of the Blitz on the streets we walk today. Pick up a free booklet, that contains the tour route and archive photographs, from the Ulster Museum, the Northern Ireland War Memorial, Belfast Cathedral or the City Hall and access the audio tour on Smartify using your smartphone.

© The Estate of Doris Violet Blair



As we open up our museums once more, there will be opportunities for you to explore the Second World War at the Ulster Museum, beginning with a display that marks the 80th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz. Reproductions of photographs, paintings – like this one of a woman welding by local war artist Doris Blair – and contemporary film give a short introduction to the Blitz.

Visiting the museum is free, but please book the time and date of your visit in advance at

National Museums NI


Share your stories

A community submission area on our new website will be a place for you to tell your stories.

The heart of this project is exploring the stories that objects tell. It might be a helmet, a wedding dress, or a flag – like this one, the flag of the Indian Army Corps of Engineers 3rd Battalion A Company, brought to Northern Ireland by Cecil Kilpatrick after his service in Southeast Asia. As the UK at large begins to shine a light on the contributions of Commonwealth nations to the Second World War, the memories of everyone who calls Northern Ireland home can deepen our awareness and understanding of that era. If you have a story, we’d love to hear it.

Please keep an eye on this page for more information on how to share your stories.

National Museums NI

In Their Words

As part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, volunteer researchers have played an essential role digitising the oral histories within our collections.

We will be using the oral history testimonies of those who lived through the Second World War and the Holocaust to bring that era to life with a dedicated resource for school students.