National Museums NI aims to take a leading role in collecting and interpreting the difficult and often contested histories of this place, exploring the legacy of our past, and providing opportunities for dialogue. On 31 March 2018, the new Troubles and Beyond exhibition opened to the public and is the result of years of research, consultation, planning and collecting. It powerfully examines our recent past through a remarkable range of objects reflecting diverse perspectives and experiences. Our approach was based on widening the scope of the collection, supported by greater academic and community engagement, to enhance our interpretation of our recent past. It represents an important step forward for the Museum and has attracted interest from visitors, researchers and museum professionals both locally and internationally. The exhibition remains a dynamic space and we remain committed to engaging in an open conversation that both informs our interpretation and contributes to our understanding.
As part of this process National Museums NI applied for the Ulster Museum to be designated a Site of Conscience and we are pleased to announce that we were successful. A Site of Conscience is a place of memory – a museum, historic site, memorial or memory initiative – that confronts both the history of what happened there and its contemporary legacies.
Sites of Conscience are places that:
- Interpret history through site;
- Engage the public in programmes that stimulate dialogue on pressing social issues;
- Share opportunities for public involvement and positive action on the issues raised at the site;
- Promote justice and universal cultures of human rights.
As part of having this designation the Ulster Museum has now become part of an international network and will have the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge and experience others around the world. The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience is a worldwide network dedicated to remembering past struggles and addressing their contemporary legacies. Sites like the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in the United States, the Gulag Museum at Perm-36 in Russia, and the District Six Museum in South Africa, activate the power of places of memory to engage the public with a deeper understanding of the past and inspire action to shape a just future. The Coalition supports its members in many ways, including providing direct funding for civic engagement programs; introducing members to a global network of similarly minded sites, helping them establish best practices and new partnerships; organising leadership and program development opportunities; offering dialogue training; and conducting strategic advocacy for individual members and the Sites of Conscience movement as a whole. The Coalition includes more than 200 members in more than 55 countries and we are proud to be a part of it.