This cross-community project aimed to attract non-visiting communities from unionist and nationalist areas in order to explore WW1.
Lisburn Museum worked for one year with four groups, two from each community area, three youth and one adult women’s group. Investing in expert speakers, the groups met one night a week at Lisburn Museum, making site visits to Arbour Hill, Kilmainham and the Somme Heritage Centre.
The project was rights based, the participants decided how they worked, what they wanted to know more about and what the final outcome was to be – a community exhibition World War One and Us. This was professionally curated by Lisburn Museum and displayed there for three weeks.
The exhibition was launched in June 2015, participants gave short presentations on what the experience meant for them. Certificates of achievement were given out, the night was a celebration of achievement and skills development. Copies of exhibition panels were given to communities to display in their own centres.
What worked well and what, if anything, didn't?
Certain groups were hard to attract as they viewed the First World War as nothing to do with them, getting through to gatekeepers of these groups was a challenge.
The legacies of the project overall include: Participants increased their understanding of the period 1912-1918, and of “the other” through experience of diverse groups working separately but in one safe space to create one single project. Museum staff had opportunities to work with non-museum visitors and to learn from the experiences of others in terms of how historical contexts are created.
The staff time commitment was a challenge but a worthy one. The project “humanized” history in a safe place. The process helped the museum rethink how it engaged with sensitive issues. Staff relinquished control of the process in terms of placing trust in the participants and not shying away from contentious issues.
Staff feel this has worked for them as sustainable learning partnerships were created where they had not existed before. If it was not for the impetus from the Decade of Centenaries initiative, this mutually enriching programme may never have happened.