In collaboration with National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI), the ‘Remembering 1916: Your Stories’ exhibition is one of the most significant outputs produced by the ‘Living Legacies 1914-18’ WW1 public engagement centre. Exploring the significance of the centenary of 1916, the exhibition divided into four main sections – ‘The Easter Rising’, ‘The Battle of the Somme’, ‘War and Society’ and ‘Legacy’.
‘Remembering 1916: Your Stories’ exhibited selected WW1 objects drawn from public engagement roadshows across Northern Ireland held in 2014-2015. Collaborating with the object owners, the Living Legacies and NMNI researchers produced in-depth narrative accounts of the meaning and history behind each personal object.
The exhibition was hosted by the Ulster Museum, Belfast. One of the most compelling stories to emerge from this project was the “bloodied notebook”, owned by a soldier who was killed at the Battle of the Somme, one of the most brutal battles of WW1.
The exhibition was a collaboration forged between Living Legacies 1914-1918 researchers and the curatorial staff and directors at National Museums Northern Ireland. The public engagement roadshows were led by Living Legacies attended by museum curatorial experts who were vital to identifying the objects which came to form the exhibition, as well as recording the stories about the objects drawn from oral history interviews.
What worked well and what, if anything, didn't?
Producing an exhibition is always an intensive and demanding process. The available expertise of our NMNI partners was crucial at all stages of the process. The opportunity to showcase privately-owned objects which had previously been stored in drawers, attics and suitcases allowed us to fulfil our brief of drawing out grassroots narratives of the war, and foregrounding these objects in a public, highly respected institution. The only limitations we encountered were the selection processes which necessarily mean including some, and excluding others. More information can be found here.
The public engagement roadshows began as a means by which to raise the profile of Living Legacies as a place for academic and community researchers to come together to explore the impacts and legacies of the war.
These events produced a digital community archive as local people talked about their WW1 objects and we felt that the objects and stories col lected from across Northern Ireland deserved a stronger platform, and that they might provoke some interesting reflections. As a means of co-producing outputs which showcase public engagement work, museum exhibitions require commitment from all stakeholders, but ultimately bring significant rewards.
Elaine Reid, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.livinglegacies1914-18.ac.uk
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