International Museum Day 2021: Collecting the Past/Making the Future. Marking Centenaries 2021.

This International Museum Day 2021, we explore the theme of ‘The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine’. Our latest exhibition, Collecting the Past/Making the Future. Marking centenaries 2021, embodies this theme, encouraging visitors to take part and reflect on the future.

It is the final exhibition of the Making the Future project, a cross border cultural heritage programme in partnership with Nerve Centre that uses collections and engagement to explore the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland, assess where we are as a society today and empower ordinary people to create a vision for future change.

The Collecting the Past/Making the Future exhibition marks the centenary of the partition of Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland 100 years ago. It looks at events and experiences over the past 100 years, 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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Featuring over 200 objects from key collections in National Museums NI, and partners across the island, the exhibition explores the subjects of Home Rule, War and Revolution, the period directly preceding and after partition and the impact and legacy of partition.  

It uses these collections to increase understanding of this period in our history. It looks at the impact and legacy of partition then and now. Objects act as a stimulus to open up conversations about issues relevant to us today, including social, economic and environmental challenges and major concerns for new generations. They help us think about what our hopes and fears are for the future. We’ve also included the voices of our younger Making the Future project participants and their reflections on conflict, culture, society and identity.

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Building on new and innovative museum practices, we believe understanding and learning from the past, through the lens of our collections, is crucial to unlocking the future. Debate and discussion are part of a healthy society and the Collecting the Past/Making the Future. Marking centenaries 2021 exhibition looks at identities in Northern Ireland to encourage conversations not only about the past, but also the future.

The exhibition is a snapshot taken at its own moment in time and reflects the vision of National Museums NI to ‘celebrate who we are, telling the stories of our past, challenging our present, shaping our future’. It is a space where we can understand multiple perspectives of history, culture and identity and perhaps better understand our shared identities. Everyone is invited to take part and everyone will draw their own conclusions. In many ways, the audience will curate their own experience. 

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By bringing together all of these collections within the exhibition, we reflect on what we do as a museum and how museums collect objects and stories, with a view to looking forward. Objects on display allow us to think about where we come from, perhaps see the past differently and think about our future and how we want to shape it.

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