Museum Ireland, Vol. 25. Lynskey, M. (Ed.). Irish Museums Association, Dublin (2015)

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museum ireland 2015 volume 25


Cumann Músaem na hÉireann


Cumann Músaem na hÉireann

Museum Ireland, Volume 25 Published by the Irish Museums Association Ltd, 2015 Editor Maura Lynskey Advisory Panel Gina O’Kelly, Anne Hodge, Dr Elizabeth Crooke Printed by Nicholson & Bass, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim The IMA welcomes contributions to this critical review. Instructions to authors are available on our website. Please contact us in the first instance outlining your proposed article or review. Views expressed are those of individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the editors or the Irish Museums Association Ltd. Members of the IMA receive Museum Ireland as a subscription benefit. Non-members wishing to subscribe should contact the IMA.

Irish Museums Association, Ground Floor St Stephen’s Green House, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2 Telephone: +353-1-4120939 E-mail: ISSN 0961-9690


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Contents ARTICLES 5      l

Craftsmanship – a word to start an argument PrOFESSOr SIr CHrISTOPHEr FrAyLING

17      l

Negotiating Public Policy in the Northern Ireland Museum sector PADDy GILMOrE

25      l

‘We may be courtin’ but are we engaged?’  COLLETTE BrOwNLEE

35      l

Ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place – Community Engagement with built heritage, stimulated by Mid Antrim Museums Service art collections BETH FrAzEr

43      l

Intercultural Programming and Northern Ireland Social Policy MAIréAD QuINN

55      l

Museums as places for intercultural dialogue and learning: making museums relevant to diverse communities JENNIFEr SIuNG

65      l

Museums in Society: New Propositions PrOFESSOr DECLAN MCGONAGLE

71      l

Beyond Pebbledash, the Museum and the City HELEN BEAuMONT

81      l

The Siren Song of Ireland 2016 HELEN O’CArrOLL

89     l

Rethinking Culture in an Age of Austerity DAVID ANDErSON



99   l

Empowering citizen participation in professional dialogue Dr DOMINIQuE BOuCHArD AND SAMANTHA SMITH

111     l

Museum Education: Adapting to Change  LOrrAINE COMEr

127    l

On Irish Wartime Commemoration: Two Exhibitions in Dublin JOHN SCANLON

137    l

PALS – the Irish in Gallipoli LAr JOyE AND LOuISE LOwE


Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design 1690–1840 Dr MArIE BOurKE

149    l

What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now JONATHAN CArrOLL

153    l

Egypt: faith after the pharaohs  ANNE HODGE

P U B L I C AT I O N S 155    l

The Cobbe: An Anglo-Irish Cabinet of Curiosities Museum NIGEL MONAGHAN

157    l

The People’s Galleries: Art Museums and Exhibitions in Britain, 1800–1914 Dr MArIE BOurKE

161    l

Museum Space Where Architecture Meets Museology FIONA ByrNE

165    l

Irishmen in the Great War: Reports from the Front 1915 JOHN SCANLON


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Craftsmanship – a word to start an argument  P R O F E S S O R S I R C H R I S T O P H E R F R AY L I N G

Professor Sir Christopher Frayling gave the Irish Museum Association’s annual ‘James White Memorial Lecture’ at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin on the 11 November 2015

Thank you for inviting me to give the 2015 James white Memorial Lecture – under the auspices of the Irish Museums Association – in memory of a writer, curator, art lover and campaigner who was one of the founders of the Association as well as being the Director of the National Gallery of Ireland from 1964-1980. when the invitation arrived, I immediately began to ponder which topic might be most suitable for the occasion, which topic was ‘in the ether’ at the moment – a topic that might also appeal to museum-goers as well as art students. I happened to be in Limerick at the time – as external examiner – and I was watching a couple of the promotional films released to coincide with the Irish year of Design 2015. And I couldn’t help noticing that although the heading of the film was ‘year of Design’, they were mainly about ‘craft’ – small-scale craft industries – rather than design in the broader industrial sense. Then I learned about how the Crafts Council of Ireland had since 2014 been rebranded as The Design and Crafts Council – and in fact I was to see the Council’s small exhibition in London at rochelle School about ‘The Irish Crafts Today’ as part of London Design week. ‘Crafts’ within ‘Design’ again. And I read about the recent exhibition at Collins Barracks of highlights from the contemporary Irish craft collection over the last twenty years or so – ceramics, glass, furniture, wood-turning, jewellery and metalwork. The literature about this exhibition interestingly referred to its contents as ‘crafts’, ‘decorative arts’, ‘the work of designer-makers’, ‘applied arts’- and ‘the presentation of the skills involved in their making’- all of which terms imply a variety of perspectives on the subject. And so it occurred to me that, in Ireland as well as in the uK, there are currently all sorts of muddles about where ‘the crafts’ sit in the spectrum of art and design activities. Nearer the art world or nearer the design world, or both? Does it matter where they sit? And what about Craftsmanship – a word to start an argument


all those craft activities that don’t touch art school land – that lie outside the categories of critics, educators and curators? And how to present the contemporary crafts in all their complexity, in museum settings? I had found my topic. Craftsmanship – a word to start an argument – a story that in my view is in urgent need of retelling. So much is in a state of flux that museums have an important role in providing guides for the perplexed. A topic that no doubt would have intrigued James white… The word ‘craftsmanship’ means many things to many people. David Pye, who wrote an impressive book on The Nature and Art of Workmanship1 – he was a rare practitioner who also wrote well about his work – always called the word ‘a thought-preventer’ – a concept ‘surrounded by a flock of duck-billed platitudes’. He preferred ‘maker’ to ‘craftsman’ and ‘workmanship’ to ‘craftsmanship’, as in ‘the workmanship of note and the workmanship of certainty as in ‘the workmanship of note’ and ‘the workmanship of certainty’. I want to explore, through a series of snapshots, whether and in what ways he may have been right. There’s a tendency at the moment, especially in art schools, to sidestep the issue by reviving labels such as ‘applied artist’ and ‘decorative artist’, which only succeed in confusing matters further. I want in my snapshots to try and confront head-on questions of ‘craftsmanship’ today. First, to set the scene: some things that have happened just in the last couple of weeks. l


— 1. Pye, D. (1968) The Nature and Art of Workmanship. Bloomsbury Publishing. New York and London


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a news story about some research from America about the ‘disconnect’ some people are feeling when they spend too much time sitting in front of screens – playing games, or watching cats on youTube, or searching for pornography, or whatever – a disconnect with the tangible world of things. an article in the latest issue of Esquire magazine, which asks the question ‘how craft are you?’, and describes ‘crafting’ – now a verb apparently – as ‘a combination of lifestyle and more thoughtful content’. Hipsterism’s fascination with all things handmade is, it continues, no longer just about the beard, the lumberjack shirt, the craft beer and artisanal coffee. Now, entire ‘lifestyles are being transformed.’ Anyone can see that craft’s time has come. In 2015, you can’t move for people whose once-resolutely urban, styleconscious and modernist tastes have gone subtly ‘country’… [They are renting desks at an East London co-working space inspired by

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william Morris; they are watching Grayson Perry reinvent potthrowing; they are reading James rebanks’s book The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District 2 and drinking ale from a microbrewery]. Note how ‘craft’ is presented in opposition to ‘modernism’, and always associated with ‘country’… Is this a reaction against conspicuous consumption, the article asks, or against the overhomogenisation of the high street and things that will become landfill in six months’ time? Is it about ecology or financial insecurity or the digital craving the analogue? The answer is all of the above. l

then, by chance, I was walking past a sandwich café in Bristol city centre in the west of England, which had a painted sign stuck outside it: Eat – Hearty – rustic – wholesome – Good – French – Natural And in bigger letters: HANDMADE with a painting of a thatched cottage in an idyllic wooded landscape.

Against that, may be: the launch of a report by LSN Global Futures Ltd – at London’s Barbican Centre – about the dangers of using the word ‘craft’ in advertising to make consumers feel more comfortable about massmanufactured goods. This tendency is now known as ‘anti-authenticity’, and one of its dangers – says the report – is that the word ‘craft’ will soon cease to have any credible meaning at all.



— 2. Rebanks, J. (2015) The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District. Allen Lane Publishing. United Kingdom

on BBC television a couple of weeks ago – in succession to singing, ballroom dancing and cake-making – there began a new competition called The Great Pottery Throw Down featuring a number of skilled contestants throwing pots and bowls on the wheel, then painting, glazing and firing them. One of the potters, following the throw down, was thrown out. The programme began with a black-and-white film clip dating from the early 1950s, a close-up of a pair of hands raising a pot on a potter’s wheel – a piece of film originally made to fill gaps or ‘interludes’ in the BBC television schedule and to soothe the viewers while they waited for the next programme to begin – accompanied by a piece of equally soothing music called The Young Ballerina. Other short films in the series of ‘interludes’ included at that time a plough with horses and a Craftsmanship – a word to start an argument


small Saxony spinning-wheel in operation. Crafts as occupational therapy perhaps. l

— 3. De Waal, E. (2015) The White Road: a pilgrimage of sorts Chatto & Windus, London. 4. Crawford, M. (2010) The Case for Working with Your Hands: Or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good Penguin, London 5. Crawford, M. (2015) The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 6. Frayling, C. (2011) On Craftsmanship: towards a new Bauhaus Oberon Books Limited, London


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then there was the critical debate on the radio about Edmund De waal’s new book The White Road: a pilgrimage of sorts3 – a journey through the history of porcelain, or as he puts it, a journey up the mountain where the white earth comes from, encompassing Jingdezhen in China, Dresden in the Nazi period and Cornwall. In his other life, Edmund De waal creates large-scale installations of porcelain vessels, and he was asked by a radio interviewer: the things you make are for looking at in galleries rather than for use – and yet in your book you talk about the satisfaction arising from craftwork for function or use? Is there a contradiction here? ‘No,’ replied Edmund. Contemplation is itself a form of use and it always has been in the history of ceramics. There’s nothing new about that. Contemplation of the handmade object perhaps.

As it happened, I was lent another book, this time by Prof. Matthew Crawford, author of The Case for Working with Your Hands: Or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good 4 – he is a philosophy professor who also runs a motorcycle repair shop and his new book is called The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction5 when a ‘crisis of attention’ has, he argues, completely changed the ways in which we interact with our immediate environment, and our locality. Skilled manual work, he goes on, working with our hands, because it requires focus and connects us to communities of other like-minded people, to others, can help to combat the individuation, the distraction of modern life and the society of the spectacle which are turning us all into consumers and customers. This is the habit of attention, not mimicry, but opening oneself and others to real, tactile, physical experiences; not the virtual but the real, the world beyond our heads. His favourite examples are motorcycle repair, and the building of organ-pipes in Eastern America. This is where that news story about disconnection came in. So there are many, many approaches to questions of ‘craftsmanship’, and just as many connotations to the words ‘craft’ and ‘craftsmanship’: as analogue, as lifestyle choice, as advertising, as fiction, as hobby, as way of thinking, as design (or art), as occupational therapy; as activity for the sheer joy of doing something well. Here are just some of the reasons, which I listed in my book On Craftsmanship: towards a new Bauhaus:6 ‘Craftsmanship is assailed on all sides by – among other tendencies – flexible working, portfolio careers, multi-tasking, short-terminism, quickVolume 25 2015

fix training, mimicry, suspicion of expertise, confusion between elites and elitism, the downgrading of dedication, disaffection from the real world, quantitative targets and tick-boxing, the value attached to presentation skills, out-sourcing offshore, ‘we’ll write it, they’ll print it’, casino capitalism, the ‘look at me’ culture, fifteen minutes of fame, branding, one size fits all, the remote society, the redefinition of the word ‘product’, the rapidity of technological change.’ It’s clearly time to retell the story. Time to begin looking at my snapshots. SNAPSHOT ONE: The Three Rs. we are at a (fictional) parliamentary debate about education, during which several politicians make reference to ‘the 3rs – reading, writing, arithmetic’ as the core of an education system which is relevant to today’s needs. Now, I’ve been trying for some time to trace back the historical origins of this slogan – ‘the 3rs’because it has always struck me that since reading and writing come under the overall heading of ‘literacy’, the slogan is really about ‘the 2rs – literacy and numeracy’. And this has puzzled me. well, a research colleague of mine once found some references to ‘the 3rs’ way back in the mid-eighteenth century – one on a stained-glass window in a church near Exeter; one buried in an after-dinner speech by a Lord Mayor of London; and others. But ‘the 3rs’ they were referring to were ‘reading, wroughting or wrighting and arithmetic’ – in other words literacy, making things (wroughting or wrighting as in wheelwrighting or shipwrighting) and numeracy. So a fully rounded education should involve ‘the 3rs’ of reading, wroughting and arithmetic which also implies that there’s a three-way connection between them. Only later, in the Victorian era of Charles Dickens’ Mr Gradgrind and friends did ‘the 3rs’ turn into ‘the 2rs’. And there they have remained since. SNAPSHOT TwO: The Bauhaus Manifesto. The Bauhaus art/design school, which flourished in Germany in the 1920s, was to become the model for art and design education in the west for over half a century. It still is, in some locations. The first manifesto of the Staatliches Bauhaus was written in 1919, in weimar, by the architect and educator walter Gropius. It has been called ‘the handicraft manifesto’, to distinguish it from later versions which had a more design/industry emphasis. And it features on the cover a woodcut of a tall cathedral of the arts by expressionist painter Lyonel Feininger. The manifesto begins with the words: ‘Artists, architects, sculptors, we must all return to the crafts!’

Craftsmanship – a word to start an argument


Or so say nearly all the studies of the Bauhaus written in the English language. It is a catchphrase prophesying that the future of the arts lies in a return to the crafts. The polar opposite of Duchamp’s ‘it’s art if I say it’s art’. Or is it? Actually, the phrase ‘we must all return to the crafts’ is a mistranslation. what Gropius really wrote was ‘we must all turn to the crafts’, meaning the contemporary crafts not some romantic nostalgic vision of what they were once like and how tough they once were. Not a return, or even a u-turn, but a straightforward ‘turn’. Like a philosophical turn in an argument expressed in physical and visual terms. It was, as Gropius later added, a question of the crafts shedding their ‘traditional nature’, their backward-looking-ness which in his view was holding them back and becoming instead ‘speculative practical experiments’, part of ‘the experimental workshop’, ‘research work for visual production’, the ‘laboratory of the mind’ where the resulting objects embodied the thinking. For Gropius, there was no problem in associating craftsmanship with modernism or with the modern city. SNAPSHOT THrEE: The Crafts yesterday and today. A broad-brush history of developments within the crafts themselves in the twentieth century. If you’d asked a curator, a purchaser, an historian or even a maker about ‘the crafts’ in the 1940s-1970s, you would probably have encountered a version of the long-term legacy of the Arts and Crafts Movement (or its Celtic revival equivalent): l l l l l l l l l l



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Crafts must be made of natural materials; Crafts must be functional; Crafts must where possible be the work of one person, perhaps featuring visible thumb-prints or surface imperfections to prove it; Crafts must be the embodiment of a traditional design (unless of a musical instrument); Crafts must be in the ‘artisan’ rather than the ‘fine art’ tradition; Crafts must be rural products; Crafts must be untouched by fashion (which, it was automatically assumed, meant ‘badly made fashion’); Crafts must be easily understood; Crafts must last, like a brogue shoe or a fine tweed; Crafts must be affordable (even if, like william Morris’s work, affordable mainly by Oxbridge Colleges, well-endowed Anglican churches and collectors); Above all, crafts must provide a solace, in a rapidly changing world.

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If you’d asked the same questions post-1970s and especially in the 1980s, you would have been given some very different answers. Because at that time, especially in the united States and western Europe, the crafts – like everything else in the visual world – changed or rather evolved. Definitions of skill as something static and of the crafts as confined to a particular approach or medium or location were up for grabs. Graduates from art schools had the ambition to set up their own studios, and to try and make a living as ‘artist-craftspeople’ or ‘designermakers’ and to sign their own work rather than labour for someone else. A British survey of 20,000 working craftspeople at this time called Working in Crafts and sponsored by the relatively new British Crafts Council, concluded that the attractions were a) the way of life b) control at the point of production and c) that the average disposable income of the group was some £4,500. If you’d asked a curator, a purchaser, an historian – and especially a maker – about ‘the crafts’ at this time, the list would probably have looked like this: l l l

l l l l l l l l

Crafts can be made with machines, and maybe even by them; Crafts can be made with synthetic materials, in all colours of the rainbow; Crafts can be non-functional, and may even conform to the American Customs and Border Control Agency definition of ‘art’that it must be ‘totally useless’; Crafts can be made in limited production; Crafts can be designed by one person and made by another (as they often were, in fact, in the original Arts and Crafts period); Crafts can provide designed prototypes for industry; Crafts can be made in towns, and as it happens usually are; but they can also be made in the countryside; Crafts can be high fashion, and still be well-made, although they needn’t be; Crafts can be ideas borrowed from the fine arts of painting and sculpture; Crafts can be transient, or they can be lasting: it’s up to them; Crafts can be very expensive indeed (again, like william Morris’s work).

Above all, the role of the crafts is to provide a challenge, often by means of an ironic statement about traditional notions of ‘the crafts’, an intellectual as well as a visual challenge. There was much discussion of feminism and the crafts – taking more seriously the domestic sphere – and sometimes their political implications. An avant-garde had emerged in the craft world for the Craftsmanship – a word to start an argument


first time. Cynical commentators referred to this tendency as ‘a Cinderella complex’ where everyone wanted to go to the ball rather than work in the kitchen. But was there room at the ball which was already becoming overcrowded? At the private view of an exhibition called ‘The Craftsman’s Art’ in 1973 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, I overheard someone say ‘It’s all very well to have an avantgarde but what if you want a decently made fireguard!’ The craft world, in other words, was becoming embattled. These ‘common-sense folk definitions’ – or caricatures if you like – have certainly changed and the work has definitely moved on. So, what if one was going to compile such a list for today? Some of it would look very like the 1970s/1980s list – a lot of the issues are still working their way through the system. The interface between the fine arts and the crafts, at one end of the spectrum, was to become a fascinating one – especially in the era of ‘conceptual art’. The influential designer Misha Black, for example, wrote an important article at this time speculating about whether the crafts would enter the art space vacated by the conceptualists providing collectors with things which could be displayed at home. Others have written about the crafts and lifestyle. Today’s list would also have much to do with design. A few years ago, there was an exhibition at the Crafts Council in London called ‘Industry of One’ which featured the work of designers and craftspeople who were making one-off pieces in batches with the aid of numerically-controlled technology. Several were educated as industrial designers and were disillusioned by knocking on the door of manufacturing industry and so had decided to go it alone. Today, the ethical dimension of the crafts – largely shed in the 1970s/1980s – has made a comeback with issues of sustainability, gender and identity firmly on the agenda. Ethics, without the cultural cringe factor they used to have. Crafts are now associated with urban living, interior design and with the shifting borders of art at one end of the spectrum and design at the other with all colours of the rainbow and with the outer limits of function. what distinguishes the crafts and makes them highly visible is the care with which they have been made, the fact that they have been made by one human being for another, the individual ‘take’, the use of materials and the thoughtfulness of their design – design with attitude. They can represent an ethical statement but they needn’t. The crafts have definitively joined the lifestyle pages of magazines and newspapers (and sometimes even ‘makeover’ programmes on midevening television for better or worse) and critics have started writing 12

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about how the crafts with their ‘aesthetic added value’ have moved beyond traditional forms of tacit knowledge to playing a full part in the wider culture and society. There are still muddles about where the crafts ‘sit’ exactly with a proliferation of subdivisions which would make even Polonius dizzy – the crafts, the decorative arts, the applied arts, makers, designer-makers, artist-craftspeople. But these are now seen, I think, as a range of possibilities rather than as inhibitors. The crafts are a spectrum and the more inclusive and varied and versatile the better. where digital technology is concerned, one aspect of this is that so many aspects of the web give you the key to opening something up in the clouds; give you access. There is a movement among today’s art and craft students towards wanting to do things for themselves. Hence the current revival of lettering and typography in reaction against given fonts; of traditional photographic techniques (even mid-Victorian ones) in reaction against the blandness of the visual image; of craft furniture, rather than the doit-yourself assembly of a kit of parts supplied by someone else. A bit like the turn to traditional printmaking and bookmaking techniques in the 1920s, in reaction against commercial print. SNAPSHOT FOur: The role and place of crafts within fine art today picking up from where that Misha Black article left off. In a large David Hockney landscape exhibition called ‘A Bigger Picture’ at London’s royal Academy a couple of years ago, there was a caption which attracted an unusual amount of attention. Amidst the many oil paintings, watercolours, drawings, films and iPad sketches, it simply said ‘all the works were made by the artist himself, personally’. Hockney himself said in interview, rather defensively, that ‘this wasn’t intended as a reference to anybody else’ – such as Damien Hirst, for example – and that the statement was originally intended as a joke, but that it did have a serious point behind it. In art education, he explained, they used to teach the craft and left ‘the poetry’ up to the individual whereas today they try to teach ‘the poetry’ and completely ignore the craft. This left young artists without the technical skills to express their own ideas. How can a student master the language of painting if paint is the chosen medium unless he/she understands the grammar? The visual arts, Hockney implied, were unique in this respect. Deep learning was still at the root of an education in music, composition, dance, drama and singing. This debate which was much more than a spat between celebrity artists followed hot on the heels of a series of fascinating London exhibitions

Craftsmanship – a word to start an argument


in autumn 2011, which raised similar questions. There was Grayson Perry’s The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman (2012) at the British Museum, which interspersed artifacts from the Museum’s collection with Perry’s pots and concluded with the thought that even today ‘it is important to have a long and sympathetic hands-on relationship with materials. A relaxed, humble, ever-curious love of stuff.’ The late critic Brian Sewell, in the Evening Standard, interpreted this, in characteristically robust terms, as a polemic about the old distinction between an art and a craft: ‘Pottery is only pottery, the craftsman stuff of the kitchen and the cabinet of curiosities, and never to be mistaken for a work of art… One might well preserve pickled herrings in a Perry pot, drown a Duke of Clarence or even pee in it—none of which things can be done with Michelangelo’s David.7 The simplest way of distinguishing between an art and a craft, he concluded, was to ask if the artifact had a use or not. If it was useful, it was not art. Actually, Grayson Perry was on a different tack and a more significant one. The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman was at one level a plea to stop and take a closer look at all those anonymous objects – shrines, relics, tapestries, maps, pilgrimage souvenirs, sacred sculptures and other ‘manmade wonders of the world’ which belong to a more spiritual age. It was also about a related theme, how art galleries and museums have in some ways become the new sacred spaces where people behave in silent, reverential ways and where original exhibits in their glass cases have taken on a secular kind of aura. Increasingly, this encourages the spectacular rather than the humble. It also leads to the ubiquitous use of the word ‘iconic’. But above all, the Unknown Craftsman was a sustained response to the fashionable thesis distilled into a then-recent book The Art of Not Making – the new artist/artisan relationship8 that since the days of Marcel Duchamp and his urinal, roughly from 1917 onwards, serious avant-garde art has utterly separated itself from its fabrication. — 7. Sewell, B. (2011) ‘Grayson Perry, British Museum – review’ The Guardian, 6 October 2011. Online at: goingout/exhibitions/graysonperry-british-museum-review7426972.html 8. Petry, M. (2012) The Art of Not Making – the new artist/artisan relationship Thames & Hudson, London


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Art is named as art – ‘it’s art if I say it’s art’ – and someone else who is expert at that sort of thing makes it become real. The role of the artist is to think, to conceive ideas and to delegate the making to artisans. Hence the phrase ‘conceptual art’. This is not at all the same thing as the division of labour in a renaissance workshop – at the dawn of the art/craft distinction – when the artist created the overall design, employed assistants to paint some of the details and then completed the work of art himself: the workshop as communal space,

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with the artist leading from the front. Not the same, because postDuchamp the think-work and the do-work have become completely separated and the artist simply does not possess anything like the skills of his/her assistants. This is the new artist/artisan relationship. At the same time, the Victoria and Albert Museum hosted ‘Power of Making – the importance of being skilled ’ (6 September 2011 – 2 January 2012.). The title was a deliberate reply to that book which looked at how once the processes of ‘making’ have shed their nostalgic and sentimental associations, how once the long shadows of the Arts and Crafts Movement and of ‘the hard-won image’ have been exorcised that they will have a strong relevance in the postindustrial world at a time when fewer people know how to make the things they use than ever before in history. To put over this point, the exhibition included David Mach’s gorilla made of coat-hangers, videos about the thrill of feeling ‘in the zone’ by doing something really well and one of Tom Heather wick’s spun chairs in aluminium. ‘Power of Making’ attracted extraordinarily high attendance figures. The debate about artist and artisan, concept and fabrication, poetry and craft, usage and grammar has been around in one form or another for a very long time. Its current incarnation dates back to the late 1910s. In art schools, the usual answers to the question posed by David Hockney have for years been ‘well, rubens used an army of assistants, didn’t he?’ or ‘I do concepts, the technicians do the manual bit’. Those who argue for the importance of technical skills – in education and in professional practice – are routinely accused of coming over all conservative, the sorts of commentators who think any avant-garde art practice since Duchamp is still part of the shock of the new. In two years’ time, 2017, the urinal will be celebrating its centenary! And yet, when there are major exhibitions raising precisely these questions at the royal Academy, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum – all in the same season – and when leading philosophers and sociologists start writing about The Craftsman, The Case for Making With Your Hands and The World Beyond Your Head, the question has certainly re-entered the ether, is alive and well and is being posed with increasing urgency. There seems to be unease about the new division of mental and manual labour and a desire not to be categorised as a fuddy-duddy conservative for expressing it. Maybe we need a new vocabulary and contemporary ways of expressing what are genuine anxieties and speculations about what the next chapter in the story will be.

Craftsmanship – a word to start an argument


SNAPSHOT FIVE: A final SNAPSHOT or an epilogue we are at a lecture given by the elderly furniture craftsman Edward Barnsley at the royal Society of Arts in London, shortly before he died in 1987. Edward Barnsley was a living link with the second generation of the Arts and Crafts Movement (via Sydney Barnsley, Ernest Gimson and Sapperton) and he survived to see the rise of the new artistcraftspeople of the 1970s within art schools. He was scheduled to speak about his workshop, about making in wood, and his ‘take’ on the value of craftsmanship today. But Edward Barnsley suffered a relapse during the lecture and found he couldn’t proceed with it. His mind went blank. All he could do was repeat – several times – some verses from D.H. Lawrence’s poem Things Men Have Made, which he’d evidently learned as a boy. So I’ll finish on one of those verses. ‘Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing for long years. And for this reason, some old things are lovely warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them.’ There was no argument about that. Professor Sir Christopher Frayling is a former Chairman of Arts Council England and of the Design Council (UK), and a former trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was for many years Chair of the Crafts Study Centre and a governor of the British Film Institute. He was Rector and Vice-Provost of London’s Royal College of Art until 2009, is Chancellor of the Arts University Bournemouth (AUB), and serves on the Advisory Council of the Burren College of Art, Co. Clare. As an educationalist, writer and broadcaster, he is well known in the public sphere for his writings on cinema and as a presenter of popular TV programmes on history.


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Negotiating Public Policy in the Northern Ireland Museum Sector PA D DY G I L M O R E

Introduction1 Balancing public policy imperatives with core museum values is a challenge for any museum but museums in Northern Ireland face particular challenges. The museum sector in Northern Ireland is under severe financial pressure and the long term funding prospects are bleak. At the same time, museums are increasingly being required to demonstrate public benefit. with the development of the institutions of Government and the bedding-in of the political process, in Northern Ireland, there has also been an increasing expectation of an alignment between public policy and museum objectives. This paper will look at ways in which National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI) has responded to these challenges whilst keeping collections at the core of its programming. It will argue that it is possible to instil a strong sense of social purpose in our work whilst still maintaining the traditional museum role of caring for collections and connecting audiences to them. The discussion will reference NMNI’s Social Inclusion programme and other examples which demonstrate that socially purposeful outcomes can be delivered whilst ensuring the centrality of museum collections.


The policy context in Northern Ireland — 1. This article is based on a paper given to the annual conference of the Irish Museums Association, 'Museums in Society: Navigating Public Policy', on 28 February 2015, Belfast. 2. National Museums Northern Ireland 2014-15 Business Plan. Online at: Business%20Plan%202014-15.docx

‘‘DCAL is committed to harnessing culture, arts and leisure to promote equality and tackle poverty and social exclusion.’’ The above statement is the opening line in the foreword by Carál Ní Chuilín, Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) in the National Museums Northern Ireland 2014-15 Business Plan2. It is a clear unequivocal commitment to tackling poverty and inequality across Northern Ireland. This commitment is further underlined in the DCAL mission statement which seeks to: Negotiating Public Policy in the Northern Ireland Museum Sector


‘‘promote social and economic equality, and to tackle poverty and social exclusion … through systematically promoting a sustainable economic model; … proactively targeting meaningful resources at sectors of greatest inequality, within areas of greatest objective need; … in the wider context of effectively developing tangible opportunities and measurable outcomes for securing excellence and equality across culture, arts and leisure; … and a confident, creative, informed and healthy society in this part of Ireland’’. As an ‘arm’s length body’ of DCAL there is a requirement for NMNI to ensure strategic alignment with Departmental and Ministerial priorities. while this may seem obvious, it has challenged us to review how we address the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society and to determine what resources we might use to increase access, participation and engagement with the national collections. One of the first challenges in deciding how to address the issue of tackling poverty and exclusion is the fact that Northern Ireland has no official anti-poverty strategy. A High Court ruling, in a case taken by the Committee on the Administration of Justice (30 June 2015), found that the Northern Ireland Executive failed to ‘adopt a strategy to tackle poverty, social exclusion and patterns of deprivation on the basis of objective need.’ It acknowledged that the Executive had the ‘architecture and principles’ in place but there was no evidence that it had ever, in the words of the judgment ‘crafted a road map’ to tackle the issues. In essence no anti-poverty strategy was in place as required by the 1998 Good Friday and 2006 St Andrews agreements.3

— 3. Committee on the Administration of Justice. Online at: 4. Delivering Social Change – the Children and Young Persons’ Early Years Action Plan Online at:


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In negotiating the policy context in Northern Ireland there is an added complication in that some of the issues are not locally determined but are dictated by the westminster Government. This adds another layer of complexity for anyone seeking to understand what is relevant in the policy context – the current issues around welfare reform implementation being a case in point. In delivering the DCAL objective of tackling poverty and social exclusion, National Museums Northern Ireland took as its starting point, Delivering Social Change – the Children and Young Persons’ Early Years Action Plan.4 Led by Office of First Minister and Deputy First

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Minister, this is a 10 year plan to co-ordinate actions across Northern Ireland government departments on priority social policy issues. The high level strategic nature of this document helped removed any potential misgivings of a single party agenda being followed and it was clear that all of the political parties supported the manifesto which it sets out. Delivering Social Change seeks to achieve a sustained reduction in poverty, improving the health and wellbeing of young people, and deal with the long term, cyclical nature of poverty and inequality. It recognised the importance of early intervention and parental support initiatives. This was an area of work that NMNI had been developing and where we felt the museum could make a unique contribution. Delivering Social Change recognises the multi-dimensional nature of the problems faced by people in areas of deprivation, the need for a variety of resources and responses to address the deep-seated and complex nature of these problems and the benefits of early intervention. we felt that the public engagement and learning programmes that we offered for young children and families could make a contribution. Our aim was to support parents – many of whom had negative experiences of the education system – to improve their children’s learning. One of our key concerns was to target resources where they could be most effective. To begin with we worked with ‘Extended Schools’ – schools judged to be in need of support and intervention and often in areas of multiple deprivation. By moving beyond the formal education sector we were able to develop broader and more imaginative programming and reach a much wider audience base. we used the Northern Ireland Statistical research Agency (NISrA) profiling to identify the most deprived areas and to target outreach, engagement and learning programmes in the top 25%, the top 20% and ultimately the top 10% of these areas. The work that National Museums Northern Ireland currently undertakes in relation to tackling poverty and social exclusion is reflected in one of the key measures of the Delivering Social Change framework which seeks to: ‘‘Improve school readiness and increase participation in formal and non-formal education, youth services and sports through accessible and affordable culture, arts and leisure services.’’

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we work with schools and nurseries in areas of multiple deprivation and in partnership with a range of community organisations.

Considerations The development of NMNI’s Social Inclusion Programme was not without its debates, and there were many challenges not least the stringent financial climate. we wanted to deliver public policy imperatives without compromising core functions such as the care and preservation of collections; creating knowledge for and about society; and, being a trusted provider of learning and education. Like other museums, NMNI has always had a strong public engagement ethos. we have developed strong partnerships with local communities and have a record of connecting a diverse range of audiences with museum collections. we saw the synergy between our core purpose, of connecting audiences with the collections we hold on behalf of the nation, and the public policy imperative of increased engagement with non-traditional users of museum services. ultimately, however, museums seek to engage with those who are least likely to access their services, not simply to fulfil a policy agenda, but because it is the right thing to do. In Northern Ireland there is an increasing proximity between the institutions of state and those organisations which it funds. The reality is that, increasingly, funders and policy makers expect museums to achieve greater social outcomes and impact. Not only is there a change in Northern Ireland in relation to democratic accountability but many observers would argue that the public is also increasingly attuned to competing priorities in the public sector. Museums hold a unique role of being trusted and research5 has found that many people have a clear understanding of the role of museums in shaping our future as well as our past. So it is understandable why policy makers view museums as being well placed to help build a better society. The context may have changed and expectations risen but our core purpose has always been to connect audiences to our collections. — 5. Britain Thinks. (2013) Public perceptions of and attitudes to museums. Online at: http://www.museumsassociation. org/download?id=954916 6. Museums Association. (2013) Museums Change Lives Online at: http://www.museumsassociation. org/download?id=1001738


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we believe that we need to have a sense of our social purpose too. As the Museums Association initiative ‘Museums Change Lives’ states: ‘‘The time is right for museums to transform their contribution to contemporary life. As public expenditure continues to be cut, it is more important than ever to have a strong sense of social purpose.’’6

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NMNI has always had a strong commitment to the communities it serves and has consistently striven to reach those who do not traditionally access museum services, and I’d like to give you a couple of examples of how we have engaged them with our unique resources.

Social Inclusion Programme  The main aim of our Social Inclusion programme is to work in partnership with local communities and parents on issues that meet their needs and concerns. Focusing on relationships with people in the top 20% of areas of Multiple Deprivation (NISrA) we have sought to meet these needs through involving people in our existing museum programmes. The issue is often one of access and being aware of the potential barriers that may be faced by people unfamiliar with our museums. The ulster Museum and the ulster Folk and Transport Museum are both sited in affluent areas which creates another problem. A strategic partnership with Belfast Education and Library Board has led us to work with an initiative known as ‘Achieving Belfast’, which targets schools in some of the most deprived areas of the city that are in need of support and intervention. we have been working on a ‘Parental Engagement’ initiative. From the public policy perspective, the aim is to make a contribution to breaking the cycle of poverty and deprivation. From a museum perspective, it is about delivering collections-related Fig 1. A father and daughter at the Ulster Museum as part of the NMNI Social Inclusion programme, 2015. Courtesy of the author

Negotiating Public Policy in the Northern Ireland Museum Sector


learning and engagement – the programme complements the curriculum, suits varied learning styles and abilities and is challenging and enjoyable. The programme includes ‘weekends at the Museum’ which encourages interaction between parents and children and stimulates learning through exploring and interacting with our collections. ultimately it builds the confidence of parents to enable them to take a more proactive part in their children’s learning. we also offer ‘Nights at the Museum’, a very popular programme which would normally be too expensive for these families. recognising the need for early intervention and support, we have developed an ‘Early years’ programme. we work with nursery and early primary school children and their parents on a literacy programme. A book has been developed by NMNI staff, which is given free of charge to all participants, which engages young children in a fun and innovative way with the impressive Transport Collection at Cultra. External evaluation shows that the programme has been successful at a range of levels. Teachers have reported high levels of participation and engagement from parents who previously had limited contact with the school and there is greater awareness of museum resources and curriculum-based learning opportunities. Our parental engagement model recognises that many of these parents wish to support their Fig 2. Meeting Berkley Bear at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum – art of the Parental Support initiative, 2015. Courtesy of the author


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children’s learning but lack confidence, skills and knowledge. The strategic partnership with the Belfast Education and Library Board has allowed us to address areas of public policy concern whilst involving nonvisitors in imaginative and enjoyable ways in core museum programmes.

New Lodge Arts – National Memory Local Stories It is important not to reduce an area or a community to a set of statistics, but out of 890 areas in Northern Ireland, the New Lodge Area in north Belfast is rated as the fifth most deprived. unemployment, low income, child poverty and poor health are key issues in the New Lodge. The area has been badly affected by the Troubles and crime and disorder are major social problems. As part of a joint initiative with the National Portrait Gallery in London, NMNI worked to help develop a model for engaging young people with the world war I. Central to this was using locally relevant museum collections to help them develop an understanding and a creative response. The project was known as ‘National Memory – Local Stories.’ In partnership with New Lodge Arts, a group of young people were given personal access to museum collections and links between their local area and national history were soon uncovered. Curators shared the world war I diary of Private George Hackney, 14th Battalion, royal Irish rifles which brought into focus many of the key issues of the world war I – the scale of the conflict, the magnitude of the loss and the common humanity of participants. The diary and its unique photographic account of Hackney’s war told a personal story of a local man and it held strong contemporary resonances for many participants. The young people were able to handle museum objects and this in turn sparked discussions and creative workshops. They undertook their own research locally and personal stories and connections with some of the ulster Museum collections were explored. The project culminated in a launch of ‘National Memory – Local Stories’ at the National Portrait Gallery in London with other young people from museums across the uK. The work created by the young people from the New Lodge was exhibited in their community but also in the ulster Museum and on the NMNI website. ‘National Memory – Local Stories’ was welcomed by the local community. Since their involvement in the project, the New Lodge group have visited the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin

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and been to France, Belgium and Poland to work on a ww2 project. None of these children, or their families, had a prior history of engagement with the ulster Museum. william Blair, our Head of Human History, commented on another interesting outcome: “Although the New Lodge area is predominately Catholic and Nationalist, the work produced transcended traditional political and cultural stereotypes.” The project shows how we have used our museum resources and collections in an area of need to make a significant impact on the lives of young people and their local community. Again we met social policy objectives through using our collections.

Conclusion Negotiating public policy in a Northern Ireland context is never easy especially when operating in the context of reducing funding. The Northern Ireland Executive increasingly requires a tight focus on its priorities which are primarily about improving the lives of those people who live in communities where need is the greatest. responding to this imperative in a highly visible manner is essential if we are to demonstrate the continued value of museum engagement and our relevance to the people and communities which we serve. we need to find ways of responding to community demand and secure the resources to deliver innovative and engaging programmes. we must also ensure that we continue to undertake the collections care, preservation, development and interpretation which enable us to make our collections accessible. The public policy context continues to evolve. A reduction in the number of government departments is planned and from April 2017 we will be funded through a new Department for Communities. There will be an increasing emphasis on how our collections and programmes contribute to outcomes for people. we need to help shape this agenda and assert the unique contribution that our museums can make in delivering change and transforming communities.

Paddy Gilmore is Director of Learning and Partnership for National Museums Northern Ireland


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Volume 25 2015

‘We may be courtin’ but are we engaged?’  COLLETTE BROWNLEE

Introduction1 ‘we may be courtin’ but are we engaged?’ developed from a local government museum community engagement programme created to access local socially excluded groups. This article will discuss how the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum (LM) attracted non-visitors to participate in an education project designed to gather two pieces of information: participant attitudes to museums and to world war I. The Community Engagement Project (CEP) was made possible by a grant from the Northern Ireland Museums Council (NIMC) and took over a year to organise, finally taking place between February and June of 2015.

Why engage with community groups and on what subject? The project developed from an invitation by the NIMC to participate in a pilot museum community engagement programme aimed at attracting local socially excluded groups. The object was to connect with groups identified as non-visitors to LM, targeted from Council electoral wards with high social deprivation indices. Initial contact between LM and NIMC began in August 2013 but it took over a full year before gatekeepers of community groups were identified, signed up and ready to begin.

— 1. This article is adapted from a presentation made at the Irish Museums Association Education and Outreach Forum on 19 June 2015, Dublin 2. Decade of Centenaries / Remembering the Future (2012). Northern Ireland Community Relations Council

It was hoped that the project would include groups from Catholic areas because world war I was not a topic that LM had previously worked on with them. Before the decade of centenaries initiatives (Northern Ireland Community relations Council, 2012),2 the general local perception of world war I seemed to reflect the idea that the war belonged to one community and that had little to do with the other. It is perhaps because of the centenary commemorations, that the contribution of the Catholic community to the war has been highlighted in recent years, notably but not exclusively, through the

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work of individuals such as Brenda winter Palmer in her play Medal in the Drawer. Based on her grandfather’s experience joining the British Army alongside his Protestant friends, the play was inspired by his war experience, similar to the experience of many Catholic soldiers, which was something not often discussed in the family. The 6th Connaught rangers research Group was also formed out of a desire for family history to be told and to increase awareness of the contribution of the Catholic community to the war. Both of these resources would be drawn upon for the CEP programme. The first problem was how to engage with diverse groups on a subject that is not immediately appealing or relevant, especially to groups from Catholic areas who may not immediately identify with the topic. It was hoped that CEP would help LM examine Lisburn community attitudes to world war I. Some participants on the CEP came from families where joining the army was a tradition and where knowledge about the Somme or the 36th ulster Division was evident but the historical period before and after it was unknown or seen as irrelevant. A mixture of participants thought that men who fought in the war were all British and Protestant and were surprised that this was not the case. Other participants thought it had nothing to do with the Catholic community but most participants were surprised to find that this was also not the case. The idea was to get participants to think critically about what they already knew, what they learned on the project and to assist them in gaining a confidence about that knowledge. In reality, dealing with this on the CEP meant working with non-visitors to museums in a cross-generational and cross community way.

What is engagement? Court, courtin’, engaged?

— 3. Moore, K. (2000). Museums and Popular Culture, Leicester University Press, England


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The term ‘engagement’ is a current buzzword and museums are being directed more and more towards illustrating how they do it, but what does engagement actually mean? The CEP was an opportunity for LM to examine how it could illustrate engagement work more visibly. In order to engage, to attract, draw in, take part and get participation from non-visitors, the CEP programme had to be meaningful. LM deals with real things and utilises real people to assist the communication between the visitor and the object and as such is a rich resource for creating focus on the real3, this focus had to be relevant. It had to be based on a pedagogy that enabled participants and not museum staff to guide its direction. This meant flexibility from all parties was essential for the programme to work.

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As the target CEP audiences were recognised as non-visitors, how could the process of attracting them begin? For something to be attractive there needed to be some sort of courtship, an incentive, an introduction, an increased awareness of something new being available and desire to want more. The word ‘court’ can mean, amongst other things, a place surrounded by walls and buildings, the idea of the CEP was to take the groups inside the walls and buildings (as it turned out also beneath and above the building) of LM but also to take them beyond the museum building to other sites related to the chosen topic. If there is an acceptance that ‘courting’ means ‘‘to pay homage or give flattering attention’’,4 we must accept that to do this properly means creating opportunities for participants to learn and connect with the history of their community and / or family around the 1912-1918 period, so the homage was not a problem. There was never a desire to flatter. The word implies insincerity, a sycophantic approach to courtship. The courtship had to be honest, nothing was promised that could not be delivered, including the promise that participants had the last word on how their understanding of what was learned went into the final exhibition5 it was not a ‘top down’ relationship. The programme content, based on events over the 1912-1922 period, was formatted before group contact was made. This was with the intent that the programme would not necessarily be linear, it had to be flexible to go in the direction the groups wanted to go. Site visits were built into it, guest speakers invited, team competitions and an award ceremony were vital aspects of encouraging attendance. The courtship required all of these things and the end goal was a community-designed exhibition which would be displayed at LM for three weeks.

— 4. The New Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus (1991). Harper Collins, England 5. J.H. and Dierking, L.D. (eds.) (2000). Learning from Museums: Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning, Alta Mira Press, Plymouth

Programme aims included building confident relationships with nonvisiting community groups located within a five mile radius of LM. To attract the group leaders it was important the groups realised LM would cover all costs, especially transport and hospitality. Honesty was required from the start, LM informed groups it needed to gather information from them on their attitude to museums (LM in particular) and to world war I. In return, the direction, content and final output of the programme (a community-created exhibition) lay with the groups, not the professional museum staff. This was the ‘courtin’ period and it was a challenge. It was also different to any previous LM exhibition. To relinquish control in the creation and direction of an exhibition was new. To agree to host the exhibition in museum gallery space was a risk. LM

‘We may be courtin’ but are we engaged?’


had to develop an acceptance of handing over responsibility for content to the groups whilst gaining their trust to properly conserve, collate and present their work. The expertise of museum staff was always there to guide and to help design the final exhibition but from the beginning it was to be very much their exhibition. LM managers felt they would be letting the groups down if the final exhibition was any less professional than any other museum exhibition. This courtship resulted in real engagement, reciprocal relationships were built between the groups and the small team of museum staff and because of the strength of this, the work flowed in the form of; paintings, embroidery, photographs, poetry and prose. The participants had been engaged by the museum experience and the staff became even more engaged through the interests and energy of the participants.

Different group different approach The major historical events in Ireland 1912 – 1922 have created immense interest in the decade of centenaries work aimed at using community, voluntary and cultural organisations and venues to get discussions going on events that are also labelled as ‘remembering the future’ 6 . Most of these events were touched upon during the CEP programme. Ideally it would have been more straightforward to work with just one type of group. There were four groups attracted to the programme; three youth and one adult, two of these from predominantly Catholic areas and two from predominantly Protestant areas. LM wanted to access all of these interested groups because there was no previous connection to them, it also wanted to explore why they did not visit and what they thought of ‘the other’7 in the context of the historical backdrop of world war I.

— 6. Decade of Centenaries / Remembering the Future (2012) Northern Ireland Community Relations Council 7. Davies, L. (2004) ‘Education and conflict: complexity and chaos Routledge Falmer, London 8. Archard, D. (2004) (2nd ed) ‘Children Rights and Childhood’, Routledge, London.


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At LM, all staff are trained under the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s Child Protection Policy and children’s views are gathered through evaluations and feedback opportunities. This is not strictly a Child rights Approach8 which was the direction the museum wanted to take with this programme. The focus would be to work with not for children. For the first time children were consulted about what they wanted to learn, their choice of images, their choice of words and how they wanted their exhibition to look. Before the project they summed up their views on museums: ‘‘Before we started this project we did not think much about museums. we described them as old, boring, smells bad, old fashioned, weird and

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posh. we used some good words too, like interesting and educational. we did not realise how much actually goes on in a museum.’’ The approach used worked because after the project this attitude had somewhat changed: ‘‘Museums are about history and about what happens to people who lived that history. Museums are about how history influences our present and our future. we learned about Ireland before and after the war. we found out why people joined the army. we found out interesting facts about Carson and redmond.’’ Active pedagogical tools were used to get and keep the youth groups interested: team activities, photograph matching exercises, quizzes and a team competition were utilised to reinforce learning, along with flowing supplies of chocolate, crisps and soft drinks. However, different andragogical approaches were used for the women’s group. The women’s group took on the form of group discussions to determine interest and level of knowledge; guest speakers sat with the women at the table and chatted and explored their subject over tea and biscuits. The women learned new craft skills in embroidery and glass painting. They brought in documents and objects from home for museum staff to examine. It meant scheduled sessions were abandoned and participants explored their own histories in relation to the war or major events of the period. The women also organised their own visit to Belfast Central Library and arranged for a (separately funded) trip to the pub. Topics arising included world war II, but the nature of the programme was to let it go where the participant’s went, so family experiences in world war II became part of the exhibition. The tendency to pull them back to the programme curriculum had to be resisted – it was not LM’s exhibition. As LM was now running a parallel programme, albeit all part of one CEP project, flexibility was required by staff and participants and budgets had to take the strain of doubling evening sessions and organising Saturday visits. It was a case of ‘if it worked do it’. The only complaints received from participants were of a cross-generational nature. Tight budgets meant sharing buses on trips and this was endured rather better by the adults than by the children. Subsequent negotiations on this subject meant that not all of the youth’s views went into print. A private collection especially for handling (The Pat O’Hagan Collection) was loaned to LM for the duration of the project.

‘We may be courtin’ but are we engaged?’


Participants were introduced to safe handling, conservation and preservation of objects and they learned why museums are important places to support. Interestingly, when it came to choosing a favourite object from this collection, both children and adults chose the webley revolver and the Enfield rifle. In relation to the commitment from the museum, LM not only matched the grant funding from NIMC, but more than doubled it. Staffing, travel and hospitality proved major expenses but investment in them was essential in attracting (‘courtin’) groups to sign up to the project. Although the CEP was expensive and labour intensive, attracting around ninety participants and 540 visitors to the final exhibition, financial cost should not be the only consideration in carrying out engagement work. In terms of proving relevance and value to participants, it was money well spent. In terms of adapting elements from the programme to the education service, it has proved it has sustainability. In terms of attracting non-visitors, it worked. It terms of helping develop LM staff and assess the museum’s approach to programming, it was of great evolutionary value. Could LM afford to commit to doing this sort of programme annually and without grant funding? Sadly, no. Initial funding was essential otherwise the project would never have happened. It took the impetus and support from NIMC to make the programme a possibility.

Don’t be bashful!

— 9. Professor Keith C. Barton, Indiana University. This article is based on a conference paper given at Queen’s University, ‘Dealing with the legacy of the past: the role of history and citizenship education’, on 8 June 2015, Belfast.


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The CEP was a new experience all round. The only rule emphasised from the outset was respect. This had to be given and received at all times, and it was. It was unlike a school or special events programme in that an amount of personal investment also had to be made by staff and participants. This meant developing trust. The experience highlighted to managers the need to create more capacity-building training to help staff facilitate engagement programmes dealing with contentious history. If teachers, community leaders and museum educators are going to be more involved in looking at contentious history, training for facilitators needs to become an essential facet of museum education work. How can facilitation for non-visitors or in a cross community context take place if facilitators are unaware or nervous of where to place themselves?9 Staff had to facilitate and offer personal insights in order to build up trust, it was essential to do this without letting personal opinions

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influence the process. In one session, the children were given maps of pre-partition Ireland. Groups were asked to draw the border and give some feedback by marking out ulster and noting its counties. There was a general group awareness of the border’s location and one girl recalled nine counties very quickly. The groups were asked why they thought there had been a change, a girl from one group said “because England stole a bit from us” and a boy from another group said “the other bit has nothing to do with us”. How are discussions of shared history to be generated if participants are so certain that it is not shared? Perhaps from taking the positive reactions to these comments there is something to build on. All participants respected what ‘the other’ had to say by listening to these comments. Significantly, this illustrates that such projects are not about trying to enforce change, a kind of social engineering; rather, they are about creating a space where participants felt free and confident enough to say what they thought. The role of staff was to facilitate this without interfering with it. The CEP was about using LM as a safe space to create and make opportunities to explore pre-war and post-war events in Ireland through the temporary LM exhibition, visits to Kilmainham Gaol, Irish National war Memorial Gardens, Arbour Hill Cemetery, National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History and the Somme Museum. At the National Museum of Ireland, a boy thought he was being treated unfairly by a museum guard because he was “a Protestant from Lisburn” and when he got to Arbour Hill Cemetery he said he wished a passing dog would poo on the republican plot because the Irish were “very disrespectful” to break the graves of English soldiers. After the project, a visit by LM staff to Arbour Hill Cemetery revealed that it was a British army sergeant who had the foresight to mark the burial site of each of the 1916 rebels with a name. This later enabled identification of who was buried in which spot. It was also learned that Irish uN veterans had helped record and look after the graves of soldiers who had served in English regiments. This information was fed back to the boy who, because of his involvement with the CEP, is now eager to have his work experience at LM. Significantly, LM did not enforce mixing nor set a learning agenda, the programme was allowed to evolve, in terms of reticence, insecurity or strangeness of place; ‘the other’ did not really become an issue.

‘We may be courtin’ but are we engaged?’


Participants came with their beliefs and value systems and left with them intact. They also left with more awareness and knowledge. This point is significant; participants were never put in the position of feeling there was pressure on them to change their views. The project was about facilitating groups together in a shared space. Many of the youth groups shared Facebook details after the Dublin trip; children visited the museum after the project ended and said they missed the evening sessions. This sentiment was shared by the women. Some of the women had never thought about the period at all and the project encourage them to research family links to the war. The museum had now taken on a new relevance for these people. The project proved to the staff (as if staff needed proof ) that museums have a greater role to play in social inclusion and engagement. The reality is that local government museums are a discretionary service. There is no statutory obligation to offer museum education services, but proof of this type of value does need to be better illustrated to statutory agencies. The CEP also highlighted that the value of the role of museums needs to be measured and reported.

Speaking the right language, making museums relevant and assessing impact The CEP was not an academic study. There were no randomised controlled trials or statistical reports generated. However, discussions were notated, ‘before and after’ questionnaires sought and ongoing feedback from participants taken. The museum promised to respect participants’ views, to deliver a programme which included opportunities for listening, learning, and craft making and visits to new places. These promises were delivered. Participants and museum staff ‘interlocked’ because as much was learned from as by the participants. For instance, assumptions are no longer made about pre-existing knowledge. Pre-project, the intention was to communicate some little known facts about Edward Carson and John redmond and to challenge stereotypes about these men. As the programme commenced, it was evident that very little was actually known about either man so the delivery involved introducing them, positioning them historically and then offering information about what had become more widely-known about them in recent times. Teasing new visitors into museums to deal with politically sensitive 32

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‘centenary’ issues is not easy for any local museum, especially if that local museum may invite a perception, rightly or wrongly, of being a single identity museum. This project proved that this sort of work is hard to do but it is not impossible. From the point of view of advocacy of museum services, the CEP illustrated the major role museums can play in facilitating this work. The project proved to all of those involved that the debates about whether museums should be doing this sort of engagement have been surpassed. Museums are the logical shared space for engagement work. The investment in staff time and effort is immense. research, planning, preparation and dedication from all sides is essential. Like any courtship, it only results in engagement if both sides commit to it. The groups involved were ready to engage and that point cannot be stressed enough. Engagement, an ‘interlocking’, did happen and has led to further partnerships with these groups. A youth group from one of the Protestant areas has asked their leaders to find someone to teach them Irish history; another two boys are working with LM to further investigate their own family history in relation to world war II and another visit to the Public records Office is planned. Much of this is because of the strong support from group leaders. One group lacked consistent leadership so no further work has been planned with this group. The women’s group set up their own meeting at Belfast Central Library to further investigate Ireland’s memorial books to its war dead, books they had first seen during the Islandbridge visit. They also want to create a museum women’s group and meet perhaps three times a year for specific projects and they have expressed an interest in looking at the Easter rising. A connection has also been made with Queen’s university Belfast and the Lyric Theatre Belfast and a joint application for Living Legacies funding has been submitted to further pursue partnership work with these CEP groups. During construction of the CEP exhibition, a visitor happened to ask if she could take some pictures, she turned out to be a director of the Smithsonian libraries and has asked LM to forward a copy of the final exhibition so she can let her colleagues at a Holocaust museum see it. The project has created further partnership opportunities.

Conclusion The museum’s education team initiated and created the CEP but it required the assistance of the curatorial team to create the final exhibition. This cross-departmental responsibility is necessary if

‘We may be courtin’ but are we engaged?’


museums are to increase their relevance to local communities through this type of project. The CEP proved that there is a role for museums in engagement work as a strand of services as opposed to just being a byproduct of them. The CEP was not about telling participants what to think or how to think it. It was about encouraging critical enquiry and enhancing knowledge and enjoyment of learning. It illustrated that museums, as places for shared learning, have much to offer. It could be done more often if there was more joined-up thinking and partnership development between government departments and museums to support the facilitation of such programmes. when the children saw their display in the museum for the first time they were excited, overwhelmed and pleased. The women were very proud. The exhibition is now available to travel; its first port of call is to one of the participating community venues so that other children there can see it over the summer. was the museum made relevant? yes. Has it now a better idea of how to change attitudes to museums – LM in particular? yes. Did participants learn more about the world war I? yes. Did engagement happen? yes. There is a general consensus that there is not enough generation of data on such programmes, and that more projects like the CEP are needed if their impact is to be properly researched. If one of the main drivers of government policy for museums is to articulate a social value of culture then it would seem in this era of the decade of centenaries the time is right, the time is now.

Collette Brownlee is Education Services Officer at the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum.


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Ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place – Community Engagement with built heritage, stimulated by Mid Antrim Museums Service art collections BETH FRAZER

Introduction1 The importance of built heritage, history and their connected stories is significant in regional identity. The way we see these sites and landmarks can instil a sense of place in a community or individual locality and promote civic stewardship. Exploring these ideas, the ‘ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place’ project is a community engagement initiative designed to encourage awareness of the significance of built heritage through local histories and stories stimulated by art collections held within the Mid Antrim Museums Service (MAMS). Mid Antrim Museums Service is a partnership organisation of four museums (Mid Antrim Museum, Carrickfergus Museum, Larne Museum and Arts Centre and Museum at the Mill, Newtownabbey) across two local governments in Northern Ireland – Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council. The delivery of this project (funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Northern Ireland Museums Council) came at a time of local government reform in Northern Ireland when local councils, were merging with neighbouring councils to create larger ‘super’ councils. Many citizens were evaluating what was important to them within their area and the assets that each location held. This strengthened the appetite and interest in the historic environment and its connected stories. — 1. This article is based on a paper given to the annual conference of the Irish Museums Association, 'Museums in Society: Navigating Public Policy', on 27 February 2015, Belfast."

The Art Collection  Through the centuries architecture and the environment have been depicted through art in its various forms. Mid Antrim Museums Service Museums art collections reflect this by holding artworks, principally from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The artworks used are

Ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place – Community Engagement with built heritage, stimulated by Mid Antrim Museums Service art collections


chosen for their built environment content and links to the ‘ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place’ community engagement project theme. Artworks within the service include pieces based on locations linked to architect Sir Charles Lanyon such as Frosses road, Queen’s university and the Antrim Coast road. The collection includes paintings showing the maritime history of the towns on our coastline as well as industries connected with them and to local heritage. Artworks include built heritage depicted through art which are important to local people and local identity. Most importantly, the collection in the museum holds artworks depicting images which instil ‘A Sense of Place’, that evokes memories, stories and senses showing where many lived; spent holidays as children; visited a family member; attended school; where married or worked. Interpretation of museum artworks has the ability to highlight the significance of the historic environment, the stories that buildings support and their local connected history. Artwork has stimulated memories and has helped to emphasize the historic value architecture holds including some buildings that have been lost.

Community Engagement Initiative  The initiative aims to highlight local built heritage, especially lesser known stories and connections to the art collections. It is important to provide interpretation of the historic environment through art collections, talks, tours, site visits and exhibitions to bring the heritage of buildings to life. One way that this has been achieved was with the ‘Building Legacies, Sir Charles Lanyon’ exhibition. This toured the museum sites during the community engagement phase of the project and acted as a forerunner to the ‘ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place’ exhibition. The project increased access to some artworks within civic collections which were not normally available to members of the public. using an electronic tablet for groups to explore artworks was also a vital tool in making the collections more accessible. This method was particularly engaging for youth groups aged 18-25 in rural locations, a demographic the museum particularly wanted to reach through this project with the objective of creating new audiences. Community groups from Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Larne and Newtownabbey have participated in the ‘ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place’ community engagement initiative. They have ranged in ages 36

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from 15 to 65 year olds and over. Groups have not only benefitted from the project but have contributed through consultation, exhibition text, audio and creative outputs. Groups have been inspired and have an enhanced appreciation of built heritage, a deepened sense of place and a new knowledge and understanding of their local and surrounding area (evidenced by feedback). They have developed new skills, met new people and visited museums and historic sites for the first time. They have participated in positive engagement with their built environment and museum artworks. The project has also widened its reach and responded to demand by providing public events such as tours and exhibitions. Fig 1. Members of the public on Charles Lanyon architectural bus tour, Craigs Parish Church, Ballymena, 2015 © Beth Frazer

— 2. Selected feedback from Phase 1 of the ‘Ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place’ project

The ‘ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place’ project has given the community groups involved the opportunity to view artworks that are often inaccessible thereby improving the museum experience. Participants have been inspired through the project to open historic houses to others, write a local history booklet, create audio recordings, make creative responses, gain new knowledge, complete an accredited course and visit built heritage sites within their local and surrounding area. Groups have had the opportunity to contribute to two touring exhibitions based on local built heritage and the overall community

Ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place – Community Engagement with built heritage, stimulated by Mid Antrim Museums Service art collections


engagement and artworks project. Evaluation of the people surveyed2 has shown that: l 100% enjoyed looking at and engaging with the museum art collections l l l l

98.8% gained new knowledge and understanding about their local and surrounding area 96.9% feel they now understand the term built heritage 96.3% agree that sessions helped influence a ‘sense of place’ in their community/area 90.9% enjoyed contributing to the project

Feedback received throughout this initiative is continually positive. repeatedly, participants say in response to the built heritage: “I didn’t know what was on my own doorstep” and “I would love to see more.” Feedback evidenced that participants have enjoyed engaging with museum artworks in a new way, looking deeper into the subject matter and the history and stories involved. Many have gained a new enthusiasm for their locality and the heritage it holds through architecture and place. Notably individuals have commented on the new sense of pride they feel in their community and they are proud of the local heritage through the built environment and the past citizens who have left a positive mark on the area. This helps to promote civic Fig 2. East Antrim University of the Third Age visit Carrickfergus Town Hall. Artwork: William III at Carrickfergus by Thomas Everard, 1690.


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stewardship and a sense of place and ownership within our council areas. Furthermore, groups have taken a new interest in other council areas and the opportunity to enjoy the local heritage of other citizens as well as their own. Outcomes for participants are vital to museum community engagement and the ‘ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place’ initiative has created many positive aspects for individuals and groups including the development of new skills such as writing interpretive text on artworks and historical research. Individuals also have a heightened awareness of local built heritage and the historic environment. Evaluation has evidenced a greater sense of place for individuals within their locality with a new appreciation and pride in local architecture and the connected stories. Consequently, this increases local knowledge and civic stewardship – an important part of local council’s aims and priorities. These are real achievements for the participants and the museums service but the outcomes for individuals extend beyond this. Key aspects of participation for individuals include creating social openings, feeling part of the project, trying new things, meeting new people, visiting new places, enjoyment and a sense of fulfilment. The importance of this is not overlooked and the museum recognises the value of health and wellbeing as an outcome for participants taking part in museum projects. Fig 3. Residents of Sheils Housing visit Sentry Hill, Newtownabbey. Artwork: Tom and Joe by John Lawson, 1982. © Beth Frazer

Ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place – Community Engagement with built heritage, stimulated by Mid Antrim Museums Service art collections


Health and wellbeing is an important objective for local government and is a subject the museum is keen to embrace going forward. Through the ‘ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place’ community engagement initiative, over 300 attendees have been involved – some, on more than one occasion – in tours, talks, visits, performances, creative responses and volunteering. Participants have a new appreciation of the artworks within the project and the provenance they hold. They have visited built heritage sites for the first time and local museums have established new audiences. Fig 4. Members of Larne Drama Circle visit Chaine Memorial Tower, Larne, 2015 © Beth Frazer


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Exhibition As a result of the community engagement project the selected artworks have been condition surveyed and a number of these have had conservation work carried out on them. The exhibition artworks have been researched by an art researcher which has highlighted interesting and local information. This has been developed into exhibition labels and catalogue and artworks have been displayed in a museum exhibition for the first time. The museum artworks which stimulated the community engagement initiative have been released from offices, Mayor’s parlours and council buildings and brought together to create the ‘ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place’ exhibition of artworks depicting the historic environment in Mid Antrim. Community groups have written text and their feedback and involvement have been included in exhibition panels. The exhibition seeks to engage visitors further with built heritage through the artwork, exhibition panels and project booklet as well as using interactive elements and a tablet for digital engagement in the gallery. The exhibition tour visits the four Mid Antrim Museum Service sites from September 2015 – March 2016. Delivery of associated exhibition programming for children and families through innovative workshops using electronic tablets for digital engagement takes place as part of the exhibition tour. Children are encouraged to engage with the built heritage in the artworks through apps and challenges in a workshop style. Minecraft is one such app which is used as an educational tool based on buildings and architecture. Children are encouraged to recreate our historic environment in the virtual building game. It was important to use the success of the engagement project to reach further audiences through the exhibition. Children and families had not engaged with this project and this was an opportunity to develop programming to suit this age. By targeting a family audience, the opportunity presents itself for families to increase their social and cultural development and the enjoyment of museums including education and learning for children through art collections. This informal learning will make use of the museum artworks and allow children to be creative in a safe and encouraging environment. Families will also increase their knowledge of built heritage, their local area, museums and art.

Ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place – Community Engagement with built heritage, stimulated by Mid Antrim Museums Service art collections


Conclusion The outcomes for this project were greater than expected due to the success of the theme and interest from groups. New audiences have been established and the transition into the new council arrangement has highlighted the museum sites to groups in other areas. Visuallyimpaired visitors have been facilitated through audio descriptions of the exhibition and young people have enjoyed new experiences through project delivery. The exhibition of artworks has allowed for an audit of artworks under the theme of built heritage within the Mid Antrim Museums Service collections. It also enabled condition surveys for each museum site to be carried out by a fine art conservator. This survey identified high priority/high risk works and conservation work was then carried out. The overall care of the museums’ art collections has been improved through this conservation work. research on 26 artworks by a professional art historian under the theme of built heritage has been used as a resource for event programming, exhibition and publication along with photography of a selection of museum artworks. These outcomes have contributed to an exhibition for the visitors to enjoy with access to associated programming and increased knowledge and understanding of the art collection and our historic environment. The ‘ways of Seeing, A Sense of Place Project’ has been a positive initiative for Mid Antrim Museums Service. It has developed into a basis for further community work and exhibitions. A heritage asset audit has been completed of all buildings and sites of historical significance within the Mid and East Antrim area. This will be used for engagement, consultation and to increase access and awareness of our historic environment. The art collections have been used as an engagement tool in a way not previously used by the museums and digital engagement is becoming a priority for the future. The initiative will continue into the 2016-2019 museums plan with a focus on health and wellbeing through delivery of heritage projects, eg walks and tours, and the possibility of community listing. Beth Frazer was the Northern Ireland Museums Council, Community Engagement Initiative Trainee at Mid Antrim Museums Service


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Intercultural Programming and Northern Ireland Social Policy MAIréAD QuINN

Introduction1 Changing migratory patterns and social attitudes towards ethnic minority communities has resulted in the development of social policies in Northern Ireland that aim to provide a framework for the management of ethno-cultural society. The inter-agency approach adopted by the Northern Ireland Assembly has resulted in the role of the museum and cultural sector becoming increasingly concerned with effecting social change and achieving social justice aims as developed through government policy. This has coincided with broader ethical changes in the museum and cultural sector with regards to achieving social justice and providing social value to the communities they serve. Increasingly, a movement towards intercultural engagement is being adopted as a means of exploring cultural diversity and addressing issues of racism and prejudice within society. This paper will explore one example of cultural practice within Northern Ireland that adopts an intercultural approach when addressing race relations issues to promote understanding and identification within an increasingly volatile social situation.

Northern Ireland

— 1. This article is based on a paper given to the annual conference of the Irish Museums Association, ‘Museums in Society: Navigating Public Policy’, on 27 February 2015, Belfast.

The management of race relations and anti-racism agenda within Northern Ireland has increasingly become a concern of the devolved Assembly. rising issues of race hate crime and racially-motivated incidents have prompted the development of social policy strategies that look to address the twin problems of racism and sectarianism within this complex society. The adoption of an inter-agency approach has resulted in the cultural and museum sector taking responsibility for addressing these issues at a grassroots and community level. This has coincided with changes in the cultural and museum sector regarding the role of such institutions and their purpose in society.

Intercultural Programming and Northern Ireland Social Policy


Increasingly, these sectors are adopting social justice orientated goals which seek to effect social change and serve the audiences they cater to in a meaningful manner. This has included a movement away from older forms of cultural diversity that place cultural difference at the heart of the discourse towards an intercultural approach to cultural practice. This seeks to promote dialogue, interaction and identification between diverse communities as a core element of their work. ‘The Belonging Project’ – a community based exhibition and oral history project run by the Belfast Migrant Centre illustrates how the adoption of intercultural museology practice is well placed to address the aims and themes of Northern Ireland social policy in relation to race relations.

Migration and Racism Northern Ireland has always boasted a rich, culturally diverse populous, not least of which includes a Jewish community whose settlement in the general area predated the partition of Ireland and more recently – significant Chinese and Indian communities making up part of Northern Ireland’s demographic since the 1920s and 1960s. Contemporary patterns of migration have been characterised by an increased rate of immigration into Northern Ireland; now 1.8% of the population (32,400 residents) comes from an ethnic minority background (NI Census 2011). This has more than doubled from that recorded in the 2001 census where residents deriving from an ethnic minority background accounted for 0.8% of the population. Northern Ireland has also played witness to rising numbers of race hate crimes and racially-motivated incidents, all of which fall into two categories: direct and indirect racial harassment. Direct racial harassment comprises actions and behaviours which aim to deliberately harm or intimidate a person or persons as a result of their race, ethnicity, culture or religion. Forms of direct racial harassment recorded include verbal abuse and physical violence, destruction of property such as graffiti and broken windows in houses, and more recently, recorded incidents of people from ethnic minority backgrounds being intimidated from home and residential areas through such behaviours as group protests and the construction of ‘locals only’ signage. Indirect harassment takes on a more informal, less deliberate, but no less destructive form. Connolly and Keenan (2001) point to four characteristics of indirect harassment: racial Distancing, Benign Ignorance, racist Banter and Deracialised Harassment. These forms of 44

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racial harassment include behaviours such as staring and physically distancing oneself from a person belonging to an ethnic minority community (racial Distancing); questioning or making assumptions about a person based on their race or ethnic background – for example the assumption that their grasp of the English language will be rudimentary (Benign Ignorance); throwaway comments or ongoing jokes concerning the race, ethnicity or culture of an individual (racist Banter); and incidents where minority communities or individuals have been singled out for ongoing anti-social or criminal behaviour without an overt race element present (Deracialised Harassment).2 Both these forms of racism and racial harassment breed contempt, discrimination and inequality, and contribute to a culture of fear and exclusion of the ethnic minority population. while direct racial harassment poses a physical danger towards those being victimised, indirect racial discrimination can supplement and fan the flames of more direct forms of racism, and reinforce the isolation felt by many minority ethnic communities in Northern Ireland. Characteristics of indirect racial harassment also illustrate the root cause of much racism and discrimination in Northern Ireland. Lack of knowledge, understanding, identification with, and fear of ‘the other’ often lies at the heart of racist actions and perceptions. A lack of understanding of minority communities, cultures and customs can lead to stereotyping and fears and perceptions of threat against one’s own culture and community.

Northern Ireland Social Policy

— 2. Connolly, P. and Keenan, M. (2001) The Hidden Truth: Racial Harassment in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, Belfast

In response to these issues, Northern Ireland government have developed a series of policy directives which aim to address issues of race relations and social cohesion within the complex structure of Northern Ireland society. These policies aim to address individual and institutional-level race relations that lead to discriminatory practices, exclusion and racism within society by adopting an inter-agency approach to the dissemination of aims and objectives. The cultural and museum sector plays a central role in addressing issues of cultural diversity and racism at a grassroots and community level, working directly with those impacted by racism. For the purpose of this paper, I have identified five major themes relating to good race relations deriving from four full or proposed social policies. The policies are as follows:

Intercultural Programming and Northern Ireland Social Policy


l l l l

A Shared Future: Policy and Strategic Framework for Good relations in Northern Ireland (2005); Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (consultation document released in 2010); racial Equality Strategy for Northern Ireland (2014 – 2024) (consultation document); Together: Building a united Community (2013)

A cross-reference of these policy aims and objectives have highlighted five major themes that run through the documents. These themes are identified as: l Support for multiple identities; l The use of education as a tool for civic mindedness and mutual identification; l Creation of shared space; l Elimination of racism, hatred and prejudice; l Encourage communication, tolerance, trust and dialogue where communities are living apart. In a later section of this paper, I will use these general policy themes to highlight the utility of intercultural museology practice in achieving such aims and objectives through a process which places shared identification, dialogue and interaction at the core of its practice.

Changing Cultural and Museum Landscape

The changing cultural landscape of Northern Ireland can be characterised in the increased willingness to explore and promote the cultural diversity that exists within the population. The movement towards a culturally-inclusive Northern Ireland is evident within the growing number of government funding streams for diverse public arts and cultural activities. Not least amongst these is the annual Belfast Mela festival that has become a central part of Belfast’s cultural calendar and acts as a central point of contact between different ethnic communities in Northern Ireland.

3. Radford, K. (2013) Navigating the Journey from Conflict to Interculturalism: The Arts in Northern Ireland. Institute of Conflict Studies, Belfast, 7 4. Geoghegan, P. (2010) A Difficult Difference: Race, Religion and the New Northern Ireland Irish Academic Press, Dublin and Portland, 91

However, findings from the ‘Intercultural Practice Exchange Conference’ in Belfast suggest that ethnic arts and culture is often marginalised and ‘silenced’ in favour of more mainstream arts and that of the two traditions communities of Northern Ireland3. Furthermore, Geoghegan 4 argues that there is a tendency towards promoting multicultural arts and cultural events as ‘authentic’ culture within a


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framework of symbolic multiculturalism5 that reinforces stereotypes through promoting the idea that ethnic arts and cultural elements such as food and dress represent the entire cultural spectrum. There has also been a visible movement towards cultural programming that directly engages diverse communities in intercultural engagement through arts and cultural practice. A driving force behind this movement in Northern Ireland has been the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) within the framework of the Intercultural Arts Strategy. This programme sets out a plan for promoting an intercultural form of engagement which looks beyond dichotomies of difference and towards interaction that is based on ideals of mutual identification, understanding and belonging. At the core of such intercultural policies is a focus on anti-racist sentiment, inclusion through dialogue and interaction, and the idea that the exploration of cultural difference is secondary to achieving social justice issues.

— 5. Barrett, M. (2003) ‘Interculturalism and multiculturalism: concepts and controversies’ In Barrett, M. (ed.) Interculturalism and Multiculturalism: Similarities and Differences. Council of Europe, Strasbourg Cedex, 12 6. Sandell, R. (2006) Museums, Prejudice and the Reframing of Difference, Routledge, London and New York 7 Belfast Migrant Centre. Online at: 8. Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) Online at: 9. Knox, C. 2011. ‘Tackling Racism in Northern Ireland: The Race Hate Capital of Europe’ Journal of Social Policy. 40, (2), p. 387

within the broader cultural and museum sector there are increasingly examples of cultural programming which is moving away from difference based practices towards intercultural approaches to exploring cultural diversity. underpinned by a commitment to human rights and social justice issues, intercultural practice seeks to place people at the core of their work and effect social change at a societal level. This has signalled a shift in perspective around the role and purpose of the cultural and museum sector. A movement away from its traditional focus on knowledge based education and the protection of material culture towards a social justice orientated outlook in which the institution has been transformed into ‘moral agents of social change’6 with a specific purpose to effect social change amongst the broader community it serves.

The Belonging Project ‘The Belonging Project’ is a photographic project developed in 2014 by the Belfast Migrant Centre7 which is part of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM).8 Northern Ireland has, for some time, experienced a rising problem in racism and race hate crimes. Alongside this, there has been a lack of working government policies relating specifically to race relations and the protection of ethnic minority communities from discrimination. The scale and ferocity of raciallymotivated crime and incidents lead to Northern Ireland earning the title of ‘race hate capital of Europe’ in various media outlets in 2004.9

Intercultural Programming and Northern Ireland Social Policy


The Belfast Migrant Centre is on the front line in dealing with issues of race hate, discrimination and racial abuse. One of the primary functions of the organisation is to provide support and advice for migrants and individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds dealing with incidents of racial abuse or mistreatment, and facilitating access to police and other social facilities. ‘The Belonging Project’ was developed in response to the growing trend towards discrimination and race hate crimes in Northern Ireland. The purpose of the project is to illustrate the personal journeys of migrant individuals coming to, and settling in Northern Ireland. Concentrating predominantly on ordinary personal stories, the aim was to allow the similarities and points of mutual identification to shine through personal narratives and allow visitors to connect with them. ‘The Belonging Project’ provides an example of intercultural museum practice situated within the cultural and community context.10

Policy Theme: Support for Multiple Identities Participants were recruited to the project through an open call via the NICEM website, and as the project developed recruitment was continued via word of mouth. The recruitment drive did not include approaching existing migrant or ethnic minority cultural or arts groups, but rather was organically-grown. This method had an impact on the project outcomes in a number of ways. Firstly, by not employing the assistance of existing cultural organisations for recruitment purposes this allowed the individuals to independently approach the project. Emphasis was placed on the individual narrating their own personal stories, relatively unencumbered by broader cultural or communal influences or dominant cultural narratives. This allowed the space and freedom for the individual to explore their own personal journeys beyond that of their cultural background, and portray elements of plural and multiple identities.

— 10. Bansyczyk, S. (2014) Interview by Margaret Quinn, 9th May 2014 11. Kymlicka, W. (2012) Multiculturalism, Success, Failure and the Future, Migration Policy Institute, Washington DC, 5 12. Joppke, C. (2003) The Retreat of Multiculturalism in the Liberal State, Working Paper 203, Russel Sage Foundation, New York, 5


Museum Ireland

Secondly, this form of recruitment limited the potential risks associated with replying upon cultural gatekeepers. Cultural gatekeepers are often cultural elites or those who hold power and influence in a community which could potentially be used to constrain community members within ‘cultural scripts’11 wherein a dominant cultural narrative replaces the individual narrative, or images of ‘groupness’12 in which individual community members are portrayed as belonging within a collective identity. ‘The Belonging Project’ provided a platform for the representation of individual narratives deriving from a wide range of

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migrant and ethnic backgrounds. The portrayal of individual identities and experiences overtly challenged the perception of cultural communities as essentialised and homogeneous. The project exhibited elements of co-production between the project team and the participants, with evidence of ownership of the project given to participants. All objects displayed within the images were selected by the participants with little input from the project team other than the directive of an object that represented their personal journey and settlement in Northern Ireland. Similarly, participants were not presented with a list of questions to answer for collecting personal narratives, but were asked to narrate their story and given prompts when necessary. In this sense, it can be argued that the engagement between the participants and project team went beyond that of ‘empowerment-lite’ to enable participants to take ownership of the project and present their own voices and stories in a process which has the potential to engender real impact on their lives and communities.

Policy Theme: Education as a Tool for Mutual Identification Personal narratives provided the opportunity for cross cultural identification and increased understanding between individuals and groups from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Themes that emerged included that of emigration, experiences of homesickness, changing friends and family relationships. These are universal experiences which are beyond the structures of race and cultural belonging. The exploration of such themes addressed issues of cultural misunderstanding and the perception of migrant communities as existing in a dichotomous relationship with the local, national communities. Each participant was photographed holding a personal object that held significant meaning to the individual. Objects chosen ranged from those which held cultural significance such as traditional clothes or artwork. As the project progressed the objects selected tended to represent the more ordinary aspects of the individual’s everyday life and served to transmit a particular meaning to audiences concerning the everyday normalcy of those from minority cultures – challenging notions of cultural difference. In the later phases of the project, objects such as combs, cooking utensils, and books were displayed – objects that were collected from both the participants home countries and from

Intercultural Programming and Northern Ireland Social Policy


Northern Ireland, representing a sense of place and belonging within both cultural spaces. The objects selected go beyond cultural structures which hold personal meaning to the individual, and links their journeys from their original homes to Northern Ireland. This use of everyday objects extended the potential for shared identification and meaning between the individual participants and the exhibition visitors and provided a basis for continuing intercultural dialogue within the context of the exhibition and workshops. In particular, one participant selected her Nokia phone which she had brought to Northern Ireland from her home country. She no longer used the phone and had since upgraded to a newer model. However, her original phone had immense personal meaning. Firstly, this was the phone she had used during her journey to Northern Ireland and the phone held a number of personal messages to her from her friends and family. More significantly the phone held a voicemail message from her father before he passed away. These experiences, which many can identify with, illustrates the potential for shared meaning13 between individuals from different cultural backgrounds based on a common shared point of similarity or shared experience. Grief and personal loss are experiences that transcend cultural boundaries and impact the individual on a basic level of human emotion, one which is accessible to all individuals regardless of ethnic and cultural background.

Policy Theme: Creation of Shared Space

— 13. Falk, J. H. and Dierking, L. D. (2000) Learning From Museums: Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning, Alta Mira Press, California 14. Bloomfield, J. (2007) Intercultural Dialogue: Creating the New, ‘Expanding Cultures’ conference, Melbourne 15. Clifford, J. (1999) ‘Museums as contact zones’ In Boswell, D., Evans, J. (eds.) Representing the Nation: A Reader. Histories, Heritage and Museums. Routledge, London and New York, 438


Museum Ireland

‘The Belonging Project’ also established community-based workshops which travelled to different locations around Northern Ireland in connection with the exhibition. The locations selected ranged from parliament buildings in which governmental legislation relating to the management of cultural diversity and construction of social cohesion are developed, to civic spaces in which diverse communities lied and interacted on a daily basis. Of particular significance was the location of the workshop in areas on Northern Ireland with high rates of racist and sectarian crime and attitudes, and where traditionally segregated residential patterns exist. within this context the exhibition and workshops acted to transform the spaces from segregated civic spaces to intercultural third spaces. Creating neutral zones in which identity and perceptions of difference could be explored and negotiated through dialogue and interaction. This symbolic ‘third space’14 moves beyond Clifford’s notion of museums as ‘contact zones’15 where colonial encounters occur between

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different cultures within structural imbalances of power relations, towards spaces that are not under ownership of any specific culture of civic politics. Intercultural spaces are designed as ‘micro publics’16 or spaces for intercultural interaction and engagement and provide the opportunity for individuals to renegotiate and explore their personal and cultural identity and sense of belonging within society.

Policy Themes: Encourage Communication, Tolerance, Trust and Dialogue, and Elimination of Racism, Hatred and Prejudice

— 16. Wood, P., and Landry, C. (2008) The Intercultural City: Planning for Diversity Advantage, Earthscan, London 17. Bodo, S. (2012) ‘Museums as intercultural spaces’ In Sandell, R., Nightingale, E. (eds.) Museums, Equality and Social Justice, Routledge, London and New York 18. Johansson, C. (2014) ‘The museum in a multicultural setting: the case of malmo museums’, In Gourvievidis, L (ed.) Museums and Migration: History, Memory and Politics, Routledge, London and New York, 129 19. Fusco, C. (1994) ‘The Other History of Intercultural Performance’ TDR, 38 (1), 143-167

These workshops largely adopted a dialogical approach17 to engaging community participants, using the personal narratives and images as a catalyst for dialogue to occur. rather than exploring the experiences of any one particular cultural community, the content of the workshops was thematic and focused on topics such as identity, stereotyping, and notions of shared experience. This allowed for the exhibition to focus on themes of anti-racism and community cohesion while avoiding ‘ethnicising’18 or ‘othering’ any particular migrant community. This began with an exercise to explore elements of the narratives and images that workshop participants identified with on a personal level, leading to an open dialogue about cross-cultural identification and cultural exchange. The idea of cultural categorisation19 was discussed, exploring how pre-conceived notions of difference are developed and for whom they serve. This explored the influence of family, community and mediums such as television through which we are exposed to representations of difference at an early age, for example – gender, ethnicity and economic status. This was then tied back to the exhibition to explore how assumptions made about those in the photographs were later disproved when explored in connection with the lives and identities of participants. Overall the workshops aimed to challenge participants to think about how assumptions and pre-conceived notions of others are developed, and facilitate the development of intercultural competencies; providing participants with the tools to recognise and renegotiate their own perceptions of ‘otherness.’

Conclusion The progression of museum and cultural approaches to representation and engagement with cultural diversity closely mirrors changing

Intercultural Programming and Northern Ireland Social Policy


attitudes and models of ethno-cultural management at a governmental and civic level. The adoption of multicultural approaches in the museum and cultural sector was appropriate during an epoch characterised by monocultural values and discrimination against migrant communities. This model provided a structure through which cultural diversity could be celebrated as something positive and an enriching contribution to the national culture. However, the notion of cultural difference, as reinforced through a multicultural perspective, without adequate progression can have negative impacts on the perception of different cultural communities and the aim of social cohesion within multi-ethnic societies. within the context of intercultural programming, the central focus on achieving social justice through dialogue and interaction engenders a movement away from focusing on the exclusivity of cultural characteristics towards an exploration of themes which impact upon broader spectrums of cultural groups. within ‘The Belonging Project’, the focus on dispelling stereotypes and misconceptions that leads to racism against migrant communities holds the potential to impact on a range of different cultural groups in Northern Ireland – including the local communities. The adoption of a dialogical approach to engagement between diverse cultural communities provided a framework in which workshop participants not only had the opportunity to develop cultural literacy concerning other cultural communities, but more importantly were provided with the opportunity to develop intercultural competencies. These competencies are developed when we are placed within a context of mixed cultural groups, and during the process of dialogue we are challenged to renegotiate our perceptions of others, questions where our notions of others derive from, and make new meaning from the interaction. The adoption of a constructivist approach to meaning made within a dialogical paradigm illustrates how objects and personal narratives are employed to effect changes in attitudes towards others and our perception of migrant communities. Engagement with personal objects and narratives, particularly those loaded with emotive or familiar qualities, allows the viewer to create meaning from personal identification. For example, the Nokia phone is a familiar object and easily recognisable to people in Northern Ireland. This is an object that exists beyond cultural structures and is easily recognisable. Added to this, is the emotive personal story that accompanied the objects which 52

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is recognisable on a very personal level to participants. These variables promote an understanding of, and identification with the participants on an individual level, beyond perceived barriers of culture and ethnicity. I would assert that ‘The Belonging Project’ has the potential to effect real impacts on Northern Ireland society. The adoption of intercultural practices in developing cultural diversity programming for the museum and cultural sector has the potential to engender greater impacts in achieving the goal of improved race relations and social cohesion within a broader society.

Mairéad Quinn is a Ph.D student at School of Creative Arts and Technologies, Ulster University. Her research explores the characteristics of intercultural museum practices and the diverse condition that shape these forms of engagement.

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The Museum Standards Programme for Ireland (MSPI) Congratulations to:

Achievement: Maintenance of Full Accreditation Farmleigh (OPW) • GAA Museum

Achievement: Full Accreditation

Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane • The Zoological Museum (TCD)

Achievement: Interim Accreditation

Clare Museum • Dublin Castle State Apartments (OPW) • Highlanes Gallery

in the Museum Standards Programme for Ireland for Excellence in Caring for Collections, Museum Management, Education, Exhibition & Visitor Services. 54

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* Image cour tesy of ar tist Pauline Cummins, The Spy at the Gate. Photo by Fiona Morgan, 2014.

Museums as places for intercultural dialogue and learning: making museums relevant to diverse communities JENNIFER SIUNG

Introduction1 Given the global nature of the Chester Beatty Library’s Collections, the Library has forged the way in intercultural dialogue. Situated in the centre of Dublin in Ireland, the Chester Beatty Library and its museum houses rich collections from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Through its exhibitions and learning programmes, diverse Irish audiences and people from more recently arrived multi-ethnic communities can share and discover diverse cultures as represented in the collections. Intercultural dialogue and learning plays a key role in the Library’s mission and visitors are encouraged to compare, contrast and explore the historical, cultural, scientific and religious aspects of the collections. This work was the focus of the Library’s seminar, ‘Museums as Places for Intercultural Dialogue and Learning’, held in April 2014. The one-day seminar explored how Irish and international museum practice recognises the need to work with external partners and groups, as well as acknowledge the changing face of national identities in the 21st century. The seminar’s theme related to the diversity and inclusion urban policy agenda advocated by the ‘Intercultural Cities’ programme of the Council of Europe of which Dublin is a leading participant.2 — 1. This article is based on a paper given at the Irish Museums Association Education and Outreach Forum on 19 June 2015, Dublin 2. ‘Intercultural Cities’ is a capacity-building and policy development field programme which has been implemented by the Council of Europe in partnership with the European Commission. Online at: cultureheritage/culture/cities/ Dublin/event_en.asp.

Chester Beatty Library Intercultural Education Programme In order to share the significance and richness of the Chester Beatty Library’s collections, the Education and Public Programme of the Chester Beatty Library was established in 2000. The Library’s relocation to Dublin Castle the same year created new opportunities to engage with diverse audiences. The Education Department seeks to engage with those communities who are represented in the collections through a wide range of events and programmes including: cultural

Museums as places for intercultural dialogue and learning: making museums relevant to diverse communities


Fig 1. Origami workshop, Festival of Curiosity with Chester Beatty Library, 2015 © Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library

activities with diverse communities (such as Chinese New year celebrations); art workshops for children and adults; a teen club; family activity packs; adult and teen drawing packs; music performances; films; lectures; and intercultural storytelling projects in schools.3 The Library has also been a key partner in a number of European and Asian intercultural dialogue projects since 2005. Now, fifteen years since it was established, the Education and Public Programme of the Library has carried out a comprehensive review of its activities, and as a result is seeking new ways to engage with its audiences.

Cultural Diversity in Irish Museums

— 3. Intercultural Education Services, Chester Beatty Library. Online at: Education-Services.aspx 4. The Celtic Tiger was a period of rapid economic growth from 19952007 in Ireland. 5. Siung, J. (2009) ‘Thoughtful and respectful engagement: intercultural dialogue and the Chester Beatty Library, Ireland’ In Bodo, Simona, Gibbs, Kirsten, Sani, Margherita (eds.) Museums as places for intercultural dialogue: selected practices from Europe, a ‘Lifelong Learning’ project for the European Union, published by Map for ID, 19


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At the IMA conference, ‘Museums for Society: Towards a cultural democracy’, held in Belfast, 2015, a call was made for Irish museums to incorporate cultural diversity into their exhibitions and learning programmes. Cultural diversity is a relatively new concept in Ireland; emigration, not immigration has historically been an Irish phenomenon and, with the recent global economic downturn, it has returned to Ireland. During the Celtic Tiger4 years of 1995-2007, however, Ireland experienced an unprecedented wave of returning Irish migrants as well as a significant influx of European and international migrants. with the recent massive change in population, a new chapter in Irish history has opened. This has presented new challenges for a country that has traditionally experienced colonisation and immigration throughout its history and in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the Irish government has been slow to develop policies relating to immigration and integration.5

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Fig 2. Music performance with the Indian Classical Music Society, 2015 © Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library

Whose Culture Is It? – An Exploration of Cultural Policy and Practice in Irish Cultural Institutions Today In recognition of this change in the Irish population, the Education, Community and Outreach working Group (ECO) of the Council of National Cultural Intuitions held a one-day seminar ‘whose Culture Is It? Social Inclusion and Cultural Diversity in Ireland’s Cultural Spaces’ in 2010. The seminar presented case studies of intercultural education programmes in museums and arts policy as well as research findings by Dr Alan Kirwan.6 The Chester Beatty Library presented a brief overview of its intercultural learning programme and emphasised the importance of dialogue with multi-ethnic communities including Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Middle Eastern, European and indigenous Irish groups. Groundwork and research are essential in this regard; in Fig 3. Sacred Traditions East Asian Collection Chester Beatty Library © Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library

— 6. Diversity & Inclusiveness in Irish Museums Online at: archives/8658 for more details of Dr Alan Kirwan’s research and PhD.

Museums as places for intercultural dialogue and learning: making museums relevant to diverse communities


other words, it is vital that museums develop an understanding of their potential audiences. It was also recommended that relevant staff should be encouraged to work outside the museum, develop partnerships with potential cultural and educational organisations, and meet members of communities in order to encourage dialogue. Lastly, we recommended that Irish museums develop programmes that sit comfortably within the remit of their organisation in the formation stages of intercultural activities.7

Education and Outreach Forum – Training Session in Cultural Diversity

— 7. Siung, J. (2010) ‘Thoughtful and Respectful Engagement: The Chester Beatty Library and Intercultural Dialogue’, Whose Culture Is It? Social Inclusion and Cultural Diversity in Ireland’s Cultural Spaces, Report on a seminar organised by the Council of National Cultural Institutions, 19 November 2010, reporter Sarah Finlay, February 2011 d763cfb5-64eb-4adc-8b7fcabb12c0a601/CONFERENCE— REPORT-DOC-FINAL.aspx p.6. 8. Access for All Self-Assessment Toolkit: Checklist 2 Cultural Diversity for Museums, Libraries and Archives MLA. Online at: April2010/3rdsector/cultural_ diversity_checklist.pdf 9. Department of Justice and Equality. (2015) Review of Integration Strategy Online at: omi/omiwebv6.nsf/page/ NewIntegrationStrategy-en


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In June 2015, the Library was invited to present their experiences of working with diverse communities through their public programming with members of the Irish Museums Association. Based on their experience, Jennifer Siung, Head of Education, and Justyna Chmielewska, Education Assistant, reflected on the past fifteen years of the Library’s programme and on feedback they have received from colleagues in Irish museums (through individual consultations on how to approach culturally diverse communities, the ECO seminar in 2010 and the Library’s own seminar in 2014). Inspired by the Museums Libraries and Archives (MLA) Cultural Diversity Checklist, the Library designed a general check-list for attendees to kick-start a conversation on what cultural diversity means to museums in Ireland today.8 Participants were divided into groups and seated at round tables provided. This allowed for IMA members to communicate in a more open manner as large sheets of paper were provided for note-taking. At the outset of the training workshop, the facilitators provided concrete examples of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue in the Chester Beatty Library. The current definition from the Department of Justice and Equality review of their Integration Strategy 20159 and the aforementioned seminars held in 2010 and 2014 were highlighted. And a number of questions were discussed such as how to identify and approach culturally diverse audiences; how to integrate cultural diversity into core services of museums and how to plan, deliver and sustain culturally diverse projects. Examples of programmes aimed at young people, children, volunteers and community ambassadors were provided. A recent cross border project addressing world religions through the Library’s and ulster Museum Collections for teachers both in Northern Ireland and the republic of Ireland also illustrated the potential of museums to engage with wider communities. All of

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Fig 4. Sacred Traditions Gallery, Islamic Collections, Chester Beatty Library © Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library

this provided a back drop to the workshop and provided context for participants. Initial questions were provided to kick-start the discussion and encourage reflection on key themes. These included: l what does cultural diversity mean to me? l How and why should my organisation work with culturally diverse audiences?

Museums as places for intercultural dialogue and learning: making museums relevant to diverse communities


l l l

How do I identify and approach culturally diverse audiences? How can my institution integrate cultural diversity into core services? How can my organisation plan, deliver and sustain culturally diverse projects?

The group was then introduced to key themes for further discussion: ASSESSMENT QuESTIONS: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.

what does cultural diversity mean to you? who is your local culturally diverse community/population? Does your organisation engage with these communities? – yes/No. If yes, please give examples. If not, why? Does your organisation incorporate culturally diverse audiences in its vision / mission statement? – yes / No If yes, please give examples. If not, why? Are cultural diversity issues seen as part of everyone’s day-to-day work? – yes/No If yes, please give examples. If not, why?

STrATEGIES – PLANNING 1. Are cultural diversity issues integral to the strategic planning process of your organisation? – yes/No 2. If yes, please give examples. 3. If not, why? MArKETING – SErVICES – EXHIBITIONS 1. Does your organisation advertise in languages other than English? – yes/No. 2. If yes, please give examples. 3. Does your organisation provide on-site literature in languages other than English? – yes/No. 4. If yes, please give examples. 5. If not, why? 6. where do you advertise to reach your target diverse audiences (shops, places of worship, arts offices or local libraries)? 7. Events: does your organisation liaise with your local culturally diverse population to co-organise relevant events? – yes/No.


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8. If yes, please give examples. 9. If not, why? 10. Displays and exhibitions: have your organisation considered holding relevant culturally diverse exhibitions? – yes/No. 11. If yes, please give examples. 12. If not, why? LEADErSHIP – STAFF QuALIFICATIONS / TrAINING NEEDS 1. Does the leadership of your organisation encourage a focus on cultural diversity? – yes/No. 2. If yes, please give examples. 3. If not, why? 4. what skills and training does staff need to facilitate cultural diversity in your organisation? 5. where can my organisation acquire this training? At the end of the workshop all responses were collated and participants were asked to set themselves two tasks for 2015: 1. what would I like to achieve by the end of the year in terms of cultural diversity? 2. where would I like to see my organisation by the end of 2015?

Outcomes of the Cultural Diversity Workshop Participants reflected on their own and their organisation’s attitudes to recent changes in the demographics of Ireland. They were challenged to examine their organisations’ involvement with local, older and newly established migrant communities and to consider their organisations’ ethos, policies and commitment to work with culturally diverse communities. The workshop facilitators collated the responses to the questions as a means to gauge how cultural diversity sits within the context of Irish museums. The findings facilitated the discussions held throughout the workshop, which were both fascinating and insightful.

Cultural Diversity The integration of cultural diversity is new for most Irish museums. However, participants see it as a positive aspect in Irish society today and as an element that lends to enriching the community. Many view it as a celebration of difference. It proves awareness of unchallenged views

Museums as places for intercultural dialogue and learning: making museums relevant to diverse communities


Fig 5. Sand animation workshop, Chester Beatty Creative Lab for Teens, 2015 © Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library

and prompted the group to acknowledge the existence of different cultures present in Ireland of dual identity, for example, and that hyphenated identities exist such as Irish-Indian and not Indian or Irish. More important, there was an acknowledgement that cultural diversity is not just about recent migrant populations as many communities already existed in Ireland prior to the Celtic Tiger. As the discussion progressed, it transpired that participants had limited or no experience of working directly with culturally diverse communities. Some programmes provided a one-off event for migrant communities with little participation, or feedback, from the targeted group. However, there were very good examples of programmes with migrant groups where space is provided for community groups to talk about their own culture and share with their indigenous neighbours. — 10 Duncan, P and Pollak, S. 2015. ‘CSO figures show 182 languages are spoken in State’s homes’ Irish Times, 2 June 2015 Online at: ireland/irish-news/cso-figuresshow-182-languages-are-spokenin-state-s-homes-1.2230943, 11. Finn, C. (2015) Ireland has given out citizenship to more people than anywhere else in the EU The Journal, 2 July 2015 Online at: hip-ireland-2-2191867-Jul2015/.


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Other areas of discussion included marketing and the limited use of various European and other languages to target migrant groups. According to a recent report in the Irish Times there are 182 languages spoken in Ireland.10 we also have the highest rates of citizenship within the Eu.11 In recognition of new citizens, it is important for Irish museums to reach out to new audiences with language-specific advertising, events, festivals and exhibitions. Tokenism towards migrant groups in the form of exhibitions was a concern raised by the group. For some, art is seen as

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Fig 6. The Garden of Eden, Abridged Bible. Brother Aslan. 1601. Armenia. Arm. 551 ff 4-5 © Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library

universal and it is up to the individual to make their own interpretation of exhibitions; others have participated in events such as the Dublin City Festival of russian Culture or liaised with key Scandinavian groups as a means to inform their exhibitions.

Conclusion The workshop was the first to be held by the IMA in partnership with the Chester Beatty Library. There is a willingness for Irish museums to address cultural diversity in their programmes. Open dialogue and interaction with key groups is paramount as well as the recognition that identity is not fixed; it is constantly changing with the impact of globalisation. Some museums may feel hindered in engaging with new communities due to the nature of their national collections which they view as traditional and Irish. However, we can focus on the commonalities that exist across cultures such as storytelling and Irish

Museums as places for intercultural dialogue and learning: making museums relevant to diverse communities


museums can take a bold step and commence new dialogue in their programming. Developing and creating these connections takes time. However, all of the participants already have the skills to engage as well as build connections with audiences. More important, training of staff and the provision of sessions such as the IMA’s education and outreach forum are key for museum practitioners to meet, discuss and share their experiences as a means to continue and develop their practice and understanding of current issues such as cultural diversity. Jennifer Siung is Head of Education at the Chester Beatty Library.


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Museums in Society: New Propositions PROFESSOR DECLAN MCGONAGLE

Introduction1 The inherited model of Museum as an institutional ‘figure’, separate from the societal ‘ground’ has been challenged constantly in the final decades of the twentieth century, yet it persists. It can be argued, as Alan Borg, a former Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, speculated in 1992, that the model of the encyclopaedic museum was already past its sell by date. This article considers and reconsiders this model in order to propose other models of museum and to move beyond the inherited legal definition of museum as ‘repository’, as it was articulated, for the first time in Ireland in the Government of Ireland’s Tax Consolidation Act, 1995.

The model of repository The earliest coherent example of the model of repository was the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, founded in 1678 on the basis of Elias Ashmole’s Cabinet of Curiosities, donated to Oxford university in 1677. The eccentric Cabinet of Curiosities was transformed into a model of museum which became formalised and reified in the late eighteenth century and into the early nineteenth century and it is this model with which we are still so familiar today. It is a model whose purpose is born of the Enlightenment idea that not only is the world knowable and therefore measurable but that the world – and everything in it – can be catalogued and classified and ‘owned’.

— 1. This article is based on a talk presented at the Irish Museums Association Annual Conference, Museums in Society: Navigating Public Policy on 27th February 2015, Belfast

This principle still haunts our institutional provision and practice including a dominant economic system with museums as institutional expressions of that Enlightenment idea. This needs to be understood as a product of a Modernist mindset where Modernist means a belief system rather than a unit of history. The Modernist mindset has occurred regularly in the history of the human project and is based on the belief that things happen as a result of the actions of man. yet, if we know one big thing today, it is that even the world we humans have

Museums in Society: New Propositions


made is fundamentally unknowable and there is not and there cannot be a theory of everything. This belief system owes everything to the presumption of Newtonian physics and the proposition that man is at the centre of the universe and that the universe is for man – a universe of matter, which can be measured, catalogued, known and fixed, instead of a universe of life, which is unknowable, negotiable and unfixed.

The model of museum It is no accident the inherited model of museum has persisted into the present, as a feature of this presumptuous mindset. It inhabits the idea of authority over its role in fixing value and meaning, despite challenges and modifications to its form in recent decades. we have recently seen how even an institution as powerful as the Tate is susceptible to pressures to restore the idea of a linear, authoritative – vertical rather than a horizontal – narrative in the hanging of its collections. I want to challenge this idea – which the role of the publicly funded ‘Modernist’ institution is, inevitably, in effect, to separate from society in general, and to shut out huge sections of the public by a narrowing of a single authoritative narrative around art or material culture. Perhaps one should start with language and consider the word ‘public’, as used constantly in our sector…in terms like, public funding, public institution, public space, public art, public policy etc. I do not believe that, in our sector, there is a consensus about the meaning of the word public’. what changes in our thinking, for instance, if we use the word ‘social’ instead of ‘public’… meaning transactional and relational. Our new terms would be social funding, social institutions, social space, social art and social policy. we should remember here that ‘public’ funding ie, by the collective is or should be simply a guarantee, not of great art, but of public or social value and consequentially a guarantee of access to value. The justification of public or social funding is an empowering way to add value to the quality of our lives. when that happens, and if the inherited institutional forms cannot guarantee that access to value or only offers a disempowering, consumerist access to value, then the need for new forms or models of museum needs to be addressed. To do this in a period of declining resources requires a necessary and urgent reprioritisation of purpose over form. The purpose of museums in our culture needs to be repurposed. This calls for a model of museum as part of not apart from society, not an institutional terminus for experience and meaning but a site of 66

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negotiation and participation in the making of meaning through which value is embodied and distributed. One may start with the idea that museum can indeed be in the space where interaction or engagement or negotiation takes place and meanings are exchanged on a symmetrical rather than an asymmetrical basis. To think of the ‘social’ is to think of the transactional, between self and other, in a reciprocal rather than rhetorical process. In a way, we need to understand museum as being part of the distribution business, as a function not just as a place, in the post-production zone. The old model of value was that all value lay upstream, in the production space – in the ‘studio’. It is argued here that downstream – where experience, participation, as well as consumption take place – is just as valuable when those aspects are connected because, in my view, you cannot separate the concept of art, or its value, from its experience. In that sense, then, museum storerooms are not actually full of art but of potential art because the artefact only becomes art in its experience, in its use value rather than its exchange value, in terms of what it does and not just what it is. yet, most of our structural provision is still centred on the idea of what art is. Policy and resourcing arguments and, in many cases, learning models are all based on the idea of what art is. This is an expensive model and increasingly unaffordable in terms of traditional models of funding. right now I am not sure that we know what a museum is or needs to be so we have to speculate. The State seems to be making it clear that it will not fund the status quo and what funding it allocates will be given reluctantly and instrumentally. The arm’s length concept of funding along with other dimensions of what was called the Postwar Consensus has been abandoned. That being the case, it seems to be a waste of time to try to recover the old model when it is broken – a model that was redundant even without recession at any rate. One may speculate not about what a museum is but what a museum is for and who it is for so the question becomes ‘what use is a museum?’ To answer that question one needs to think about purpose rather than ‘form’, to define museum in terms of who they serve? This proposes a demand rather than a supply side economy but – and this is crucial – a changed demand side. This is why the integration of museum culture with education is critical and not just the passive model of education but education understood as a process of emancipation.

Museums in Society: New Propositions


School or college as a museum? Could a school or a college be a museum? Could a museum be an art college or a hospital, an art college or a museum, with life and learning in negotiation? Art and material culture in a museum as function and not just as place destroys linear time because all experience takes place in the present and this present tense model also proposes a participatory model of culture as an informing concept of ‘new’ museum capable of acquitting a responsibility to provide public value and, on those terms, attract supports based on the support of various publics. This, ultimately, is what conditions and determines public policy and resourcing. If museums were considered civil institutions, with civil meaning ‘belonging to citizens’ centred on an idea of citizenship allowing for participation in the construction of meaning and value out of the experience of art and material culture. If we do not have a participatory culture we will not have a participatory democracy, so the stakes are high in this period of resetting. This position is based on the value of the commonality and not on the uniqueness of the artist or maker’s experience which connects artist and non-artist and therefore creates empathy and the creation of empathy is what art and the understanding of material culture is for. Therefore, museums should be sites for the creation of empathy through the production of new knowledge and new experience. Therefore, one may think of museums in society as housing and enabling, activating and accessing different forms of knowledge and not just as sites of entertainment in terms of consumption. How does one get to that space from where one is now? It is important to say here that the closure of the ‘temples’ or even denying the inherited model is being recommended here. rather, an argument can be made for transformation through the creation and addition of other narratives and the creation of dialectic between old and new models – maybe even in a single institution – in which various members of the public can be offered participatory opportunities, from the scholar to the engaged or casual visitor. Maybe we could turn our language about the purpose of museums from the idea of fixing meaning and value, of sustaining authority and permanence, settling and holding value, to ideas of unfixing and negotiating meaning, about institutional agility rather than permanence and about the interactions between those concepts.


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Conclusion To consider how public policy could enable this transformation and what forms of museums one could have in a future informed by a dialectic between forms and purpose, one has to think in four dimensions. One has to consider the one dimensional idea of value, i.e. the artist in the studio and the idea of production, the two dimensional model of the artist in the gallery and the idea of distribution, the three dimensional model of the artist in public space and the idea of unmediated experience and the four dimensional model which is all of the above but in negotiation and transaction. The four dimensional model involves signature, participatory, collaborative and reciprocal models of value but negotiated together which would require new institutional forms and models of practice. To conclude the question remains – can one think in four dimensions, whether it is in terms of making art, of reading material culture, or of making public policy, in order to make the museums of the future?

Professor Declan McGonagle is Director of the National College of Art and Design, Dublin

Museums in Society: New Propositions


NEVE N NEV VER ER R M SS MIS OUT OU The A r ts Council ’s new, upgr aded CULTUREFOX events guide is now live. Free, faster, easy to use – and personalised for you. N e v e r m i s s o u t a g a in .

Beyond Pebbledash, the Museum and the City HELEN BEAUMONT

Introduction1 ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ is an architectural installation, a book2, a public engagement programme and exhibition and a website. It is also a partnership, a discussion, and ‘an invitation to question, to strip away the layers and peel back the exterior. ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ is concerned with critical enquiry, a quest to look beyond facades to excavate the surface image or material for meaning’.3

— 1. This article is based on a paper the author co-presented with Ruairí Ó Cuív, Public Art Manager for Dublin City Arts Office at the Irish Museums Association Education and Outreach Forum on 19 June 2015, Dublin 2. Kearns, P. and Ruimy, M. (2014) Beyond Pebbledash and the Puzzle of Dublin. Gandon Editions, Cork. 3. Kearns, P. and Ruimy, M. (2014) Exhibition Proposal Documents 4. The ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ house installation was based on a ‘typical’ Dublin pebble-dash house, life-size, scale 1:1, including a pebble-dash façade, and steel skeletal frame to replicate its walls, stairs, internal doors, rear fenestration, chimney and roof. 5. The Public Engagement Programme was awarded a €20,000 grant under the Arts Council Engaging with Architecture 6. Kearns, P. and Ruimy, M. (2014) Exhibition Proposal Documents

The article addresses the ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ exhibition4 at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History from August 2014 – January 2015. It focuses on the Public Engagement Programme that ran parallel to the exhibition and was funded by the Arts Council’s ‘Engaging with Architecture Scheme’.5 The programme targeted a wide range of publics – Transition year students, local youth groups, families, and adult museum visitors including former soldiers who had lived at Collins Barracks, the complex where the museum is located, from the 1950s to the 1990s. using the Pebbledash House architectural installation as a starting point, the engagement programme sought to generate discussion about how Irish society values the places in which we live. The programme also aimed to question what future urban developments and designs for urban living might look like. An interdisciplinary team of professional architects, artists and educators worked with schools, youth groups and families to explore these themes. The workshops culminated in a public exhibition, ‘City Makers’. ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ exhibition, including the engagement programme, is now archived on its own website

‘Let us build a house to tell a story’6 In autumn 2013 urban planner Paul Kearns and architect Motti ruimy, authors of Redrawing Dublin, contacted Lorraine Comer, Head of Education at the National Museum of Ireland, with a proposal to place an architectural installation based on a to-scale

Beyond Pebbledash, the Museum and the City


pebbledash house in Clarke Square, at the heart of the Collins Barracks complex. Paul and Motti had already secured the support of ruairí Ó Cuív for the concept, along with support from the Dublin City Architect’s office, which consolidated the proposal put to the Museum. The project’s potential to engage in an exciting dialogue with new and existing audiences appealed to the National Museum of Ireland. The very concept of the Pebbledash House as a museum exhibition was radical, new and challenging. The themes that ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ wrestled with resonated with themes of NMI exhibitions such as Eileen Gray, or displays of artefacts connected with domestic life, and even with the Barracks itself as a former ‘home’ to soldiers Fig1: The pebbledash house installation in Clarke Square. (2014) © Ros Kavanagh


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for almost 300 years.7 Those same themes are also live issues that are relevant for the Museum as a public cultural space in an urban, inner city setting.8 Clarke Square, the space that visitors first encounter on arrival to the Museum, is a natural exhibition space – as evidenced by popular exhibitions such as the ‘Sea Stallion’ and the ‘Fouga Jet’.9 In particular, the proposal offered a valuable opportunity to connect with young people and our local communities, as central to the proposal a public engagement programme was agreed which would aim to target young people and the local community.

Collins Barracks – the challenge to be a local museum

— 7. Dunlevy, M. (2002) Dublin Barracks – A Brief History of Collins Barracks, Dublin National Museum of Ireland, Dublin 8. Much has been written on the civic role of the city museum. See: CNCI. (2015) Policy Framework for Education, Community, Outreach (ECO) refers to “the [Museum] as both learning site and social space” p16; Heumann Gurian, E. (2009) ‘Museum as Soup Kitchen’, Curator: The Museum Journal, 53, (1) 71-85; Simon, N. (2015) Museum 20. Online at:; Anderson, D. Rethinking Culture in an Age of Austerity, ‘Museums in Society: Navigating Public Policy’ conference, Irish Museums Association, Belfast, 2015. 9. The Sea Stallion Exhibition August 2007 – May 2008, Fouga Jet on display Summer 2013 10. Other partners in this three year project included Poetry Ireland, the Curriculum Development Unit, Localise, National College of Art & Design and Creative Engagement. 11. Our Irish Heritage (2015) Online at:

In 1997 the National Museum if Ireland – Decorative Arts and History opened at Collins Barracks in Dublin’s north inner city, within a living community and since then has strived to build and develop meaningful links with the local community; to enable those who live within its environs to see Collins Barracks as a local resource – their museum. Most notable is the ‘Saturday Club’, a programme for local Primary schoolchildren, which started in 2000 and ran for more than a decade. It offered an ongoing programme aiming to give local young people a sense of ownership of the Museum and an understanding of its work. Projects included learning with museum conservators, curating exhibitions, learning to be a guide and writing museum trails. Many young people stayed with the programme for a number of years.

The Power of Partnership The commitment inherent in developing, nurturing and sustaining a local audience is an ongoing challenge, requiring constant input and resourcing. In this era of reduced funding, partnership has been an effective tool for the Museum in seeking ways to continue developing new programmes, including initiatives with the potential to connect with local audiences. The Museum’s experience of partnership has been very positive; as well as making the most of limited resources, partnership can encourage us to work creatively, think innovatively and see our collections with fresh eyes. For example, through the threeyear intergenerational project with Larkin Community College and Lourdes Day Care Centre,10 links were forged with older and young audiences from the North Inner City. Other outcomes of this partnership include an online heritage trail.11

Beyond Pebbledash, the Museum and the City


From Beyond Pebbledash to City Makers – the Public Engagement programme By the close of 2013 the project’s aims, scope and budget were agreed. From early 2014 the project team met monthly to ensure the project progressed as planned. Much of the work that takes place in a partnership project like this could be characterised as time-consuming yet ‘invisible’ – from minute-taking to negotiating within budgets, to getting ‘buy-in’ from colleagues or encouraging potential groups to participate in the public engagement programme. It should not be discounted or undervalued; for as much as any successful project needs a clear and inspiring vision or strong project management, it is the unseen everyday work that acts like ‘glue’ to hold it all together. The exhibition and ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ book launch took place on 27 August, during Heritage week.12

— 12. Lord Mayor Christy Burke’s powerful opening speech on the theme of ‘home’, the housing crisis and urban living was informed by his volunteering work with the Inner City Helping Homeless group; following the launch, he was going to his voluntary work in the city centre. The City Architect, Ali Grehan also gave a compelling speech, alongside the Museum’s Director, Raghnall Ó Floinn. 13. A full set of aims are included in the ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ Public Engagement Programme Evaluation Report (unpublished).


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The Public Engagement Programme ran from Heritage week to January 2015, with a diverse range of events targeting a broad set of audiences, but at the heart of the programme were the workshops for young people. The workshops aimed to give young people a space to explore their relationship with the concept of house and home, and to encourage participants to articulate their feelings and opinions on the themes of urban living and their environments.13 The interdisciplinary team for the workshops included Blaithín Quinn (artist and architect), Orla Murphy (architect and academic) and Tara Kennedy and Jo Anne Butler – who together work as Culturstruction. Lynn McGrane (independent arts educator) co-ordinated the programme of workshops for Transition year students and youth groups. Lynn McGrane invited post primary schools across Dublin and local youth groups to participate in the workshops delivered by the three facilitators, which took place in October 2014. It took time to encourage schools and youth groups to commit to the project. In total nine post primary schools and three youth groups took part in the workshops Programme. Orla Murphy offered her thoughts on the programme: “This programme demonstrates the importance of engaging young people specifically on the subject of the built environment, the city and architecture. There is a huge distinction between experiences of different social classes of the city. This is difficult to say and hard to hear but the work made by the participants bears it out, sometimes painfully clearly. For example, one group prioritised dealing with the presence of drug abuse in their neighbourhoods while those in another group emphasised

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access to culture and sustainability. All these voices are valid, but their distinction highlights questions about justice that the city needs to address if it is to become one that provides equally for all its citizens.” Culturstruction’s workshops for the programme were entitled ‘with Voice’ and focused on encouraging participants to form and voice critical opinions on the built environment of their own surroundings. One participant noted: “I think that to say a house needs a garden would be to call any house without a garden not a home…and that would be unfair to the people…who live and love their own houses… that’s what makes it a home not whether it has an outdoor space”. Tara Kennedy and Jo Anne Butler, working with four schools (including one school for young people with intellectual disabilities) and one youth group, set the participants a range of exercises such as debating, discussions and drawing. The outcome of each workshop was a recorded audio piece of the voices of the participants edited together into a vox-pop style piece. Fig 2: ‘With Voice’ workshop ‘City Makers’ exhibition, 2014 ©National Museum of Ireland.

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In the evaluation process,14 a teacher from the school for young people with intellectual disabilities noted the positive experience of the workshops. She observed that the students are not often treated as adults or asked to engage in grown-up topics. Tara Kennedy and Jo Anne Butler felt this provided a valuable insight into the distinction between age and learning ability.

Fig 3: ‘Dear Beyond Pebbledash’ postcards from the ‘City Makers’ exhibition, 2014. Photograph ©National Museum of Ireland.

— 14. Beyond Pebbledash Public Engagement Programme Evaluation Report (unpublished). 15. Irish Architecture Foundation activities/open-house-dublin-2015/


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Orla Murphy’s workshops focused on the concept of multiple housing and the city. She worked with three schools and facilitated a family workshop as part of the Museum’s mid-term events programme. Each workshop entailed different activities, from a world café discussion on housing, neighbourhood and the city, to an invitation to write a ‘Manifesto for a Better City’, to writing ‘Dear Beyond Pebbledash’ postcards in which participants were asked to describe their own neighbourhood using words and, or pictures.

Blaithín Quinn facilitated a family workshop as part of the Museum’s programme for the Open House Festival,15 and worked with six schools and two youth groups. The family workshop invited participants to respond to the ‘Beyond Pebbledash House’ installation and furniture in the Eileen Gray exhibition by designing a conceptual living room for the future. The workshops for the schools explored the aspects of housing density and scale, in a range of different approaches, from

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Fig 4: Artwork created in the ‘Living Room’ family workshop, Open House Festival, 2014. ©National Museum of Ireland.

discussions about low density housing and high density city living, the relationship between density and a sense of community, the threshold between public and private space and the idea of green space. Participants worked with a wide range of materials from pencils and paper to matchboxes, straws and sticks, to develop their ideas in response to the themes, exploring design possibilities for city living. The exhibition of artworks generated in the facilitated sessions was curated by ruairí Ó Cuív and was located in a space in the Museum which overlooked the Pebbledash House in Clarke Square. The exhibition, entitled ‘City Makers’ was launched in December 2014 by Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human rights and Equality Commission and former Ombudsman for Children. The exhibition remained on display for a month, during which time visitors were invited to contribute to the conversation through completion of ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ postcards or complete response cards on the question ‘what makes good housing, neighbourhood or city?’. In midJanuary 2015 both the ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ and ‘City Makers’ exhibitions closed.

The Public Engagement Programme – other events In addition to the workshops for young people, the Public Engagement Programme featured a range of other events which aimed to provoke

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debate and start conversations on the themes of ‘Beyond Pebbledash’. During Heritage week 2014, the Museum held a series of public talks16 exploring historic aspects of the themes, including curator Dr Jennifer Goff on Eileen Gray’s writings, drawing and plans relating to urban architecture and planning. An oral history workshop was held for former inhabitants of Collins Barracks – soldiers stationed at the Barracks from the 1950s to the 1990s and one civilian who had lived there as a young boy in the 1950s and 1960s as a member of one of the last officers’ families to live in the Barracks. Interestingly, the stories and recollections that the participants shared resonate with the ideas, opinions and thoughts of the workshop participants; notions of ‘home’ and ‘place’ are as much about people, friendships and community as they are about buildings and amenities. One participant described friendships he had forged at the Barracks as “solid as a rock and brilliant.” The Pebbledash House also provided the theme for Culture Night: ‘The Outdoor Living room’. The house was lit up and old chairs, armchairs and sofas were placed about the square to give the sense that the space was a living room, while a DJ played music into the square. The heavy rain that night created an unusually atmospheric space, recorded by film-maker Paddy Cahill.17

— 16. Talks included Orla Fitzpatrick on the architecture of house fronts and window dressing in Stoneybatter, and Jennifer Goff on Eileen Gray’s ideas, drawings and plans relating to urban architecture. 17. All films created as part of the Beyond Pebbledash Project are accessible on the Beyond Pebbledash website 18. Online at:


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An ‘urban Party’ held in October was another key event in the Public Engagement Programme. Similar to the ‘Pecha Kucha’ format, the ‘urban Party’ invited participants to speak on the topic of urban living and to articulate in just three minutes their thoughts on the opportunities and challenges of living in Dublin City. The aim was to have speakers who represented as far as possible the culturally diverse range of city dwellers now living in the vicinity of Collins Barracks, and reflect a range of ages, from young adults to older people. Speakers also included academics, artists and some well-known figures including TD Mick wallace.18 Again, there were parallels with what the young workshop participants and former occupants of Collins Barracks had to say about home, community and shared urban spaces. For example, student Cyndi Njoki spoke, as someone who has lived in Dublin for just a few years, of the importance of public spaces where people can gather and be together. In November 2014 a symposium was held at Collins Barracks on ‘The Challenges and Opportunities of delivering a world-class (Inner) City’.

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This event targeted key policy and decision-makers in the area of urban planning. Speakers included Professor Frances ruane of the Economic Social research Institute who used her daily walk from home to work across Dublin city as the framework for her presentation which argued that urban regeneration can only happen when you get good crossdepartmental planning alongside economic growth.19 A final public event took place on 21 December, the winter solstice, a contemporary dance performance entitled We make it Home with dancers Keren rosenberg, Aoife McAtamney and Samual Denton. A drop-in event for the public, a short film of the performances can be accessed on the ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ website.

Conclusions – some thoughts and reflections There were elements of the project that, on reflection, might have been done differently. For example, had the ‘urban Party’ taken place at the end of the project, there would have been an opportunity to invite the workshop participants to take part. This would have provided the young people another platform to articulate their views while increasing the diversity of the speakers. In this way the ‘urban Party’ could have acted as a powerful, closing event, bringing all the diverse elements together. The venue and dates for the ‘City Makers’ exhibition were not finalised until relatively late into the project. A definite date for the exhibition opening would have provided a clear goal for the schools and youth groups and enabled schools to plan for attending the launch and exhibition. while the value of the workshops over a short period of time was recognised, it was expressed that future programmes might benefit from exploring the themes over a longer time period.

— 19. Kelly, O. (2014) ‘Local Authorities, OPW and semi-states will be exempt from new vacant land levy’ Irish Times, 28 November 2014

On the positive side, the project was rich and rewarding for the Museum. The exhibition and public engagement programme brought new audiences and fresh perspectives to existing exhibitions such as Eileen Gray, and the Barracks as a former home. The questions the exhibition and public programme posed are current and relevant to the Museum as a public cultural space in an urban, inner city. The series of workshops brought young people into the Museum, to participate in thoughtfully structured and sensitively facilitated sessions focusing on their ideas, concerns and hopes about their city, neighbourhoods and community. with hindsight, inviting not just one, but four specialist facilitators to deliver the workshops was an astute decision as it generated an inspiring diversity in the ways in which the themes were

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interpreted by both the facilitators and the participants. The ‘City Makers’ exhibition provided an important platform for the manifestos, artworks and ideas and was a very positive recognition of the participants’ work20 and resonated with the original Pebbledash House installation. Fig 5. The ‘City Makers’ exhibition with a view of the Pebbledash House installation in background, 2014 © Ros Kavanagh

The Public Engagement Programme’s variety of events, from workshops to drop-ins targeted a broad spectrum of audiences from young people, to families, to special interest groups and individuals. The evaluation report on the Public Engagement Programme provides a set of recommendations for future work of this kind.21 The rich documentation of the project through photography, audio and video, as well as the comprehensive evaluation report has ensured the project has a legacy; the material is now brought together on the ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ website.22

Helen Beaumont is Education Officer at the National Museum of Ireland. — 20. ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ Public Engagement Programme Evaluation Report (unpublished) 21. The ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ Evaluation Report is available on request and will be accessible on the ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ website in due course. 22. Online at:


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Volume 25 2015

The Siren Song of Ireland 2016 HELEN O’CARROLL

Introduction1 As we’re all aware, Ireland, north and south, has embarked on a decade of centenary anniversaries. In November 2014 the Government launched its draft commemorative programme, ‘Ireland 2016’2 All of the local authorities are now being encouraged to take this on board as they develop their own plans for commemoration, and to take their lead from the Government’s programme. In fact, the local authorities are seen as the key partners in delivering the commemorative programme for the Government. Like a number of my museum colleagues around the country, I am now serving on a commemoration committee. This paper reflects the questions I’ve been struggling with as to how we as museum curators might engage with ‘official policy’ while commemorating these significant historical events.

‘Ireland 2016’

— 1. This article is based on a paper given to the annual conference of the Irish Museums Association, ‘Museums in Society: Navigating Public Policy’, on 28 February 2015, Belfast. 2. Minister Humphreys joined by Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister of State Ó Ríordáin to launch Ireland 2016. Online at: Releases/2014/November2014Press Releases/htmltext,18307,en.html 3. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Ireland 2016 (2015) Online at: Releases/2014/November2014Press Releases/Material/_IRELAND2016_ Brochure.pdf

As we develop our own plans in Kerry County Museum, we’ve been dutifully attempting to follow the Government’s programme. But I’ve been growing increasingly uneasy with the lead that we’re following, wondering where it’s taking us. On first hearing it is very alluring, wooing us with the sounds of a dynamic future where we have cast off the shackles of the past. But the more I listen the more I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t the song of the Siren, and if, like Odysseus, we should tie ourselves to the mast of the ship so that we can hear the words properly and resist the lure of its seductive music. ‘Ireland 2016’ is full of dynamic action: “Ireland 2016 is a call to action for the people of Ireland and our Diaspora to remember 1916, and that pivotal period in our history, to reflect on the past 100 years and to reimagine our future, building a new legacy of hope, belief, possibility and confidence”3 we’re told that in 2016 Ireland will: “remember our shared history; reconcile by honouring the peace builders; imagine a better future;

The Siren Song of Ireland 2016


present our achievements to the world; celebrate family, community and friendship”4 It sounds terrific, but I have to admit that I’m a little confused about what it actually means. we are being called upon to ‘remember 1916 and that pivotal period in our history’, but with no mention of the rising. Are we to take it, then, that 1916 – the year that is – is shorthand for the Easter rising? Or is it just an error, albeit a bit of a jaw-dropper, that the rebellion itself isn’t mentioned in this mission statement? Perhaps the concept is to remember the whole year of 1916? If so, are we now bundling the rising, the Great war, and the social and economic conditions of the time into one big commemorative package, and giving them all equal status or, to borrow from the local lingo, parity of esteem? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having a greater historical understanding of the context of the time. I absolutely concur that we need to locate the rising within the framework of world war I; to understand that the rebellion took place because of the war; and to broaden the perspective to include what was happening throughout the rest of the country, not just in Dublin at Easter. This drive to understand the rising in the context of the time has been a very welcome feature of modern historical scholarship. But the rising’s absence from the mission statement is remarkable when you consider that we are commemorating 1916 because of the Easter rising; because it is one of the foundation stones of the Irish state; and because it has been cherished as a foundation myth for the past 100 years. The Easter rising has been central to the story that the Irish state has fashioned about itself over the last century and its omission as the focus around which the Government’s commemorative programme is built, whether intentional or not, is a revelation.

— 4. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Ireland 2016 (2015) Online at: Releases/2014/November2014 PressReleases/Material/_IRELAND 2016_Brochure.pdf


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what this omission reveals is open to question. Is it that the state has now come to terms with the rising to the extent that it no longer needs to refer to it for validation, that we are now so blasé about it that we need no longer mention it? Is the central message that we are so over the rising? Or does it reveal a lingering unease about the rising and its legacy?

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what it certainly leaves us with is doubt about as to what is the central focus of this commemoration – who or what we are commemorating in 2016. And this isn’t just a matter of semantics, because the lack of clarity in articulating a central focus that pervades the programme directly affects the local authorities as they take their lead from it in writing their own policies.

The Heroic Future we’re called upon to ‘re-imagine our future’ and build a new legacy of hope, belief, possibility and confidence. But is that legacy to be built on the actions and aspirations of the 1916 rising? Or, if we are now so over it, are we being asked to leave the past behind and to ‘re-imagine our future’ by starting in the present to build our new legacy? Are we going to wipe the slate clean of the messiness of history, escape our blighted past and stride forth into the future to claim our new legacy of hope, belief, possibility and confidence? After all, don’t we all need to do something positive after the recent years of economic misery? As we emerge from the foxholes of the recession why can’t we have a nationwide party to cheer ourselves up? why shouldn’t we be proud of being Irish, take pride in our achievements and put up the bunting and the banners, like we did two years ago during The Gathering? I think this is why I’m hearing it as the song of the Siren. Just as the Sirens wanted to draw Odysseus in, tempting him with stories of what he once was, this song is tempting us with stories of what we might be, if only we forget the past. The Sirens understood the longing in Odysseus’s heart, the nostalgia for the life he had once known in Troy and so they sang to him the songs of the heroic past. This song sings to us of the heroic future, understanding only too well our yearning for the light of dawn at the end of the long dark night of the last seven years.

— 5. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Ireland 2016 (2015) Online at: Releases/2014/November2014Press Releases/Material/_IRELAND2016_ Brochure.pdf

But, while resolutely facing forward, ‘Ireland 2016’ nevertheless reaches into the past, and selectively quotes from the Proclamation to highlight the egalitarian ideals articulated by the leaders of the 1916 rising: “The republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and delivers its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally…”5

The Siren Song of Ireland 2016


These ideals, with their echoes of the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the rights of Man, underpin ‘Ireland 2016’s’ vision of the country coming together to remember, reconcile, imagine, present and celebrate, and build our new legacy of hope, belief, possibility and confidence. But what doesn’t add up is that while the programme presents us with this very positive, dynamic vision, it is vague as to what exactly is being commemorated. Furthermore, it stakes a claim to the legacy of the rising, or at least to a part of its legacy, without actually mentioning it by name. This is why I think we need to turn down the sweet, seductive music and listen to closely to the words. Now this might seem unfair when all the Government is trying to do is to create a sense of national solidarity around something good and positive. Isn’t that one of the things that governments are supposed to do? After all, from an anthropological perspective, commemoration is all about creating collective solidarity in the here and now, providing an opportunity for the community to come together in a common purpose, and creating emotional identification among the group. In state-sponsored commemoration the government of the day takes the lead in fostering national solidarity, particularly when it is around an event that is accepted as one of the foundations of the state’s very existence. So it’s up to them to set the tone; but why am I hearing something discordant in that tone?

Commemoration, politics and history  well, I think perhaps it’s because of politics. remarkably, for the first time ever we will have a general election coinciding with a significant anniversary of the rising, perhaps the most significant anniversary. It would be disingenuous not to ask if this has influenced the Government’s programme. Because fundamental to understanding what any commemoration is all about is the recognition that it is firmly rooted in the present. what we commemorate, who we commemorate, when, where, why – these are all decisions taken in the present and fulfil the needs of the here and now. The reality is that contemporary circumstances are always present in commemoration. And the here and now for all the political parties, the Government included, is an election that promises to be extremely challenging for all of them, with people feeling disenchanted with the political system and particularly by the political centre. 84

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And regardless of an election, contemporary politics would, in any case, play a part in commemoration because of its relationship with history. All politicians use the past to validate themselves in the present. All politicians, regardless of their nationality or hue, use the past to deliver and communicate simple messages that are rooted in the politics of today – the past is constantly used to validate their politics in the here and now.6 I’m not disputing their right to do this, because actually I don’t think they have a choice. It is the nature of politics and you might as well ask a crow not to caw and a duck not to quack as to demand of politicians to refrain from making political capital out of the past. It’s pointless to expect politicians to see commemoration through any other frame than the political. They are not historians and it is a waste of energy to expect them to behave as if they were. Inside the political bubble it must be hard to see anything else but politics, and in there the complexities of the past are of no use because they muddy everything and make it more difficult to communicate a clear message to the electorate. So the past gets simplified and put to use. In that context, you can see why the Government would draw on the egalitarian ideals of the Proclamation. with the removal of the constitutional claim to the six counties, the peace process, and the current strength of Anglo-Irish relations, the emphasis is not so much on the rising’s nationalist legacy as on its republican ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. So ‘Ireland 2016’ stakes its claim by drawing the parallel between Ireland in 1916 rising up to claim her destiny, and now once again rising up – this time phoenix-like from the ashes of economic recession and banking collapse, led into the promised land by today’s generation of visionary leaders, to claim anew her legacy of liberty, equality and fraternity.

— 6. Bryan, D., Cronin, M., O’Toole, T., Pennell, C. (2013) ‘Ireland’s Decade of Commemorations: A Roundtable’, New Hibernia Review 17 (3), 63-87

In a way, I would be surprised if the Government didn’t present itself in this way, with an election coming up and all the other political parties hovering like hawks over those same ideals. For Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, it is a matter of using them to accuse the Government of making a mess of things, while over on the far left they are all about berating the established political class as sell-outs. So in its commemorative programme, why would the Government hold itself aloof from staking its claim to these ideals also?

The Siren Song of Ireland 2016


So, consciously or unconsciously, the politics of 2016 are influencing the Government’s commemoration programme, with its emphasis very much on the future and not so much on the past. This is perhaps only to be expected, but what concerns me is that as ‘Ireland 2016’ is energetically promoted to the local authorities, they are accepting it enthusiastically as an apolitical way of engaging their communities in commemoration. what’s making me uneasy is that the enthusiastic response at local level is not distinguishing any of the political notes inherent in the rhetoric of ‘Ireland 2016’, and it is being accepted at face value as we follow its lead in writing policies and programmes for commemoration. But, as they are put before the elected representatives for acceptance, these policies and programmes are now entering the political arena. There, the political notes are being heard loud and shrill, eliciting responses that divide along party allegiances. So instead of being apolitical, our policies are now becoming part of the political game, and in that cacophony the subtle tones of history cannot be heard.

Deepening the political discourse Is there anything to be done about this, given the relationship between politics and commemoration? Perhaps one way forward is to actively recognise that relationship and in doing so we might be able to see beyond the politics involved. This might also be a way of deepening the political discourse, particularly around the egalitarian ideals of the Proclamation. This is limited by the political parties, in their jostling for position as the true heirs to those ideals, to a narrow discussion about who has best lived up to them. But if we situated the Proclamation within a historical context rather than a political one, maybe we could have a much more interesting national conversation, one that involves all of us, not just the politicians. Perhaps we could start by considering just how representative these ideals were of Irish society’s aspirations on the eve of the rising. If we looked beyond the politics, maybe we could have a discussion about the social conservatism of Ireland in the early twentieth century and ask if there was really an expectant population impatient for these radical ideals to be realised? we could consider if those ideals could in fact have been implemented by the leaders of the rising had they lived, or would those ideals have dissipated in the realpolitik of forging a new state? 86

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And perhaps we could reflect on the conservative and patriarchal state that developed over the past century and consider if it was less a betrayal of the egalitarian ideals of the Proclamation than an indication that those ideals were never deeply rooted in the new state in the first place?7 Maybe that might lead to an honest exploration of how deeply embedded they are in Ireland today, giving us pause for thought about how we might go about making them a reality in the future. If we want to have discussions like this we need to become very familiar with the relationship between politics and history in commemoration, especially in view of the long years of centenary anniversaries ahead. A number of local authorities are developing policies that cover not just 2016 but also the period following, right up to 2023, taking us through many more momentous events such as the conscription crisis, the end of world war I, the first Dáil, the war of Independence, the Government of Ireland Act, the Truce, the Treaty. As we go through these anniversaries, we need to be alert to the urge to simplify the past; and while this might suit contemporary political needs, it will inevitably lead to distortion and evasion of historical meaning.

The Civil War

— 7. McGarry, F, (2013), ‘1916 and Irish Republicanism: Between Myths and History’. In: J. Horne and E. Madigan (eds.), Towards Commemoration: Ireland in War and Revolution 1912-1923, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin 8. Dolan, A, (2013), ‘Divisions and Divisions and Divisions: Who to Commemorate’. In: J. Horne and E. Madigan (eds.), Towards Commemoration: Ireland in War and Revolution 1912-1923, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin

This is particularly true of our last major centenary anniversary – the Civil war, which is perhaps the one we’re all least looking forward to. If we fear to speak of Easter week in ‘Ireland 2016’, how are we going to cope with the very messy legacy of the Civil war – an episode in our history that we still haven’t come to terms with in any meaningful way? How will we deal with the silences of the Civil war? who or what will we commemorate then? Are we going to have a rebalancing of the scale whereby the republican martyrs, who’ve been getting an annual public outing for a century, will now be joined by dead “Staters”, who, aside from Michael Collins, have rarely been disturbed by commemoration? Or will we not mention it at all, and pack it away as “shared history”?8 But will that kind of bland history really satisfy anyone? Because these are not nameless and faceless figures disconnected from us by a vast stretch of time. For many Irishmen and women today it is their parents who are the actors in these events. For many more of us it is our grandparents; long dead now perhaps but remembered by us as the

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old and gentle souls we knew as children, and who we now have to recast as the young active participants or witnesses to these events, and wonder how they were affected by them, and how, in turn, they have affected us. Is this really the best we can do to commemorate them?

Conclusion So I’ve been sitting around the committee table struggling with these questions for the past few months, aware at the same time that it is a good opportunity to highlight the museum that I work in, enhance its visibility within the local authority structure and maybe catch any funding that might be floating by. So it might have been wiser to keep my questions to myself and not be the party pooper. But I have reminded myself that I am a historian, and therefore I’m not obliged to see the past through a political frame. I really don’t need politicians to tell me what to think about the past or how to deal with it, and neither does anyone else for that matter. The subtleties and nuances of history are my stock in trade, and they are vital to arriving at some kind of coherent understanding of the motivations, loyalties and identities of the people a century ago. As a historian working in the public sphere whose job it is to promote a greater understanding of the past, it seems to me that I have a responsibility to make the effort to see beyond the politics. So from now on I’m going to be like one of Odysseus’s sailors and plug my ears with beeswax so that I can continue to facilitate people’s engagement with the complexities of history, while sailing on past the alluring simplicities of the heroic future promised in the siren song of ‘Ireland 2016’.

Helen O’ Carroll is Curator at Kerry County Museum.


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Volume 25 2015

Rethinking Culture in an Age of Austerity D AV I D A N D E R S O N

Introduction1 Many of our communities face severe economic and social threats, of a kind they have not experienced for decades, if ever. At the same time, museums face the most severe challenges we have known in a century or more. Our communities need us as a core public service – to stand with them, not to hide.

Challenging Times Early in 2015 the Nuffield Trust, using data from the uK Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS), analysed the allocation of public funding to wales between 2010-11 and 2020-21 (the latter based on uK Government spending projections). In 2010-11, Health, Education and Social Services in wales together accounted for c 64% (£96 billion) of the £150 billion total public expenditure, with 35% (£54 billion) allocated to all other purposes, including culture. According to the IFS’s ‘optimistic’ scenario, by 2020-21 the total of public expenditure allocated by the uK Government to wales will have fallen to £144 billion, of which only 20% (£28 billion) will go other purposes. But in the IFS’s ‘plausible but pessimistic’ scenario, the total will fall to £126 billion; the amount given to Health, Education and Social Services in wales will still be £116 billion, but all other purposes, including culture, will get only £10 billion – or 8% of total public expenditure.

— 1. This article is based on a paper given to the annual conference of the Irish Museums Association, ‘Museums in Society: Navigating Public Policy’, on 28 February 2015, Belfast.

To summarise, even in the optimistic scenario, the allocation of funding to the area of public expenditure that includes museums will be halved by 2020-21. In the pessimistic scenario it will be cut to approximately one fifth of its level in 2010-11. And if inflation is taken into account, the levels would drop to at best 35% of its former level in real terms and at worst 14%.

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This is cultural devastation. And the worst hit will be the poorest in our communities. The words of the British academic richard Hoggart, who died just last year, aged 95, continue to resonate. In his introduction to the 1989 edition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, he wrote: ‘Class distinctions do not die, they merely find new ways of expressing themselves. Each decade, we shiftily declare we have buried class; each decade the coffin stays empty’2. Today, it is even worse than that – not even the most blinkered commentator would suggest that class divisions are dead instead, in the dominant neo-liberal narrative, such distinctions are the fault of the poor. In The Guardian’s obituary for Hoggart (13 April 2014), Lynsey Hanley wrote, ‘My intellectual development continues to be defined by his writing, and all I can say to anyone who has yet to read his work is: do it now. we still need voices like his to articulate what is wrong, right now, with an official and media language that wilfully ignores the malign effects of class and poverty … A grounding in Hoggart’s work blasts through that. He reminds us that access to culture widens and narrows according to who’s got the keys – and that is always the people with education, contacts and confidence’3

Radical visions for museums in the UK

— 2. Orwell, G. (1945) Animal Farm Secker and Warburg, London. 3. Hanley, L. (2014) ‘Thought class was dead? Read Richard Hoggart’ The Guardian, 13 April 2014. Online at: commentisfree/2014/apr/13/classrichard-hoggart-social-media


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The struggle to widen access to museums is long and honourable, if often marginal in its impacts. Back in 1857, at a public lecture on 16 November, following the opening of the South Kensington Museum, the Museum’s Director Henry Cole promised that: ‘This Museum will be like a book with its pages open, and not shut”. He justified the building of the new museum by pointing out the failings of the National Gallery in London. There, he said, “The fact that the public galleries are not as much used by the working classes as could be wished is also confirmed by some returns of workmen’s attendance at the National Gallery … Out of 719 workmen employed by 23 firms of all trades – butchers, upholsterers, locksmiths, builders, brewers and the like – only 316 visited the National Gallery in a year, whilst 403 workmen did not.’ From his base in South Kensington, Henry Cole launched what is still the greatest experiment in cultural education that the uK, has ever seen. He helped to create a network of colleges of art and colleges of science, and a network of museums. His legacy can be seen in every major town and city in Britain and Ireland, and it is this legacy that is under threat.

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Later in the nineteenth century, william Morris also challenged the cultural norms. “what drove him into revolutionary activism”, wrote Fiona McCarthy in her article Anarchy in the UK in The Guardian of 14 October 2014, “was his anger and shame at the injustices within society … In his Nowhere, art is in the detail of household goods, conservation of the countryside, thoughtful planning of towns, proper upkeep of roads.”4 Museums play little part in Morris’ utopian visions. For Morris, the past – historic buildings, museums, even works of art and literature – were of use merely as a catalyst for the achievement of the ideal society. Once they had succeeded their task, they were virtually redundant. In Morris’s utopian novel, News from Nowhere, the South Kensington Museum has disappeared entirely, to be replaced by woods and streams where children play. The British Museum has survived as a building, but in reduced circumstances. So has the National Gallery, but its pictures are kept only as curiosities. Fundamental to Morris’s thought was the ‘education of desire’ – the stimulation of a wish to enhance the quality of our lives. It is culture in action, the uses of culture for learning, creativity and pleasure that defines the quality of a museum and a society. In August 2003, Andrew Carnegie presented the city of Dunfermline with the sum of £500,000 – an enormous sum in those days – “to bring into the monotonous lives of the toiling masses of Dunfermline … some charm, some happiness, some elevating conditions of life, which residence elsewhere would have denied.” He urged the citizens of Dunfermline who he had selected as trustees for the project to remember that, “you are pioneers, and do not be afraid of making mistakes. Not what other cities have is your standard. It is something beyond that they lack … Do not put before their first steps that which they cannot easily take, but always that which leads upwards as their tastes improve.”

— 4. McCarthy, F. (2014) ‘William Morris – beauty and anarchy in the UK’ The Guardian, 14 October 2014 Online at: 2014/oct/03/how-william-morrisbeauty-and-anarchy-uk

Two experts were chosen by the trustees to present separate proposals for the achievement of Carnegie’s vision. One of these was Patrick Geddes, the Scottish biologist, geologist, educator, environmentalist and city planner, whose vision was for a city infused with the museum spirit. with the help of an assistant, Geddes walked all over the city, photographing everything from the finest building to the most neglected slum. One photograph was of a large sewerage pipe taking

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waste down a steep slope into a stream. He went back a few weeks later, after a storm, to photograph the same location; by now the pipe had broken into bits, and the raw sewerage ran down the banks. Geddes’s report included both photographs. He was making the point that the quality of life in the city depends upon the everyday as well as the monumental, and upon the conditions of the poor as well as the rich. Geddes’s final report, ‘City Development’, proved to be too radical for the trustees of Carnegie’s fund, so he published it independently. In the report, he recommended that the money be invested and the interest of some £25,000 per annum be spent each year on projects that gradually achieved his great plan for the city. In this way, rather than spending the money in a few years on some massive capital project – the equivalent of a modern day Milton Keynes or London Docklands – the public spaces, buildings and streets of the city would be gradually redesigned and rebuilt by the community, using apprentices and volunteers as well as local companies and paid workers. For example, the city would have a new Japanese Garden, constructed in part by school children working under supervision. The process of creation was as important as its products. Geddes was no admirer of the (already traditional) model of museums in his day. “I have no faith in the educational value of the commonplace art museum with its metal masterpieces in a glass case and the smithy nowhere. wherever real technical education is beginning, it centres on seeing and sharing the real work and then applies the paper drawings and the collections of the old system to their right uses.” He said that what he wanted to create was not “utopia” (no place) but “eutopia” (good place). The Northern Ireland artist and sculptor F.E. Mcwilliam saw with great clarity, through his own work, the connection between culture and environment. In an interview in 1981, that is published almost as a mission statement on the walls of the F.E. Mcwilliam Gallery in Banbridge, County Down, he said: “I think I was lucky where I was in a county town … In those days, everything was made in the town. Next door to our house was Carson the Cooper who made barrels. Then there was the shop that sold furniture, where they made furniture behind the shop. I loved going in and watching them … And of course Banbridge was a linen town – the mill dams gave us swimming pools and, in summer, blue fields, when the flax was in flower, and white fields 92

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when the linen was spread out to bleach. Magical intrusions in the normal patch works of green.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in The Art of Seeing, writes that ‘there is no question that the life of every member of society would be impoverished if the skills of encoding human experience in works of beauty, and the skills of decoding it, were lost. we would then be condemned to live within the limits of our human experience.’5 Henry Cole, william Morris, Patrick Geddes and F.E. Mcwilliam, each in their different ways, recognised that the development of such skills is essential to our growth as human beings, and our happiness.

The challenge of dystopia “Our history now descends from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust”, wrote Cassius Dio, roman consul and historian, after the death of the Emperor Marcus Antoninus. It is tempting always to perceive the passing of time as a process of loss. But on occasion it may just happen to be true.

On the day after the Scottish referendum, on 20 September 2014, the Guardian published a defiant, even incandescent, article, ‘This glorious failure could yet be Scotland’s finest hour’, by the novelist Irvine welsh. He wrote: ‘The yes movement hit such heights because the uK state was seen as failed, antiquated, hierarchical, centralist, discriminatory, out of touch and acting against the people . . . ‘The Scots have shown the western world that the corporate-led, neo-liberal model for the development of this planet, through G7 “sphere of influence” states on bloated military budgets, has limited appeal.’ 6

5. Csikszentmihalyi, M and Emery Robinson, R. (1990) The Art of Seeing: An Interpretation of the Aesthetic Encounter, Getty Publications, Los Angeles 6. Welsh, I. (2014) ‘Irvine Welsh: this glorious failure could yet be Scotland’s finest hour’ The Guardian, 20 September 2014 Online at: commentisfree/2014/sep/20/ irvine-welsh-scottishindependence-glorious-failure 7. O’Neill, J. (1993) ‘McTopia: Eating Time’, Utopias and the Millenium Bann, S and Kumar, K.(eds.), Reaktion Books, London

Two decades ago, John O’Neill wrote a brilliant article, ‘McTopia: Eating Time’ on the dystopian consequences for society when neoliberal values penetrate almost every aspect of our lives. writing of the McDonalds fast food franchise, O’Neill observes, ‘McArch is both an opening, and not an opening. It is a passage to a place where happiness is blocked by the removal of change, variety and imperfection through endless repetition … Kids work in McTopia . . . They do not play there … The counterpart of McTopia’s sweated labour is the hurried McTopia consumer, whose total time in the restaurant can only exceed 5 – 10 minutes if s/he is prepared to eat burgers/fries that have turned cold and gone to mush.’ 7

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The impact of neo-liberalism on our economies and societies has led the uK deep into an unequal austerity. The ‘Crash’ of 2007/8 should have led to greater controls of neo-liberalism’s destructive power, but instead – through a failure of democracy – has protected it still further. It is this which means that – if the IFS and the Nuffield Trust are right – by 2020/21 the budget for museums will fall to at best 35%, and at worst 14%, of their level in 2010/11.

Responding to Austerity Truly, this will be an age of iron and rust for cultural institutions. How should we respond? we must first honestly acknowledge that we are not just victims, but agents of our own catastrophic loss of funding. In the uK, we as a sector have often had as our leaders, men and women who are an integral part of the arts elite in London. They have served their political masters well, attacking in public and in private any critics of the cuts. More fundamentally, we have also failed as a sector to articulate a coherent philosophy for museums that amounts to much more than professional self-interest. Of course many museums, and in particular local and regional museums, provide (for example) excellent education services and community events. But these have too often been regarded by museum managers as add-ons and optional extras, rather than activities that are core to the future of the organisation, and the responsibility of every member of staff. If the work of whole organisation has not been rooted in principles of public engagement, then when times are hard the public support that museums need will not be there. That time has now come. The westminster Government has calculated that people care about health, education and social care, but they do not particularly care about cultural provision. At the end of the day, if that is so, it will be our failing and not the Government’s. we had an opportunity in the “age of gold” to establish community roots. we could have reached out when our communities first needed us, but many of our museums didn’t. Now, for many, it is too late. There is innovative philosophical and practical leadership in the sector. It is not generally coming from the old vested interests in the arts world 94

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and those in and outside London who benefit from their patronage, but from the political and cultural margins in the nations and regions. This alternative leadership can offer a new path – and hope – to museums. The strategies they propose will not be a financial magic bullet, but they will at least help museums to develop deeper roots, so that when the austerity is eventually recognised for the economic monster that it is, we will have a solid foundation of public support on which to rebuild our services. One such foundation is the uK Museums Association’s groundbreaking vision for the impact of the sector, Museums Change Lives.8 This report acknowledges that every museum is different but all can find ways to maximise their social impact. It builds on the ‘traditional’ role of preserving collections and connecting audiences with them, but emphasises that an institution that merely acquires, cares for and displays collections can never be a museum, unless it also enhances the health and wellbeing of its public; creates better places for its communities; and inspires people and ideas. running through the report are four key responsibilities for museums: social justice and social purpose; participation; partnership; and engagement in contemporary issues. Jocelyn Dodds’ and Ceri Jones’ report, ‘Mind, Body, Spirit: How museums impact health and wellbeing’9 is another seminal publication. — 8. Museums Change Lives (2013) Museums Association, London. Online at: download?id=1001738 9. Dodds, J and Jones, C. (2013) Mind, Body, Spirit: How museums impact health and wellbeing, University of Leicester, Leicester 10. Smith, D. (2013) Arts in education in the schools of Wales Arts Council Wales. Online at: publications/130920-arts-ineducation-en.pdf 11. Andrews, K. (2014) Tackling Poverty through Culture Government of Wales Online at: publications/140313-culture-andpoverty-en.pdf

In wales, where the Government opposes the westminster imposed cuts, and is committed to addressing, in so far as is possible, the damage caused by austerity, there have been two major reports on cultural education: Arts and Education10, published by Professor Dai Smith, Chair of Arts Council wales and Tackling Poverty through Culture11 by Baroness Kay Andrews. All of these offer practical responses to the consequences of heartless neo-liberalism. within the last year, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum wales has, in partnership with the welsh Government, established a joint post to research and evaluate the effectiveness of the welsh Government’s programme to implement the Andrews report. This is, so far as we are aware, the first such research post in a museum in the uK. The Museum will also play a key role in implementing the report.

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The redevelopment of St Fagans, one of the seven sites that together form Amgueddfa Cymru, has provided the National Museum in wales with an opportunity to create a new model of museums. Originally established immediately after world war II as an open air museum inspired by Skansen in Stockholm, St Fagans is in the process of transformation to become a National Museum of History for wales – a stage in the creation of new national institutions for wales as a nation in its own right, and as a member of the international community. St Fagans is already the best loved museum in wales; it has great potential to become something even more connected with its nation. Founded at a time when the welsh language was under great threat after centuries of suppression by the British state, and when industrialisation had marginalised rural communities and their traditions, St Fagans in the mid-twentieth century was a stronghold for a way of life that might easily have disappeared. It represented history from the bottom up and collected the artefacts, songs and stories given by the people themselves. The wales of today is very different from that of 70 years ago. The country has always received large numbers of migrants from across the border in England but now, particularly in the more densely populated and urbanised South East, it also has large communities of recent immigrants from beyond Europe. These groups have until recently been all but invisible at St Fagans. If cultural rights are to become a reality in cultural institutions, then the models upon which we base our work must change. At St Fagans, this means a shift from a passive experience for visitors, in which they observe craftspeople and other experts working and demonstrating cultural practices, to an active role, in which participation and coproduction are available to all users, and not just visitors on the day. So far, over 200 groups and organisations, working with over 70 staff, have been involved in consultations on the plans for St Fagans. The new Centre for Learning at St Fagans, which will open as part of the main building at the site by early 2018, will be base for co-curating, co-working and collaboration, skill sharing and training, and opportunities for volunteers and apprentices as well as the more traditional access to collections and events and activities. For the team leading St Fagans, the galleries in a participatory museum are ones 96

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where people make history together, where everyone can share knowledge and skills, and that constantly evolves with the people that participate. They will be places of multiple voices, opinions, questions and debates. One of the innovative elements of St Fagans will be Gweithdy, a new building in the woods, where those who walk in immediately get a sense of a world of making, and a place of celebration of the people and processes in the creation of the things that have made our lives possible. Behind us are the millions of ordinary people who have lived over millennia in the land that is now wales. They do not rest. They are in a sense waiting for their stories to be told. They await the justice of history. Before us are the millions yet to be born, who will face unknown challenges. They will draw inspiration from the past to improve the quality of their lives. And here today, are we – professionals and public – who have a moral obligation to both the past and the present, as well as our own society. St Fagans has yet to achieve william Morris’s dream that everyone should become a maker, learning to desire equality and to improve the quality of their lives. Nor has it yet become Patrick Geddes’s ‘Eutopia’, a ‘good place’ where citizens play a role in everything around them. But it is already making bigger steps towards co-production and cultural democracy than any other museum we know of, and this important journey has still only just begun. Neo-liberalism cares nothing for past or future, individual or community, place or culture. It cares only for the taking of assets. In the face of this economic sandstorm, museums are one of the few anchors of identity left in many communities. It is vital that – so far as possible – we survive. If we do, we can show that, just as the past was different from the present, the future too can be different from, and better than, the austerity we now living through. This is a message of hope.

David Anderson is Director General of Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales).

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Empowering citizen participation in professional dialogue DR DOMINIQUE BOUCHARD AND SAMANTHA SMITH

Introduction1 Museums and cultural institutions regularly espouse the importance of integrating community perspectives and priorities to create genuine ground-up interventions which meet the needs and interests of the groups they intend to serve and engender ownership on the part of participants and/or groups. yet community participants are rarely present at conferences where practitioners discuss and debate best practice and priorities. This paper explores the community participation component of the international conference ‘Learning Together: Museums and Cities of Culture for All’ outlining its dual purpose – as a platform for professional interaction in which community participants play an equal role, and as a capacity-building community engagement programme.2

— 1. This article is adapted from a presentation made at the Irish Museums Association Education and Outreach Forum on 19 June 2015, Dublin 2. The conference website is still live at: 3. See Heumann-Gurian, E. (2006) Civilizing the Museum: the collected writings of Elaine Heumann-Gurian, Routledge, Abingdon Hooper-Greenhill, E. (2007) Museums and Education: Purpose, Pedagogy, Performance, Routledge, Abingdon Sandell, R. (2007) Museums, Prejudice and the Reframing of Difference. Routledge: London and New York 4. Simon, N. (2010) The Participatory Museum, Museum 2.0, Santa Cruz.

As both a strategy for audience development and to keep pace with contemporary educational theory, museums and other cultural institutions have adapted their interpretative and learning methodologies away from a top-down model to emphasise bottom-up initiatives and participatory programmes. Pioneering work by Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, Elaine Heumann Gurian and richard Sandell has helped to shape the foundational access policies and values which continue to inform best practice.3 In 2010, Nina Simon’s The Participatory Museum outlined compelling strategies around coproduction and challenged institutions to identify more ways for the public to enhance and contribute to the overall museum experience.4 Today, many museum professionals recognise the benefits participation offers to help ensure institutional and programmatic relevance and it is recognised as an essential element of educational programming. Such opportunities are usually made available at delivery stage through programmes which support the creation or sharing of personal interpretative content, the contribution to or co-curating of an

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exhibition, volunteering, or engaging through digital media. The common characteristic of these programmes is the way both responsibility and power are shared between institution and public. These kinds of exchanges engender a sense of ownership, helping bridge institutions and the people they aim to serve. In contrast, participation at strategic level is usually characterised by focus-group style consultations with key stakeholders to help inform institutional decision-making. For underserved or underrepresented communities, engagement or access programmes often rely on front-line community workers or community gatekeepers to help articulate the needs of their groups, but individuals rarely represent themselves in the early stages of the process. Community belonging can sometimes be ascribed rather than chosen, and so self-representation is paramount.5 Fig 1. Arnstein, S. (1969) ‘A ladder of citizen participation’, Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35 (4), p.217 © Dominique Bouchard

— 5. Watson, S. (2007) Museums and their Communities, Taylor & Francis, London


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Analysing the nature and extent of participation can be challenging, as individuals will often participate in a variety of ways across a programme. Indeed the term ‘participation’ can mean anything from passing on information to “citizen control”6 Indeed, the highest levels of participation require “…have-not citizens, presently excluded…, to be deliberately included in the future.”7 while many projects do involve partnership and shared-power dimensions, it is also true that groups which have never participated in museum or institution-led cultural programmes are not often empowered to participate in the top-rung activities. This can result in the perception of museums as inaccessible and unwelcoming, and is not a true participatory instrument. As Onciul argues, self-representation is a key part of empowerment for underrepresented or marginalised communities.8 This represents a challenge for organisations interested in better serving the needs of new and diverse groups, particularly ‘target’ groups that do not normally engage in routine public programmes. These ideas helped motivate the inclusion of underserved audiences and non-specialist voices in the ‘Learning Together’ programme.

Learning Together: Museums and cities of culture for all

— 6. Arnstein, S. (1969) ‘A ladder of citizen participation’, Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35(4), p.217 7. Arnstein, S. (1969) ‘A ladder of citizen participation’, Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35(4), p.216 8. Onciul, (2015) Museums, Heritage and Indigenous Voice: Decolonizing Engagement, Routledge, New York pp.7-9.

In September 2014 The Hunt Museum hosted an international conference exploring the central question: “How do we ensure that culture is accessible to all, including those in underserved areas, and how do museums support the cultural rights of individuals and communities?”. The conference brought together scholars, artists, museum and arts professionals, and community participants over three days in a programme devised to facilitate dialogue between specialists and non-specialists. The programme included panel discussions, community-based workshops, talks, a keynote lecture, a poster session, site visits, and a gala reception. The elements of the conference programme provided multiple ways for participants to engage with the overarching theme, from simply attending to networking and presenting their own projects. The conference was funded by Limerick’s 2014 City of Culture programme under the ‘Made in Limerick’ funding strand and Limerick regeneration. The idea for the conference was developed in part as a response to The Hunt Museum’s community engagement programme: ‘Communities of Culture’, which supported groups from Limerick’s designated regeneration areas to produce community arts and heritage projects to

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Fig 2. Map of Limerick showing designated Regeneration areas and conference venues © Dominique Bouchard

showcase the cultural value and contribution of their area to the city. The intention of ‘Communities of Culture’ was to empower groups and individuals from regeneration areas in accessing relevant cultural resources. But how could museums and other cultural organisations ensure that the resources on offer would properly address the needs of these target groups? The conference theme emerged as a way to explore this question. The conference posed three questions: 1. How do we ensure that culture is accessible to all, including those in underserved areas? 2. How do museums and cultural bodies support the cultural rights of individuals and communities? 3. How do we offer educational and learning opportunities which address the needs of underserved groups, and enhance and deepen the relationships between museums and cultural bodies and their local communities?

— 9. See Figure 2.


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The first day brought together experiences from Limerick’s National City of Culture with an emphasis on community feedback. It was divided into two parts: the first included panel sessions and was followed by workshops located in different venues across Limerick.9 The second day of the conference included of a series of talks given by

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selected speakers with a particular focus on cultural rights and diversity. On the final day, attendees were invited to take a historical walking tour of Limerick and many of its cultural institutions following an informal brunch sponsored by Fáilte Ireland. This provided an opportunity for participants unfamiliar with Limerick to view the city’s cultural infrastructure. For others, it was a chance to rediscover what their city has to offer. Finally, it proved a chance for attendees to further reflect and discuss the events of the previous two days together in an informal way and an additional networking opportunity. The panel discussions on the first day were devised to give the participants an opportunity to interact with the invited speakers. Each panelist presented their perspective and contributed to a broader discussion on education, human rights, and culture in the context of community engagement and social development. The first panel focused on culture, engagement, and social justice and panellists emphasised the role of institutions in helping to ensure the right to participate, access and contribute. The second panel examined the interrelationship between culture, learning and access emphasising the role of culture in providing non-traditional learning opportunities. while the panellists sat at a long table in the front of the room participants were seated at round tables to produce an atmosphere of informality and to facilitate conversation amongst participants. Following the panel discussion, participants selected one of three community-based workshops to attend. Two workshops were located in community centres in regeneration areas, The watch House Cross Library in Moyross and The Blue Box Creative Learning Centre in Southill. The third session was held at The Hunt Museum in the City Centre. Free transportation was provided from the main conference venue to all workshops. The community venues were selected for two reasons, to help make community participants more comfortable, as attending an event in a familiar location is one of the key ways access and engagement programmes encourage open participation. In addition these venues were selected to help raise awareness of community-based cultural resources. The workshops provided an opportunity for groups and individuals to make brief ten minute presentations on a project they had either delivered or participated in as part of Limerick’s ‘National City of Culture 2014’ programme. Discussions were facilitated by Limerick

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cultural practitioners. The ten minute format for presentations was an attempt to offer community groups and early career professionals with little to no presentation experience the opportunity to present in a less intimidating context. For those groups wishing to present their projects in a workshop, assistance was given over several weeks to develop their presentations. An option was available for groups that did not want to make a presentation but wanted to raise awareness about their projects. These groups were supported in creating posters put on display for the duration of the conference. Presentations ranged from a project about Limerick’s mid-twentieth century dance halls to an interpretative project created and presented by The Mid-west School for Hearing Impaired Children. For some presenters, it was the first time they had ever talked about their project in that environment. Some cultural practitioners felt they benefitted from learning about engagement projects from the participants’ perspective. The second day followed a traditional conference format, with twenty minute talks by invited speakers and speakers selected through an international call for papers. The invited speakers were chosen because of their expertise and to reflect a diverse set of contexts – both local, national, and international. They included Elaine Addington, The Open Museum (Glasgow, uK), Petra Katzenstein, Children’s Jewish Museum (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), Arnold Kashembe, Global Peace Foundation (Limerick, Ireland), Michael Finneran, Mary Immaculate College (Limerick, Ireland), Helen O’Donoghue, Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin, Ireland) and Helena Enright, freelance theatre practitioner (Limerick, Ireland). The keynote lecture given by Camille Akeju, Director of The Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) exposed the participatory approach of the ACM and the close relationship it aimed to engender between the institution and its communities. An open call created an additional avenue for participation from individuals and groups, and talks ranged from artist interventions to heritage-focused programmes, all of which had strong participatory elements. For some of the non-specialist participants, the talks were the first time they had encountered cultural practitioners speaking in a formal way about their work, but the networking and discussion opportunities on the first day helped to establish a relationship amongst the participants.


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Fig 3. Speakers ‘Learning Together’ conference, Limerick, 2015 © Dominique Bouchard

The familiarity helped achieve an informal atmosphere in which participants felt comfortable asking questions. For many participants Akeju’s illustration of the participatory potential of museums, even at national level, was unexpected and inspiring.

Interactions and outcomes The ‘Learning Together’ conference served a dual purpose – as an international conference exploring best practice and as a community engagement project which aimed to encourage citizen participation in a professional dialogue on museums. Ensuring ‘real’ participation meant participants would need to feel comfortable with the programme and identify how it could benefit them and their communities. Therefore, the participatory component required an additional set of aims alongside those of the conference. The engagement aims were: l l l

To create a platform for dialogue and debate accessible to expert and non-expert audiences To support and empower participation by ‘target or underserved communities’ in professional dialogue To develop a programme relevant and beneficial to non-specialist attendees

The conference team collaborated with community support workers to identify and address these needs in a structured way. During these consultations the support workers identified three key barriers:

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1. Cost – the conference fee had to be minimal for groups and support workers. 2. Training – attending would be easier for support workers who could justify it as a professional development and/or training activity 3. Presentations – groups would need support in developing their presentations and/or posters Even at €50, the financial barrier was significant for community workers and group participants. while professional cultural practitioners can sometimes rely on continuing professional development funds to cover conferences, it was unlikely the community sector participants would have access to such funds. To keep the fee as low as possible, a grant sponsoring fifty people living or working in regeneration areas was obtained from Limerick regeneration. A separate password-protected booking portal was created to facilitate this process and ensure the spaces went to eligible individuals only. To address the second concern, every conference participant was issued a certificate of participation. while the certificate was not accredited, it provided proof of attendance which could be added to a professional or personal development portfolio. Lastly, workshops were held to ensure community participants received support and guidance in creating their posters and/or presentations. Presenters were given training on presenting, PowerPoint and talking about the projects they had contributed to. The training was intended to help attendees feel comfortable in the conference setting. Other measures like using Fig 4. Conference participants ‘Learning Together’ conference, Limerick, 2015 © Dominique Bouchard


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familiar community venues, small sessions, and providing transportation also helped to ensure accessibility. The collaboration with the support workers helped to build trust with the conference team and meant that they felt confident encouraging their groups to participate in the programme. By the start of the conference, all fifty community places on offer were booked. The community participants came from a range of Limerick organisations including St Mary’s Parish Men’s Shed and women’s Organisation, the Moyross youth Garda Diversion Programme and women’s Knitting Group, the Mid-west School for Hearing Impaired Children, and the Southill Men’s Shed and women’s Group. During the conference community attendees participated energetically in question and answer sessions, workshops, and networking. According to one participant: “I thought it would be boring. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I’d come for the lunch, but it was interesting. I stayed the whole time, I didn’t expect that.” Another explained: “I wasn’t expecting to know what they were talking about, but that lady from the Smithsonian made a lot of sense. She’s sound.” After presenting her group’s work, another participant said: “I never thought about the project that way. It was really good and I never thought how the things we were doing were connected to what other people were doing. Not just people, but museums too. you feel like you’re part of something bigger.” The conference created a space where community participants felt equal and comfortable speaking with specialists and non-specialists. One of the key factors which helped to facilitate interaction between the community attendees and invited speakers was the subject matter speakers discussed in their talks. Camille Akeju’s keynote speech discussed The Smithsonian Anacostia Museum’s ‘urban waterways Project’, which explores the impact environmental burdens like polluted waterways have on urban communities. Members of St Mary’s Parish Men’s Shed, having just completed a maritime heritage trail of their community identified strongly with the issues raised and approached Akeju to discuss the

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project further. Following ‘Learning Together’, the group has continued to maintain contact with Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. Elaine Addington spoke about the role of community-based cultural activity and the responsibility cultural institutions have to promote community-based activity. Pointing out relevant community-based projects delivered by the Open Museum in Glasgow, Addington’s talk resonated strongly with members of The Southill women’s Group who had recently completed a family history project through the Hunt Museum’s ‘Communities of Culture’ programme. This attendees in this group were keen to create a similar resource for their community by partnering with The Hunt Museum and Limerick City Archives in its development and delivery. On the basis of the conference feedback, community sector participants seemed to not only have felt welcome at the conference but also found it relevant.

Feedback The communication between community organisations and practitioners developed organically from the dialogues initiated during the workshop sessions on the first day and through the informal interactions during networking opportunities throughout the programme. By supporting community participants in identifying areas of common interest and by empowering them to participate in the programme in the same ways as the museum and cultural practitioners, new exchanges and collaborations developed between community participants, invited speakers, and cultural practitioners. By emphasising areas of shared interest and trying to create a relaxed atmosphere, participants were able to concentrate on the things they shared with the practitioners – a love of culture and the steadfast belief that community voices are important. For community participants, the breadth of projects taking place in Limerick and across Ireland came as somewhat of a surprise – the isolated nature of some areas meant that while the cultural projects in which they participated had increased their pride in their community, their sense of connectedness to other community groups with similar interests was minimal. For some, participation at the conference introduced them to a new group of potential collaborators and friends,


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broadening their sense of belonging. Moreover, some people expressed that the greatest effect of the conference was sense of empowerment and belonging they felt while talking with the museum professionals. One participant said: “I felt like she really listened to what I had to say, like I had said something important.” The collegial interactions affected the way community participants thought about themselves as cultural producers as well as the projects they had completed. The culture and museum sectors also seem to have been somewhat demystified through the interactions. According to some participants, these organisations and institutions did not seem to be so far out of reach or intimidating. By making attendees feel welcome and relevant, community participants said they felt more comfortable and began asking more and more questions and actively participating in the discussions. The presentations which had the greatest influence were those which illustrated the broader outcomes of community engagement projects, as they prompted participants to think about the deeper influence of their projects. Some participants remarked that they hadn’t really considered before the benefit of group projects to the wider community, and that notion made them more interested in participating in cultural programmes. For some, the talks changed the way they defined the scope of the project’s impact, and several people remarked that projects didn’t just belong to themselves and their communities, but also to Limerick as a whole. One participant explained: “when my group does something about our culture, it’s not just for us, it’s something everyone can enjoy and be proud of.”

Conclusion The conference introduced a community participation component intended to highlight the shared values and priorities between cultural practitioners and the groups they intend to serve. Throughout the programme, participants worked to bridge the gap between their experiences and expertise and those of the attendees they encountered. These conversations resulted in new exchanges and collaborations and increased communication between and awareness of other groups and individuals with shared interests. One attendee, for whom ‘Learning Together’ was their first museum conference and experience of hearing museum professionals discuss ideas, remarked that the programme demystified museums, and showed how, “you lot are a lot like us.”

Empowering citizen participation in professional dialogue


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Museum Education: Adapting to Change  LORRAINE COMER

Introduction1 My first real experience of understanding the value of museum learning was when I was a history teacher and brought students on a visit to a museum. The students engaged with objects that stimulated their curiosity and interest in the past. They made a human connection with their ancestors. They deepened their understanding of history in a way that classroom teaching couldn’t always do. while these school visits were often positive experiences, as a teacher, I was acutely aware that some students felt that they didn’t belong or feel entitled to be in these museum settings. The visits reinforced their sense of inadequacy as they tried to understand text panels or see evidence of their own lives in the collections.

— 1. This article is based on a paper given to the annual conference of the Irish Museums Association, ‘Museums in Society: Navigating Public Policy’, on 27 February 2015, Belfast. 2. The following policy was developed by the National Museum of Ireland and defines access as that which enables as many people as possible to engage with and enjoy its services, programmes, buildings and sites regardless of their social, personal, cultural and educational backgrounds. National Museum of Ireland. (2011) National Museum of Ireland’s Access Policy 2011 – 2015 Online at:

Moving on twenty years, museums are more open and responsive to people’s needs. There is a greater awareness within the museum sector of the need to extend their audience reach and to make the visitor’s museum experience as meaningful as possible. Museums are increasingly addressing the physical, intellectual and emotional barriers that prevent people from engaging.2 There is a greater focus on museums knowing their audiences and developing programmes and services to reflect their audience’s needs and interests. Developments in society have prompted museums to be more visitorcentred in recent years. People have more recreation time. They want to learn more about themselves and the world around them and they see museums as creators of cultural and social narratives that help shape individual and national identity. There is a wider acceptance of the lifelong learning principle and an acknowledgement that participation in cultural experiences enriches people’s growth and development at all stages of their lives. Museums are increasingly seen as learning spaces where diverse communities can create cultural content and cultural

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meaning. Museums are also considered social spaces where people can share and connect views, ideas and feelings with others. As society continues to become more multicultural, more people want to see themselves represented in museum collections as illustrated in recent research carried out in national museums across Europe including the National Museum of Ireland (NMI).3 People want to communicate with museums in new and dynamic ways using digital technology. But while museums have been responding to different changes and developments in recent years, they need to continue to evolve towards being more visitor-centred in order to remain relevant to people’s lives.4 In this article I will define what I believe to be a visitor-centred museum. I will examine the pivotal and distinctive role played by those working in museum education in helping museums to become more visitor-centred. A more detailed exploration of four particular projects will demonstrate how the National Museum of Ireland is responding to the evolving needs of different audiences and promoting the principles and values of a visitor-centred museum. I will examine how, in recent years, policy and other developments at a national level are helping to create a broader cultural framework to support and encourage those working in museum education to be more visitor-centred.

A visitor-Centred Museum  — 3. Dodd J, Jones C, Sawyer A and Tseliou, Maria-Anna. (2012) Voices from the Museums: Qualitative Research Conducted in Europe’s National Museums, Linkoping University Electronic Press. 4. Falk, J. & Dierking, L. (eds.) (2000) Learning from Museums: Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning, AltaMira Press Maryland Hooper-Greenhill, E. (ed.) (1999). The Educational Role of the Museum. Leicester Readers in Museum Studies, Leicester; Hein G, (1998) Learning in Museums, Routledge, London Watson, S. (ed.) (2007) Museums and their Communities, Leicester Readers in Museum Studies, Leicester; Knell, S. J. (2007). Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and Are Changed, Routledge, London 5. National Museum of Ireland. (2014) Telling the Story of Ireland: Strategic Plan 2014-2015.


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A visitor-centred museum is not at odds with the museum’s traditional role of custodianship, presentation and scholarship. Looking after audience needs at every stage of their museum experience is not in conflict with caring for and managing the collections. In the NMI the role of the institution as both collections and people-focused is reflected in our vision and mission: ‘To be an outward looking, people-focused and creative National Museum’ and ‘to collect, care for, manage and interpret the collections we hold in trust and make them accessible to everyone for inspiration, learning and enjoyment.’5 The NMI reinforced the inextricable link between the collections and the public by the creation of a senior management post in 2015 entitled, Head of Collections and Learning. The new post holder, Anthony (rolly) read believes that “this role will foster a natural synergy to both care for the collections and serve the public, signalling a move towards a more collaborative way of working to further the Museum’s vision and mission.”

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In a visitor-centred museum the needs of the public and the need to care for and manage the collections are complementary. This means adopting a museum-wide approach to achieving common objectives. So when museum educators as key audience advocates, and curators, as key object specialists, collaborate on developing exhibitions, the public benefit the most. In the development of ‘Soldiers and Chiefs’,6 an exhibition which traces Ireland’s military history from 1550 to the present day at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History, curators and educators worked together to assess audience learning needs and reflected these findings in the design of the exhibition and in the development of accompanying learning resources. Since this exhibition opened in 2006, feedback from schools and other audiences has been extremely positive. Open and responsive museums value all modes of engagement with its resources. People may want to create their own cultural content, to interact with exhibitions through different multisensory experiences, to communicate with the museum through a range of social media platforms and/or to explore the collections through the arts. There are also those who choose to engage with the museum in a more solitary and private way. A visitor-centred museum caters for the many ways in which people want to participate with its resources.

— 6. National Museum of Ireland. ‘Soldiers and Chiefs – The Irish at War at Home and Abroad from 1550 to the present day’. Online at: 7. National Museum of Ireland. ‘Migrant Women: Shared Experiences’. Online at: /Migrant-Women-%e2%80%93Shared-Experiences-exhibition

A visitor-centred museum values what each person brings to the learning experience in terms of their knowledge, imagination, ideas and interests. The museum recognises that the relationship with its audience is a two-way process where museum staff has as much to learn from the visitor as the visitor has to learn from the museum experience. In developing the ‘Migrant women: Shared Experiences’ exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, curators and educators collaborated with migrant communities in the west of Ireland to cocurate this exhibition. Together they embraced the concept of mutual learning as they collectively explored, through objects, migrant women’s identities as they adapt to a new and different cultural environment in Ireland.7

Role of Museum Education  As museums move towards being more visitor-centred, their relationship with communities changes, opening up possibilities for more meaningful dialogue. Fundamental to this dialogue is a respect for diversity, social inclusion and equality of access. Oftentimes, those at

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the centre of initiating and nurturing this dialogue are the people working in museum education. Museum educators work with a wide range of audiences with diverse learning needs and interests. They are concerned with evolving and sourcing models of learning that demonstrate the relevance and value of the museum to people’s lives. As key audience advocates, museum educators are acutely aware of the ongoing physical, intellectual, emotional and other barriers that keep people from visiting museums. They research, design, deliver and evaluate programmes and services in response to the needs of diverse communities. They utilise public spaces for debate and interrogation of cultural and social issues. As skilled and experienced professionals, they evolve and enrich their practice through research, professional development, partnerships and collaborations.

Education-led Projects at the National Museum of Ireland  In the National Museum of Ireland’s Education and Outreach Department we foster a dialogue with a range of communities through our many programmes and services across our four sites and online. The following four projects provide a snapshot of how we apply the principles of a visitor-centred museum to our practice:

The Bronze Age Handling Box Project (February 2010 to December 2015)  The ‘Bronze Age Handling Box Project’ is a resource developed to enrich the teaching and learning of history at senior primary and post primary levels. The project is made up of a handling box containing a selection of replica objects and accompanying resources to enhance the teaching and learning of the Bronze Age in Ireland. An online resource also accompanies this resource.8 Forty-two handling boxes were created and are located in education centres throughout Ireland for loan to primary and post primary schools. — 8. The Bronze Age Handling Box Online Resource. National Museum of Ireland, 2015. Online at: BronzeAgeHandlingBox/


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This project is an example of how the NMI realises its mission to be people-focused and responsive to people’s needs. The idea for developing this resource originated with the Education and Outreach Department at the NMI but was inspired by an expressed need,

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Fig. 1 Student from The Good Shepherd National School, Churchtown, investigating objects from the Bronze Age Handling Box © National Museum of Ireland

articulated by teachers of history, to develop a resource that would stimulate and engage young people in a creative and multisensory way with their past. The National Museum of Ireland has been providing opportunities for people to handle objects in its exhibitions and its programmes for years. This tactile experience is a powerful way for young people to explore the past. The NMI Education and Outreach Department wanted to share some of its object-based learning strategies with other educators and saw an opportunity to do this through this project. But we also wanted to collaborate with the formal education community in order to access their expertise in developing a pedagogical framework for teaching and learning the curriculum using object-based methodologies and strategies in a classroom context. Fig 2. Bronze Age Handling Box objects © National Museum of Ireland

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One of the main principles sustaining this project is equality of access. This is a student-centred resource that appeals to a range of learning styles and ability levels. It has a nationwide reach, with handling boxes and the online resource available to schools through the education centre network across Ireland. As originals of the replica objects contained in the handling boxes are on display in exhibitions at the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, schools are actively encouraged, where possible, to visit the Museum to view the original objects and to participate in Museum-related programmes. This project is also about enabling teachers to use the resource competently. An initial group of teachers from different parts of Ireland were trained in using the box and these in turn are training other teachers around the country. This project was teacher and student-centred from the outset. Seeking the views of teachers and students characterised every stage of the project’s development. They contributed to the selection of the theme for the handling box and during the pilot phase, they suggested ideas for improving navigation, design, accessibility and functionality of the online resource. Their voices continually informed project design and output. A visitor-centred museum values partnership and collaboration as a way of working. The NMI Education and Outreach Department collaborated with the following strategic partners in the formal education community to make this resource possible: the Association of Teachers’ / Education Centres of Ireland; St Patrick’s College of Fig 3. Bronze Age Handling Box with replica objects and raw material © National Museum of Ireland


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Education; the Professional Development Service for Teachers. A number of primary and post primary schools also worked with us during the developmental phase of the project. Bernadette McHugh, Director of Navan Education Centre and representative of all education centres on the project believes that “the benefit of the handling boxes at local level is enormous. Students can handle objects and work as historians. Through this experience they are motivated to see the original objects in situ in the National Museum of Ireland”.

Beyond Pebbledash (January 2014 to January 2015) ‘Beyond Pebbledash’ aimed to draw attention to the current, urgent issues facing architecture and planning related to urbanism and living in the city. The NMI Education and Outreach Department responded to a request from Dublin City Council to collaborate with them on the development of this project at the NMI – Decorative Arts and History, Collins Barracks. The facade of a pebbledash house, typical of houses in working class housing estates across Ireland, was installed in Clarke Square, Collins Barracks for six months. À public programme was designed to help generate debate around issues of housing shortage and homelessness. Participants included historians, policy makers, local residents, local activists, businesses and politicians. Events included an urban party, a seminar involving policy makers on planning and ‘City Makers’,9 an exhibition designed by young people in collaboration with a group of architects, where the relationship between architecture, urban design and communities was explored.

— 9. McGrane, L. (2014) Beyond Pebbledash Engagement Programme – 19th October – 26th November 2014: Programme Evaluation.

what characterised this project as visitor-centred were the principles that upheld its development: equality of access, social inclusion, mutual learning. It reached out to new and local audiences and included them as active participants in all elements of the programme. It gave expression to the voice of young people. The Museum was a forum for debate and interrogation of serious and current social issues. Politicians, local community activists, young people, barristers, policy makers, artists, business men and women were provided with multiple forums to debate and discuss homelessness and urban design. The Museum collections, in particular the ‘Eileen Gray’ exhibition at Collins

Museum Education: Adapting to Change


Fig 4. Participants performing at the launch of Samhain shadows, sounds and stories at the NMI Archaeology 2014 with musician Elaine Agnew © National Museum of Ireland

Barracks, as well as Collins Barracks itself as a significant historic building, proved a rich source of inspiration for workshops, discussions and debates. Máire O Higgins, Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College, an inner city Dublin school, reflects on her students’ engagement with the project; “the pebbledash structure in Clarke Square encouraged students to debate the characteristics of good and bad design. Their engagement with the ‘Eileen Gray’ exhibition really inspired these debates. One student revealed his family’s experience of homelessness in the ukraine. The learning was rich and deep. Students talked about returning to the Museum to see other exhibitions.”

Samhain (January 2012 to date)

— 10. ‘Samhain: shadows, sounds & stories’ exhibition catalogue, (2014) Online at:


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‘Samhain’ invited people to engage in a dialogue around the themes of dying, death and loss using the NMI collections as a source of inspiration for these conversations. In the initial years the NMI Education and Outreach Department and Age and Opportunity invited groups of adults in Dublin to respond to these themes through poetry and music. In 2014, the project was extended to include groups in Mayo and Belfast, and together with participants in Dublin, they collaborated with musicians, composers, poets, photographers and Museum education staff in the creation of an exhibition of photographs, soundscape and creative writing entitled ‘Samhain: shadows, sounds & stories’.10 This exhibition was inspired by the

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Archaeological and Folklife Collections at the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology and Country Life and went on display in both Museums in 2014 and 2015 respectively. It will be exhibited in Áras Inis Gluaire, Co Mayo in early 2016. Through this project, the Museum created social spaces where participants could share ideas and views with one another and form new friendships and relationships with those from different communities. Participants made field trips to archaeological sites and explored links between these sites and objects found at them, objects that now form part of the Museum’s collections. A specialist seminar created a comfortable forum for sensitive discussion and reflection on the themes of dying, death and loss. The project facilitated participants to engage with and respond to project themes and the NMI collections in many ways. Participants created and co-curated exhibition content. Individually and in groups they composed poetic text for object labels. They reflected on and evaluated their participation in the project. They performed in front of audiences. They researched the stories behind objects and archaeological landscapes where these objects were found. They collaborated with a range of artists and organisations. They created their own cultural response and meaning to these themes and objects and gave expression to that meaning through a range of art forms.

Fig 5. Home Page of the ‘Our Irish Heritage’ website © National Museum of Ireland

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A close working relationship was developed over three years between the National Museum of Ireland, Age and Opportunity and Poetry Ireland. Through this collaboration the National Museum developed new audiences and provided greater access to NMI collections. Noel Burke reflected on his participation in Samhain in 2014; “we were given the space to explore our memories, to create our stories and poems and to share them with a lot of new people. The Museum opened itself up to us. we learned a lot. This was a highly innovative way for the Museum to connect with us.”

Irish Community Archive Network (2008 to date) Innovations in technology are impacting on the nature of engagement between museums and communities. Museums are actively creating online communities through a range of different digital platforms. Museum educators, in particular, are proactively involved in communicating with the public through blogs, social media, web based resources and projects such as the ‘Irish Community Archive Network’ (iCAN).

— 11. Elms, L. (2012) ‘The Irish Community Archive Network – Sharing our Local History Online’ Museum Ireland, Vol. 22 pp. 68-79. 12. National Museum of Ireland. Our Irish Heritage. Online at:


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iCAN is a project which enables local communities to curate their public history online.11 This community engagement project was developed by the Education and Outreach Department at the National Museum of Ireland. It is underpinned by an ethos of inclusivity and access empowering communities to present histories that reflect the experience of their people and place in a collaborative way. These communities are tapping into local collections, family photographs, memories, newspapers and publications, church records and so much more. Much of the information has never before been published and offers fascinating insights into Irish rural life and by implication, enriches the knowledge surrounding the National Museum of Ireland’s Folklife Collection. Through training and mentorship, participants are equipping themselves with the skills necessary to develop and maintain a contributory website, and to engage local and global audiences with their collections. Museum education staff designed the website ‘Our Irish Heritage’12 which offers advice and guidance for community groups. This website is a platform for interactive Museum projects and those wishing to share their Irish history and heritage online. Dave Collins, the Network Administrator of Oughterard Heritage, sums up the effect this project has had on him personally and on the community where he lives:

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The iCAN project opened up a whole new world for me as I developed the skills and confidence to transform from a participant to a trainer and facilitator of others. I am now enjoying regular employment in the field of digital heritage, and as a speaker at seminars and conferences. I am able to put back the knowledge I have gained, developing and adapting the website architecture for the project. Sharing the rich history and heritage of Oughterard online led to a renewed interest and pride in our area which resulted in the significant renovation and development of the town’s courthouse, now a thriving Heritage and Exhibition Centre at the heart of the community.

A National Policy Infrastructure to support Museum Learning while the above projects are informed by the principles and values of the NMI’s vision and mission, other policy initiatives developed in recent years are helping to create a policy framework where the value of museum learning is articulated and the principles underpinning a visitor-centred museum are promoted. These include: ‘A Fresh View of the 21st Century: Policy Framework for Education Community Outreach’13 published in 2004 and revised in 2014 and the ‘Arts in Education Charter’, 2013. Another significant development for museums and particularly for people working in museum education has been the establishment of Encountering the Arts Ireland (ETAI) in 2010. ETAI is an alliance of over forty representatives from the arts, education and cultural heritage sectors working for the advancement cultural education in Ireland.

Fresh view of the 21st Century: Policy Framework for Education Community Outreach

— 13. Council of National Cultural Institutions Education, Community, Outreach Working Group, in association with Anne Gallagher. (2014) A Fresh View for the 21st Century: Education, Community, Outreach: Policy Framework Online at: wpcontent/uploads/FreshView FrameworkDoc2014.pdf

As a member of the Council of National Cultural Institutions (CNCI), the NMI Education and Outreach Department worked with colleagues in the other cultural institutions in the commissioning of the Policy Framework for Education Community Outreach in 2003. Eleven years later it was revised as Fresh View of the 21st Century: Policy Framework for Education Community Outreach. This policy articulates a shared understanding of the education and learning practice in the cultural institutions. Key governing principles supporting a visitor-centred museum are outlined in this policy. They include a commitment to life-long

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learning, the primacy of the visitor’s relationship with the cultural institution and the importance of understanding people’s diverse learning needs and styles. It highlights the pivotal role of education and learning staff in cultural institutions as key audience advocates who are continually evolving to reflect the changing learning needs of audiences and reconciling these needs to those of the cultural institution. The policy recognises that cultural meaning is not located solely in the object or work itself but emerges when people engage with the cultural collections or resources and make their own meaning from this interaction. The policy acknowledges the role of cultural institutions as agencies which need to take account of cultural diversity and social inclusion. It articulates the value of working collaboratively and in partnership with colleagues and other organisations and agencies to achieve common aims. The visitor-centred philosophy expressed in this policy has informed the policies and practice of those working in education across the cultural institutions. Its revision in 2014 saw few changes and was testament to its relevance across the cultural institutions ten years on. In the National Museum of Ireland, this policy has informed the development of the education and outreach and access policies and its principles continue to strengthen the work of the NMI Education and Outreach Department.

Arts in Education Charter

— 14. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Department of Education and Skills. (2013) The Arts in Education Charter. Online at: Publications/Policy-Reports/Arts-InEducation-Charter.pdf 15. The Arts Council. (2008) Points of Alignment: The Report of the Special Committee on the Arts and Education. Online at: Points_of_alignment_English_2010.pdf


Museum Ireland

The Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht became co-signatories of the Arts in Education Charter14 in December 2012. This signalled for the first time a formal commitment by both departments to support those involved in arts and cultural education in Ireland through a joined-up, integrated and collaborative approach. The Charter has its roots in Points of Alignment,15 an influential report which encourages alignment between policy makers, practitioners and the public around the need to address cultural education in Ireland. For years museums have been actively engaging with the formal education sector in a myriad of ways. The value of the Charter lies

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in its potential to provide a framework for ongoing dialogue and discussion between the education and cultural sectors. It sets out to make the arts and culture a key part of school life, acknowledging the critical role of artists, arts and cultural organisations, including museums, in developing the minds and imaginations of young people. This public endorsement of museums as key learning sites for the educational development of young people is significant. A Higher Level Implementation Group was appointed to implement the commitments and objectives as set out in the Charter. This group has concentrated on primary, post primary and higher education provision as part of the first phase of their work. They hope to move on to early childhood, further education and aspects of adult education at a later stage. A key action arising out of the Charter is for cultural institutions, including the National Museum of Ireland, to fully implement the Fresh View of the 21st Century: Policy Framework for Education Community and Outreach. If implemented in its entirety, this policy has the potential to transform and enable museums to become more open and responsive. The National Museum of Ireland and other cultural institutions look forward to working with the Higher Implementation Group to progress this policy’s implementation.

Encountering the Arts Ireland Encountering the Arts Ireland (ETAI) is working for the advancement of arts and education in Ireland.16 Its purpose is to broaden and deepen children’s and young people’s participation in the arts and culture and to contribute to the strategic alignment of arts and education policies. It will achieve this aim through advocacy, research and continuing professional development. My recent appointment to the Board of ETAI in August 2015 as Head of Education at the National Museum of Ireland highlights the value of museums to the work of ETAI.

— 16. Encountering the Arts Ireland. Online at: 05/14/encountering-the-artsireland-agm/

ETAI has the potential to create a positive climate for museums and museum learning. As a national network representing the education and cultural sectors, it is the first of its kind established within the cultural education sector in Ireland. It provides peer support and facilitates professional exchange between its members. It advocates for an increase in resources and for the alignment of policy and practice in the cultural field. Through its membership it has a rich experience and

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skills base in undertaking research. It is currently in the process of developing a website and taking on more members.

Conclusion  Those of us working in museum education are adapting and responding to changes in society on an ongoing basis. we are continually evolving our practice and adapting to changing contexts in policy and other developments. we are upholding our work with principles and values reflective of a visitor-centred museum. The extent and pace of change in recent times necessitates a broad policy framework to create a climate where museums can be supported to engage with communities in creative and meaningful ways. Policy developments mentioned in this paper advocate a more joined-up and integrated approach between those of us working in the cultural education field, highlighting our commonalities rather than our differences as a basis for collaboration with other partners in this field. The development of a national cultural policy by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has the potential to reinforce these commonalities. Such a policy could empower and strengthen the cultural sector by articulating the intrinsic value of culture to people’s lives and by setting a vision and clear goals for strengthening and developing the cultural sector. It also has the potential to articulate the particular value and relevance of museums to people’s lives and to define what makes the museum’s cultural offering unique and different from other cultural experiences. Through the decade of centenaries programmes, museums have a unique context and opportunity to connect with communities. They can engage in a new kind of dialogue with museums. They can debate social, cultural and political issues that were relevant to people’s lives in 1916 and still have a relevance to contemporary society. At the NMI, our 2016 public programme aims to be as inclusive as possible and to focus on those voices that are least heard in the discourse surrounding the decade of centenaries. For example the ‘Other Voices’ project with Dermot Bolger as writer in residence, will explore a range of themes including conflict and remembrance as they relate to 1916 and world war I. The project will encourage participation from audiences who seldom engage with the Museum. In collaboration with the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland, designer Alison Conneely will co-curate an exhibition with local communities using textiles, fashion, music and 124

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storytelling in the media to explore the theme of collective identities. what is fundamental to these and other projects is a commitment to build on and negotiate new relationships with communities, to stimulate meaningful engagement between the public and the NMI collections to continue to move towards being more visitor-centred in our thinking and practice.

Lorraine Comer is Head of Education at the National Museum of Ireland.

Museum Education: Adapting to Change



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On Irish Wartime Commemoration: Two Exhibitions in Dublin JOHN SCANLON

Introduction As the ‘Decade of Commemoration’ continues on, and with the centenary of the 1916 rising looming large over the cultural landscape, Ireland’s approach to its military history is becoming a topic of debate. This is reflected in recent museum exhibitions on display in Dublin, which focus on Irish soldiers as individual people rather than as a homogenous group. There has been a definite shift in cultural importance away from the glorification of warfare and towards recognition of soldiers as victims of circumstance. In 1924, shortly after Ireland’s confirmation as a free state, a plan was announced to erect a monument to Irish casualties of world war I. This suggestion was described by one commentator as the “most outrageous insult to the martyrs who died for Ireland in bygone generations”1 The statement is a politically charged one, drawing a very thick line between the Ireland that was, and the nation that emerged after the Civil war of 1922. Those soldiers that fought for Ireland as part of the British Empire were quite clearly ill-favoured by their countrymen. The vilification that Irish soldiers received despite their contributions to the war was owed entirely to the ‘English connection’.

— 1. Macleod, J. (2013). ‘Britishness and Commemorations: National Memorials to the First World War in Britain and Ireland’ Journal of Contemporary History, 48, (4), p.660 2. Macleod, J. (2013). ‘Britishness and Commemorations: National Memorials to the First World War in Britain and Ireland’ Journal of Contemporary History, 48, (4), p.661.

The Irish independence campaign in the early twentieth century and eventual creation of the Irish Free State, shaped opinion concerning those Irish people who fought in world war I as part of the British army. Irish soldiers who fought for the royal Army were rejected by the Irish State with their contribution only recognised by their families. rather than a source of pride, their involvement became a source of shame. The memory of the soldiers was maligned, and their contribution criticised, owing to the opinion that the marking world war I was considered to be ‘inherently pro-British 2 The Fusilier’s Arch in St Stephen’s Green, built to remember soldiers of the Boer war, became commonly known as ‘Traitor’s Gate’. In 1966,

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the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter rising, monuments of English war heroes such as the Horatio Nelson in O’Connell Street was bombed. In the Phoenix Park, a statue of a famous general, Hugh Gough, was repeatedly attacked until it was moved to Chillingham Castle in Northumberland in 1990. Gough himself was born in County waterford, giving him a strong Irish connection. However, the wellington Monument in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, remains a prominent landmark in the city, mostly due to sheer solidity. Dublin clearly has mixed successes when remembering its British military past. In more recent times and with the advent of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, attitudes to how the period of British rule in Ireland is acknowledged have changed. The fact that Dublin museums now actively promote exhibitions relating to world war I indicate a change in Ireland’s national psyche. This article explores the shift in cultural importance of Irish soldiering through the analysis of two world war I exhibitions held in two Dublin institutions. The first is the ‘Guinness and the war’ in the Little Museum of Dublin (18 February – 29 April) and the second is ‘Portraits of the Invisible’ at the National Photographic Archive (part of the National Library of Ireland) (opened July 2015).

From National Narratives to Local Commemorations Given the current preparations to mark the centenary of the world war I, both in Ireland and worldwide, there has been an increase in the coverage of matters of commemoration. This has occurred in popular media such as newspapers and television and in a variety of scholarly journals and books. This has extended to art installations, increased interest in historical events and sites and dramatic re-enactments at battlefields and museums. The word usually associated with these actions is ‘commemorative’. However, as ‘commemoration’ has become a universal term to apply to any act of remembrance, there is a risk that it may become associated with the glorification of warfare and violence. In order to maintain historical clarity, the features of both commemoration and glorification must be properly isolated and examined. when a museum presents a sanitised viewpoint of warfare that fails to critique or explore the period, in other words, a one-sided view of events, the result is a glorification of this viewpoint. An unquestioning 128

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narrative indicates what Laurajane Smith describes as ‘authorised heritage discourse’, in which the provenance and worth of heritage is very much left to experts. In short, it ‘constitutes and legitimises what heritage is within a certain society’ 3 Furthermore, it ‘also defines who has the ability to speak for and about the nature and meaning of heritage’4 Smith refines her point as stating that avenues of memory and heritage belong to someone, and thus risk is appropriated. Heritage is part of a given community’s sense of self. Smith states a similar point to Ferriter’s opinions on exclusion. A heritage discourse ‘in providing a sense of national community, must, by definition, ignore a diversity of sub-national cultural and social experiences’5 when an exhibition is described as ‘sanitised’, it is understood that warfare in this context has become acceptable in a museum context by the justification of the use of overtly controversial elements such as images of death and destruction. The museum, or indeed any media, serves as a buffer between the viewer and the realities of war but when warfare is glorified, this buffer is reduced or removed. There are multiple reasons as to why this would occur. One particular reason is the search for a means to justify warfare in any of its forms. Should this occur, as Neal states, ‘the horror of war is displaced by an emphasis on glory’6

— 3. Smith, L. (2006) The Uses of Heritage, Routledge, London and New York, p.26 4. Logan, W., Nic Craith and Kockel U. (eds.) (2015) A Companion to Heritage Studies. John Wiley and Sons, West Sussex, p.20 5. Smith, L. (2006) The Uses of Heritage, Routledge, London and New York, p.30 6. Neal, A.G. (2005) National Trauma and Collective Memory: Extraordinary Events in the American Experience, Routledge, London and New York, p.207 7. Agnew, V. (2004) ‘Introduction: What is Re-Enactment?’ Criticism, 46, (3), p.328 8. De Groot, J. (2009) Consuming History, Routledge, London and New York, p.106 9. McDowell, S. (2007) ‘Introduction to Commemoration, and to Commemoration in Northern Ireland’

Another reason is that the study and investigation of warfare offers a viewpoint of events or situations not experienced by the majority of people in the first world. This accounts for such hobbies as reenactment in which players can take part in a battle situation. Participation in mock combat can aid historical interpretation or understanding to an extent. Essentially, it ‘performs political and cultural work that is quite distinct from more conventional forms of historiography’7 Similar to traditional military exhibitions, however, reenactment is capable of ‘presenting a sanitized, closed version of warfare, of avoiding the unpresentability of war’ 8 On the other hand, the issue of what exactly constitutes ‘commemoration’ has been a matter of much comment and with a variety of different definitions used to explain the term. Sara McDowell uses a somewhat broad definition, stating that the purpose of commemoration is ‘to encapsulate the memory of someone or something in a specific place or at a particular time’9 An alternative definition comes from Edna Longley who describes the act of

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commemoration among communities as ‘literally what ties them together, the rope around the individual sticks’10 This establishes the act and practice of commemorative events as a baseline of communities of all types. However, this implies that the nature of this commemoration can affect the sympathies and outlook of this community. Communities can be united in a cause but that cause may not always be universally accepted. The commemoration of a particular event or person is meant as a unifying affair that brings people together. However, there are those with a differing viewpoint. For instance, Joep Leersen asserts that commemoration ‘can demand amnesia and forgetting by those vanquished by the state’11 This essentially means that commemoration, as a practice, can be co-opted by the state, presenting a nationalist or partisan viewpoint on particular events. A narrative is created whereby the state has united the country in a single military cause.

— 10. Longley, E. (1995) The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland, Bloodaxe Books, Newcastleupon-Tyne, p.69 11. Leersen, J. (2001) ‘Monument and trauma: Varieties of Remembrance’ In Mcbride, L. (ed.) History and Memory in Modern Ireland, Cambridge University Press, p.217. 12. McMahon. ‘Who Really Owns 1916?’ Asks Dalkey Debate’, The Irish Times, 14 June 2015. 13. Bradburne, J.M. (2011) ‘Visible Listening’ In Marstine, J (ed.). Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics Routledge, New York, p.276


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Leersen’s view is broadly supported by Ferriter, who in a 2015 debate hosted by the national radio station, rTé, stated that ‘commemoration has always been about exclusion; there are people who are controlling the narrative, and there are people who are squeezed out of it’12 The historical narrative referred to by Ferriter is generally controlled in a commemorative context by the exclusion of all perspectives but one. This view is important to consider within the context of a museum as the narrative presented within museum exhibitions is by its very nature controlled. From the point of view of a superficial observer, the information and experience gleaned from a collection extends as far as the museum is willing to offer. Captions and items can be combined in particular ways in order to present a particular point of view on a particular item or set of items. Despite a move towards museums exploring new identities, Bradburne asserts: ‘it is still the museum that calls the shots, and shapes the content’13 In contrast to exhibitions revolving around the glorification of combat, a traditionally male role, commemorative exhibitions are beginning to include less violent aspects of war work. There are exhibitions which include female figures such as nurses, nuns, and even factory workers. The thought comes to mind that war affects everyone not simply the soldiers who go to fight. Such exhibitions may also exclude weaponry or uniforms, concentrating on the people who went to fight, rather than the fighting itself. whitmarsh quotes uzzel on this point, remarking that uniforms on display suggest that ‘as if the most remarkable thing

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about so many thousands if not millions of people killed in battle is the clothes in which they died’ 14 This point suggests that focus of a commemorative exhibition should be on the people involved, rather than the trappings of their respective military professions. In 2015, two separate exhibitions opened in Dublin with a focus on soldiers as people, rather than military figures.

‘Guinness and the War’ The Little Museum of Dublin was founded in 2011 and is a small, private museum located within a Georgian townhouse and situated on St Stephen’s Green. The establishment focuses on local history, with an emphasis on society, politics, and culture. The temporary exhibition ‘Guinness and the war’ (18 February 2015 – 29 April 2015) was concerned with employees from the Guinness Brewery in St James’s Gate who enlisted to fight in the British Army during world war I. The exhibition included items offering some insight into the background of the men involved as well as the actions taken by Guinness to assist their families. The items themselves were assembled from the Guinness archives, loaned to the museum by Diageo (the international company which now owns Guinness), and included service records, internal correspondence, and photographs of the soldiers. The exhibition was divided into two broad sections: one providing contextual information regarding the brewery and Ireland’s reaction to the war, and the second displaying information about individual soldiers. One notable pair of items were positioned side by side, one being a list of items sent as contents of care packages to soldiers on the front and the other a collection of letters of gratitude from those same soldiers.

— 14. Uzzell, D. (2001) ‘The Hot Interpretation of War and Conflict’, in Uzzell, D. (ed.) Heritage Interpretation, Volume 1, The Natural and Built Environment, London: Belhaven Press 15. Guinness. (2014) Archive Fact Sheet: First World War and the St James’ Gate Brewery.

The exhibition was centred on a large, ornate roll of honour containing the names, rank, and regiment of all eight hundred of the Guinness employees involved. Furthermore, it noted those who died during the war, 103 men in total, as well as medals or distinctions won. According to the company, this roll of honour was produced in 1920, in order to ‘preserve, in a suitable form, a record of those…who gave their services – and in many instances – their lives – for the defence of the Empire’15 It is this sentence that explains the issue behind Irish wartime commemoration in a nutshell. The efforts of these soldiers, ostensibly entirely for the benefit of the British Empire, were eclipsed by the nationalist sympathies that were to emerge with the establishment of the Irish Free State.

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Even in an exhibition remembering the sacrifices of local soldiers in a Dublin museum, there are still echoes of the imperialist nature of the conflict. This is further demonstrated through the presence of other items within the exhibition. Among these items was a commemorative book which was issued to the men involved during a welcoming ceremony on their return to Dublin. This book listed the names of the men involved in the war. The idea behind ‘Guinness and the war’ was very much one of linking local history and personalities with large, international events as well as national history. Furthermore, the association with Guinness as an internationally-recognised brand was designed to open the exhibition to visitors from outside the city.

‘Portraits of the Invisible’ The second example of this type of commemorative exhibition opened in July 2015 in the National Photographic Archive in Dublin entitled ‘Portraits of the Invisible’. This exhibition organised by the National Library of Ireland, consisted of photographs, personal correspondence and voice recordings provided by the families of personnel who took part in world war I. The collection was also assembled with the cooperation of the British Embassy. Images of a variety of people from soldiers to nurses, from different backgrounds were displayed in the exhibition, as well as images of the families of these people. The exhibition is relatively spartan compared to ‘Guinness and the war’. It consists of a series of photographs, each accompanied by a brief biography of the person involved, and how they became involved in the war. There are anecdotes involving interactions between ordinary soldiers and famous figures including winston Churchill and robert Alexander as well as poetry composed by soldiers. Also included are letters written by soldiers. These are facsimiles, copies scanned onto more modern paper, in order to ensure the long-term preservation of the originals. recordings were taken of various stories during the road shows held by the National Library, and these can be heard through the use of a listening station within the exhibition. The exhibition includes information regarding the history of wartime remembrance in Ireland noting that the actual acts of Irish soldiers were not assimilated into the Irish cultural landscape until relatively recently. The items which comprise the exhibition were donated during road shows held as far back as 2012. These road shows were organised as part of the Europeana 1914-1918 project which attempts to build a 132

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collective history of the war using archive material that gives a global context to personal items collected from individual families. The ‘Guinness and the war’ exhibition also offered an avenue for further investigation and contribution on the part of visitors ensuring that those visitors with a relative involved could petition the Guinness Brewery for more information regarding their ancestor by accessing their archives. The option to actively engage visitors on such a level is an important part of militarily-oriented collections, especially those involving recent or local conflicts. Visitors were thus engaged by revealing a lesser-known history behind the Guinness name. Although, as the roll of Honour16 states that the soldiers died in the name of the Empire, the exhibition concentrated on their place of work and their home town. The emphasis was shifted from the war to the individuals involved.

— 16. A copy of this book, entitled The Great War 1914-1918 Commemorative Roll, is available for perusal in the National Library of Ireland. 17. Sherman, D.J. (1999) The Construction of Memory in Interwar France, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, p.2. 18. Richardson, N. (2010) A Coward if I Return, A Hero if I Fall: Stories of Irishmen in World War I, O’Brien Press, Dublin, p.15. 19. Sivan, E. and Winter, J. (1999) ‘Setting the Framework’ In Winter, J. and Sivan, E (eds.). War and Remembrance in the Twentieth Century, University Press, Cambridge, p.6. 20. S. McDowell. (2008) ‘Commemorating Dead ‘men’: Gendering the Past and Present in Post-Conflict Northern Ireland’, Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 15 (4), p.336.

The emphasis in ‘Portraits of the Invisible’ is on a collective memory, one that transcends the traditional narrative presented in the National Museum. Collective memory is defined by Sherman as ‘the ideas, assumptions, and knowledge that structure the relationship of individuals and groups to the immediate as well as the distant past’17 This is in stark contrast to the ‘collective amnesia’ described by richardson, which went unchallenged among Irish historians for many years. 18 Both exhibitions therefore allow for the construction of a ‘collective’ remembrance in which visitors can partake in an exploration of the themes behind the exhibitions. Jay winter’s definition of this practice is quite literal. He states that ‘collective remembrance is public recollection. It is the act of gathering bits and pieces of the past, and joining them together in public’19 In ‘Portraits of the Invisible’ these ‘bits and pieces’ are being used to create a holistic view of the war, rather than a single national perspective. Both ‘Guinness and the war’ and ‘Portraits of the Invisible’ seek to avoid common tropes surrounding military exhibitions focusing on people rather than on hardware. An aspect that tends to be overlooked is the involvement of women in the stories. As has been noted, memorials tend to be largely gendered and serve to enforce stereotypes regarding gender roles20 essentially disregarding women as a factor within warfare. This was present within ‘Guinness and the war’ which referred to women only within the context of the soldiers’ families. Allowing for personal narratives suggests an inclusive approach to memorialisation. In order to aid this

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inclusion, there are resources available within the exhibition for visitors wishing to join the project themselves. This includes a communal computer with a searchable online database containing further information for making contributions to the Europeana project. This project is a worldwide initiative designed to assemble a collection of sources that can be explored or utilised on a public basis. The ‘Europeana 1914-1918’ is a major section of this project designed to publish sources related to world war I.

Conclusions The approach taken by both the Little Museum of Dublin and the National Library of Ireland emphasises a key characteristic of museums mentioned by Mason and Johnes: they allow for the ‘exchange of memories and histories between individuals’21 It is not the allencompassing national commemoration of the larger museums. It is community-oriented focusing on people. winter further defines the process ‘when people come together to remember, they enter a domain beyond that of individual memory’22 The consensus is that a collective remembrance of painful historical events serves as more constructive and holistic than a national commemoration in which a single narrative overshadows all others. These exhibitions show that Ireland’s approach to world war I has very obviously changed over time but interestingly has not moved towards glorification. Collective remembrance allows for a more personalised view of the war that treats the soldiers as locals rather than traitors. These exhibitions are more aligned with the idea of commemoration rather than glorification for two reasons.

— 21. Johnes, M. and Mason, R. (2012) ‘Soccer, Public History and the National Football Museum’, Sport in History, 23 (1), p.120-1. 22. Sivan, E. and Winter, J. (1999) ‘Setting the Framework’ In Winter, J. and Sivan, E (eds.) War and Remembrance in the Twentieth Century, University Press, Cambridge, p.6


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‘Guinness and the war’ and ‘Portraits of the Invisible’ stand in marked contrast to the larger, more ornate exhibitions, such as ‘Soldiers and Chiefs’ in the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks. Over time, the dynamics of commemoration have changed to allow for a more holistic use of materials and artefacts. As the ‘Guinness and the war’ exhibition in the Little Museum shows, an approach to commemoration based on the experiences of individuals is becoming more prominent in the cultural landscape. Also, the fact that the National Library, a government organisation, has taken an interest in a similar approach means that it is being taken seriously on a national level. This demonstrates a shift in priority in terms of the presentation of commemoration in a museum environment. The perspective of commemoration is being altered from the nation as a whole, centring on the individual person. These need not be notable figures such as

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James Connolly or Michael Collins but ordinary people who became involved in conflict for their own reasons. It is to be hoped that this paper will provided useful food for thought through the remainder of the period of commemoration in Ireland and Britain. with the focus turning to soldiers as individuals, rather than as one massed group, there is the possibility that political and national prejudices can be overlooked or overcome, resulting in a simple, but lasting commemoration of loss and sacrifice.

John Scanlon recently completed an M.A. Museum Practice and Management (distance learning) at Ulster University.

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PALS – the Irish in Gallipoli L AR JOYE AND LOUISE LOWE

Introduction During 2015, ‘PALS – the Irish at Gallipoli’ show ran at the National Museum of Ireland in Collins Barracks from Tuesday 3 February to Thursday 30 April, five times a day with each show lasting 55 minutes. ‘PALS’ was a huge success, with 9,000 visitors seeing the 300 performances and increasing the museum’s visitor attendance by 34%. Such was the success of the show that it was brought back for five weeks during the summer. The show was a partnership project with ANu Productions, the National Museum of Ireland and the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht in association with the National Archives of Ireland. In this article the authors set out the ideas and the rationale behind the show.

Background to the project

— 2. Joye, L. and Martinovich, P. (2006) ‘Challenges of context and content: Finding Solutions in a Storyline’, in Museum Ireland (16), 47-53

The Soldiers & Chiefs2 exhibition opened at the National Museum of Ireland in October 2006 and is in many ways a mini museum within the Collins Barracks site covering 1700 square metres and dealing with Irish military history since 1550 to the present day in 3 broad themes; Soldiering in Ireland, Soldiering Abroad and Soldiering in the twentieth century. Since the opening two million people have visited the exhibition. It won Exhibition of the year in 2009 and has been described by the Irish Times as “crack cocaine for 10 year olds”. One of the challenges of large projects like this is to encourage repeat visitors and a temporary exhibition space was created within the exhibition to address this. Exhibitions have included the ‘Blaze Away’ exhibition examining duelling in Ireland, the ‘Irish at Sea’ exhibition, the ‘History of Ireland in 100 objects’ and the ‘uN 50’ exhibition. As part of the Decade of Commemorations (2012-22) the National Museum of Ireland has produced a series of new exhibitions: in 2013 the exhibitions ‘1913 Lockout: Impact & Aftermath’ and ‘Banners unfurled’ and in 2014 ‘recovered Voices’.

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Fig 1. ‘Recovered Voices’, National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History © National Museum of Ireland

This latter exhibition examined Irish soldier’s involvement in world war I in 1914-16. Over 210,000 Irishmen served in the British Army during the war and about 35,000 were killed. They were volunteers who chose to join up unlike most armies who had mandatory service called conscription. Indeed by the end of the war only Ireland and Australia had such volunteer soldiers. From the lush green fields of France in the summer of 1914 through that first Christmas in the trenches to the sun dried beaches of Turkey in 1915, the exhibition unveils the complexity of Ireland’s part in world war I before the 1916 rising. Detailing the stories of 21 Irishmen and women, the exhibition uses original objects and interactive material to illustrate the human impact of the war on their lives. we have found from interviewing our audiences and talking to teachers that this is the approach that visitors appreciate in history themed exhibitions. The title ‘recovered Voices’ was chosen to reflect the change over the last 25 years in how the story of the Irish soldier in world war I has been told. Prior to the 1980s, the exhibition would more than likely have been called ‘Lost Voices’, but for a generation born since then, they are no longer lost but are being recovered. During the planning of the exhibition we held meetings with stakeholders, visitors, our academic committee and the other National Cultural Institutions. It was during one of these meetings with Catriona Crowe, Head of Special Projects at the National Archives that the question “what can we do that is different and unique to explain the Irish aspect of world war I to our visitors?” was raised. There are already lots of exhibitions, TV series and new books about world war I but what in


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Fig 2. Poster from 1915 © National Museum of Ireland

particular would have an impact on our visitors at the museum and make them thinks in particular about the horrors of the war.

Public Programming  when the National Museum of Ireland opened the Decorative Arts and History Museum in 1997, the most common question asked by our visitors was ‘what happened here?’ The original buildings dominate the site and for three hundred years the squares echoed to the sound of military bands, shouted orders and marching feet. The uniforms, weapons and flags of the soldiers changed but the buildings remained

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essentially the same. The barracks was named Collins Barracks after Michael Collins in 1922. Previously it had been known as the royal Barracks and when first built in 1706 it was simply The Barracks, Dublin. During world war I, the royal Dublin Fusiliers, one of 14 Irish regiments within the British Army, served there. This is one of the more interesting stories about the history of barracks which is well known among military historians but not the general public. The 7th Battalion of royal Dublin Fusiliers was based in the barracks in 1915 and one company of the 7th was a ‘PALS’ formation of men who had played rugby football together. As a result they were quickly nicknamed “the Toffs in the Toughs” and were filled with great optimism as they left Dublin thinking that they were going to France. However, they were sent to Turkey in August 1915 as part of 10th (Irish) Division. Two hundred of them sailed from Dublin, they landed at Sulva Bay on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 6 August and within a week of arriving, and 131 were dead or wounded. This was the harsh reality for many Irish soldiers who joined the British Army in the early part of the war for a variety of reasons – supporting the union with Britain, for Home rule or just the basic the need for a job. with new inventions such as machine guns and improved artillery hundreds of soldiers could be killed in minutes. There is a need for Irish museums to move to a more visitor centred approach in their exhibitions and in particular with their public programming. As a military historian I had been impressed in 2013 with Award-winning ANu Productions show ‘Dublin Tenement Experience: Living the Lockout’. This had brought to life for me, a complicated and overlooked part of Irish history which I had little knowledge of. with Catriona Crowe, we approached ANu Productions with some trepidation to see if they would be interested in bringing the story of the “the Toffs in the Toughs” to our visitors.

The Innovative approach of ANU Productions Louise Lowe and visual artist Owen Boss have worked together for the best part of a decade and since 2009 have existed as ANu Productions. Louise Lowe elaborates on the innovative approach of this company. working in real environments and slipping between the artificial and the real, we are interested in the changing nature of cultural thinking. Much of our work is derived from historical documents and archive materials. we place these findings in non-traditional sites and use immersive engagement to create shared intimacies between audience and place and audience and performer. 140

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we are very influenced by theatre, visual art and dance and are particularly fascinated by the energy and spaces that exist between them. The performances we make are outcomes of a devising process which is made on site and very often in a social context over a long period of time. Each production contains multiple narrative strands happening at once and the audiences become participants within the environment seeing the show through a lens of Now-Then-Now. The central question we ask of our audiences is ‘how do you choose to engage? we ask audiences to witness, feel, comply or act. we use nontraditional sites and immersive engagement to create shared intimacies between audience and place and audience and performer. It is up to them how to behave, to observe it or embrace. But our motive is consistent; to give agency so audiences can, to borrow a phrase, from Irish Times theatre critic Peter Crawley; “become the dramaturges of their own experience.” we make theatre that tells us about things and people in time and space, about what existed and what was hidden, about conflicts and tensions, and what was and what could have been. Through performance, we distill memory and site into highly personal encounters. Very often our work asks audiences to bear witness. Bearing witness is a live process. using a variety of methodologies, we explore how these can be transmitted without using narrative, without making up fictions and using as few instructions as possible. The Irish Times, commented on PALS saying; ‘PALS is not an exhibition, an excavation nor even recreation. It’s something rarer; an imaginative and sensitive summoning’1

— 1. Crawley, P. (2015) ‘Theatre review: PALS – The Irish at Gallipoli’ The Irish Times 16 February 2015

In 2013, we were approached by Lar Joye who is the Assistant Keeper and Curator of Military History at the National Museum of Ireland and Catriona Crowe, Head of Special Projects at the National Archive, to make a response to the particular PALS company who had been stationed at the barracks for 17 weeks ( January 2015 to April 2015) in 1915. They proposed that we take up residence in the Museum for this exact period of time 100 years later to make a large scale site-specific performance that told their stories to accompany the launch of a major new exhibition at the museum called ‘recovered Voices’.

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Fig 3. The PALS at the Royal Barracks in 1915 © England collection, Mike Lee

On one of our first meetings at the museum in April 2014, Lar gave me a book called The PALS of Sulva Bay. The PALS of Sulva Bay is an unusual book in that it is the record of a company, a company of the 7th royal Dublin Fusiliers (rDF) – ‘D’ Company – at Gallipoli. Beside this Lar gathered a team of brilliant historians and experts to help us make the project possible. These included Mike Lee (rTE), the royal Dublin Fusiliers Society, the Irish rugby Football union, Philip Orr, The Irish Defence Forces, Padraig yeates and of course the invincible Catriona Crowe. Not sterilised or neutralised or simplified into pageantry, we wanted to use this project to reaffirm the role of art in negotiating history. we were surprised to learn that an estimated 215,000 Irishmen served in the British army in world war I. The silence in our history books about the 50,000 dead is telling. There are many complexities in Ireland’s relationship to world war I; central to PALS were the human stories at the back end of our national history. we wanted to make a piece of work that reflected that their lives had been doubly disavowed by national politics and by time. This ambition resulted in a development and rehearsal process that was unfamiliar to us. The rehearsal room became a nexus of experimentation and research. we worked with artists, the museum staff and historical experts on site in a highly interactive way. Deploying stage space strategically to configure locations both concrete and 142

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Fig 4. The PALS leaving the Royal Barracks in 1915 © England collection, Mike Lee

metaphoric, swapping the billet for battlefields. PALS was an athletic, almost balletic, movement play about the experiences of 4 real-life soldiers, Paddy Tobin, Charlie Brady, Jasper Brett and Ernest Hamilton. Their stories were unfolded in pummelling words and movement, careening back and forth between their actual billet in the royal Barracks in Dublin and the killing beaches of Gallipoli in the short five days they spent there before they were decimated. They used rugby and their skills as sportsmen to highlight the breakdown of the masculine body in wartime. It was vital to me that there was dynamic tension in telling this story. From my perspective, PALS couldn’t just be about nostalgia or military precision or even just the history of this particular PALS regiment. Being placed inside the museum, which had also housed them, the project mapped history, geography, place and space in an entirely new trajectory creating a whole new relationship between artists, curator and viewer. Together we cultivated a new language and ecology moving between realms of the real and symbolic, the material and the metaphorical, the perceived and remembered, the experienced and imagined. we wanted to animate the multiple forensic layers of the site to explore the creative potential of time and space, memory and forgetting. Going beyond his usual role of curator and historian, Lar (and his team) was present inside the rehearsal process, guiding our actors not

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just to understand the history of what happened but to think and feel as soldiers. Our actors went with Lar to train with the army, to learn what it felt like to shoot a Lee Enfield rifle for real. we knew we wanted to try and find a story that would be challenging to audiences. we know the traditional war story, we’ve seen it hundreds of times, so much so that its formula is embedded deep within our muscle memory – a young boy is centrally featured in his natural habitat, sadly leaving his wife, sweetheart or mother to suffer tragically and so often heroically on the battlefield. So we began by creating PALS in reverse starting at the end with the disgraced Earnest Hamilton’s Court Martial dismissing him from service in 1917 and ending with the lads marching off to war. Speaking directly to the audience, who were sitting with the actors (literally in their beds), and stopping in moments of high emotional drama to ask their opinion or advice. PALS forced upon the audience an awareness of what Artaud speaks of: ‘‘that aesthetic effect is grounded upon spatial proximity. Only when the performance will physically envelop the spectator and there will be no unoccupied point in space, will there be neither respite nor vacancy in the spectators mind or sensibility.’’ The finished performances did not invite empathy grounded in affinity (for the archetypical boy on the battlefield); a response based upon imagining what it would be like to be them to occupy his situation and life experience. rather, the performances offered audiences what Susan Bennett calls ‘‘empathic vision’’. The reversed telling of the show in such close spatial proximity meant that audiences were invited into the discourse and offered autonomy throughout, ending with their collective decision to send them off. Our audience, knowing what would become of the four lads in front of them, so exuberant and full of life and hope, were faced with the decision of whether or not to wave them off. Audiences were also invited by the actors to take photographs as the actors reconfigured a pose from a photo in the exhibition taken as they left the barracks. In the communion of this moment, past and present, performer and archive collide. The sergeant room in the North block of Collins Barracks acting as a threshold through which the living were able to make contact with those who have gone before.


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Conclusion This kind of immersive, site-specific work is no longer an alternative or fringe genre but symptomatic of increasing diversity in art forms. Our work extends the debate beyond interaction between performance and space, beyond how the past is propelled into our present. ultimately the past is present in the visceral experience of our audiences. Never nostalgic, in PALS we aimed to produce a sensory-rich experience that encouraged participation allowing audiences to become auteurs in the event creating new individual meaning and memories. The particulars of each performance might fade but the semblance of the experience will remain in our sense memory. That memory becomes embodied in each viewer and only through recalling of all the senses can it then be remembered or shared Louise Lowe is Director of ANU Productions. Lar Joye is Curator of Military History at the National Museum of Ireland.

PALS – the Irish in Gallipoli



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Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design 1690-1840 DR MARIE BOURKE Venue: Art Institute of Chicago, 11 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60603-6404 Admission: Free with museum admission Opened: 17 March 2015 website: A welcome new exhibition on Irish art: ‘Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design 16901840’ opened at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. The exhibition had ideal ingredients: time to plan and craft the show, first class curatorial and editorial team, access to key works of art, sufficient funding for that not to be an issue, museum backup and excellent design-presentation skills – the rest is history. The original idea came from the late Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin (1937-2011), who had long dreamed of a display of Ireland’s decorative arts in America. The exhibition and catalogue were dedicated to him. The project, however, went beyond the decorative arts to include paintings, sculpture, and architecture. Irish book bindings were included, together with musical instruments, ceramics, glass, metalwork, furniture, and textiles – forming part of ‘Made in Ireland’ galleries (in ‘The Arts of Ireland’ section), that showcased Dublin, Cork, Belfast and waterford as centres of

Fig 1. Portable Harp, Maple, spruce, ivory, catgut and green paint with gilt decoration c.1820 by John Egan © The O’Brien Collection

Exhibition Reviews


production. The exhibits derived from private and public North American collections and represented works of art from 24 Irish counties. It was an eye-opening demonstration of how much of Ireland’s heritage has been lost to this country. The Art Institute of Chicago, the only exhibition venue, saw it as a fitting tribute to celebrate the Irish as artists, collectors and patrons, in the city of Chicago with its deep Irish roots. This ambitious exhibition explored Irish art and design in the century and a half from the Battle of the Boyne to the eve of the Famine, into which it set the production and consumption of art and artefacts within European and North European contexts. The visitor followed the flow of works of art into Ireland, during the eighteenth century, and the consequent unexpected ripples that an Irish context imparted. The exhibition themes focused on collecting and the Grand Tour, drawing on trade, taste, marketing, fashion and their influences on consumption. Both exhibition and catalogue were divided into sections: eg ‘The Arts of Ireland’, and ‘People and Places’ and included subdivisions such as travel and tourism, Dublin as centre of power, the country house as a site of consumption, and the unifying and contested symbol of the harp. Conceived with a Chicago audience in mind, the exhibition highlighted the connections between Irish art, artists, patrons and collectors under the concept of ‘crossroads’. By exploring the stories of both grand and humble objects that moved from collection to collection, it revealed elements of identity, emigration, politics, and patronage that reflected the ebb and flow of artworks across the Irish sea between Europe and Ireland – rather than Ireland in isolation – as the country became an international crossroads for art and design c.1690-1840. The exhibition was supported by generous sponsors, curated by Christopher Monkhouse, Chair of the Institute’s Department of European Decorative Arts, and Assistant research Curator, Leslie Fitzpatrick, with collaboration on the exhibition and catalogue by independent scholar william Laffan. Events included talks, tours, audio guides, a symposium with input by Irish scholars, and themed activities held in the ryan Education Centre.

Dr Marie Bourke is former Keeper and Head of Education at the National Gallery of Ireland


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What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now J O NAT H A N C A R RO L L Venue: The Irish Museum of Modern Art, royal Hospital, Kilmainham D8 Admission: €8 full price, €5 concession (senior citizens and the unwaged), under 18s and those in full time education are free. Admission free for IMMA Members plus one guest. Opened: 12 September 2015 – 7 February 2016 website: This exhibition on the theme of love included modern and contemporary masterworks from prominent collections by Abramović, Brancusi, Dalí, Duchamp, Ernst, Giacometti, Oppenheim, Picasso, warhol, yoko Ono, and many more. The timing of the exhibition could not be better. Coinciding with Ireland’s Marriage Equality referendum 2015, here was a chance to show that one’s idea of love is as varied as one’s idea of what art is. when love strikes some people, they shout it from the rooftops while others are forced to keep their love hidden in the basement. with these polar opposites and a diverse art history from Surrealism to now, we get a wide ranging exhibition of work at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) with some seminal works of twentieth century art. It is thrilling to see Constantin Brancusi’s sculpture Le Baiser (The Kiss), 1923-25 in close proximity to Picasso’s more violent painting Le Baiser, 1931. The quality of the collection on show here continues with important works by Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Meret Oppenheim and Man ray. The extent of the network the curators – Christine Macel, (Chief Curator at Centre Pompidou) with rachael Thomas (Head of Exhibitions at IMMA) – were able to access is quickly evident in the display of Marcel Duchamp’s work. One finds small sculptural works by Duchamp from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Tate, London and Centre Pompidou, Paris. Love is already displayed in the reunion of these works. ‘what we Call Love: From Surrealism to Now’ is set up in three chapters to explore how the notion of love has evolved from the twentieth century to the contemporary. The exhibition sets itself the

Exhibition Reviews


task of answering several questions such as; “how have seismic sociological changes concerning sexuality, marriage and intimacy alongside developments in gender issues affected the way we conceive love today?” and more importantly for an art audience; “how does visual art, from Surrealism to the present day, deal with love and what can these artistic representations tell us about what love means in our contemporary culture?” To answer these questions the curators draw on sociology and neuroscience and over 200 works of art. The first chapter of the exhibition focuses on the Surrealist’s idea of amour fou (crazy love), the second chapter looks at alternative visions of love which emerged after the 1960s and the third chapter looks at the complex concerns of contemporary love. The exhibition begins with the odd coming together of two identical cars meeting each other – headlight to headlight in the courtyard of the museum (Ange Leccia, Volvo, arrangement, 1986). what looks like very bad parking during the daytime becomes a little more intimate at dusk as the headlights meet. Coupling is of course the very essence of love. we see a lot of this in the exhibition and most obviously in Meret Oppenheim’s conjoined pair of laced boots – The Couple [Das Paar] (1956) and Elmgreen and Dragset’s 24/7/365 (2009) performance piece where two naked young men spoon on a rather uncomfortable looking cot bed located on the main corridor of IMMA’s East wing. Georges Sebbag tells us, in a brief video interview, that love for the Surrealists was the encounter – two people meet with their story yet to be written. He tells us that love lies between freedom and revolution. He also reminds us how a contemporary audience might forget how revolutionary and difficult it was for the Surrealists to be nonconformists in the 1920s (as we are all non-conformists now). These intermittent videos of experts like Sebbag become essential for this exhibition to answer any of the questions it poses. we get gems of knowledge from Semir zeki who complains that people do not like the science of love as it demystifies it (they don’t complain about the demystification of the cosmos for example). Importantly he describes the connection between love and death also and the idea that the ideal unity sought in love is only available in death. while images of couples’ brain activity are on display, we are informed by zeki that it is also what is not active in the brains of those in love that is of equal interest – namely our sense of judgement. It is


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the disconnection between sense and love which provides the best material for artists in the show. Tracey Moffatt’s film montage, Love (2003) where couples (females and males in turns) slap, throw water in faces, slam doors, hit with handbags and worse eventually make up. “I love you, you son of a bitch!” is the best example. Damien Hirst displays a similar dark view of what is involved in love in his I’ll Love You Forever (1994) – a sculpture consisting of a padlocked cage housing medical waste containers and a gas mask. The warning ‘danger’ features prominently in this work. I preferred Dalí’s more benign sense of love Couple with Their Heads Full of Clouds, (1937). I left the exhibition pleasantly confused with a cloudy head and with a slight French accent.

Jonathan Carroll is an independent curator based in Dublin. He is one of the curators for the Return at the Goethe-Institut Irland and a regular columnist for the Visual Artists’ News Sheet.

Exhibition Reviews



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Egypt: faith after the pharaohs  ANNE HODGE Venue: The British Museum, Great russell Street, London, wC1B 3DG Admission: Adults £10, under 16s free Opened: 29 October 2015 website: ‘Egypt: faith after the pharaohs’, Director Neil McGregor’s final show before he moves on to a new role in Berlin, brings together material from the British Museum and international repositories to tell the story of how Egypt moved from being a polytheistic society to one where a single god was worshipped. This is not the first time McGregor has focussed on faith and religion in a major exhibition – in 2000, when Director of the National Gallery his exhibition ‘Seeing Salvation’ examined the Christian faith and how artists portrayed the image of Christ over the centuries. The overarching aim of this exhibition is to show how, over a period of some 1200 years, from 30 BC (when Egypt became a province of the roman Empire) to 1171 AD (when the Islamic Fatimid Dynasty came to an end), Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together, practising their different religions in relative peace. Gravestones and architectural fragments demonstrate the re-use of memorials and sacred spaces – pagan temple complexes were re-modelled for use first as churches and later as mosques. The more fragile objects on display like clothing, wooden toys and papyrus were preserved thanks to Egypt’s dry climate and it is the first time many have been seen in public. The display opens with three precious religious manuscripts laid side by side, a metaphor for the different communities who lived together in Egypt for centuries. A tenth-century Jewish Bible, written in Hebrew with colourful abstract decorations, sits near the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete Christian New Testament, which was preserved at the Monastery of St Catherine in Sinai for many centuries. Nearby is a richly decorated page from an eighth-century Qur’an. Jews have disappeared almost completely from modern Egypt, but, as the Bible relates, they had a long history in that country. The earliest documentary evidence can be found in Egyptian papyri. One letter on

Exhibition Reviews


display written by the roman emperor Claudius, advises roman citizens not to worship him as a god and instructs them to tolerate their Jewish neighbours. There is much intertwining of beliefs visible, in rare Islamic manuscripts that include images of ancient Egypt’s anthropomorphic gods and in books of spells that show the same magic being used by pagan romans, early Christians and medieval Muslims. Christianity adopted pagan symbols for its own ends. Brightly coloured textiles are embroidered both with classical vines and the ancient Egyptian ankh symbol, a cross with a looped top, adopted by Egypt’s Christians as a sign of everlasting life. Some of the most evocative objects are things from ordinary life – a child’s striped sock and a pull-along toy. This fascinating collection of diverse material shows us how similar these people who lived in Egypt over a thousand years ago were to us: bringing up their children, practising their faith and burying their dead. The exhibition is laid out in a series of interlocking walkways which seem to echo the labyrinth of narrow streets in Cairo. Noise from a looped film projected onto a large screen in the centre of the space gives atmosphere. The film consists of two pieces of recent footage; one showing young Muslims standing around a church to protect it from attack while the second piece depicts Christians protecting Muslims as they pray in the street. This pulling us forward in time and connecting the happenings of today’s world with the objects of the ancient past shows how faith and its development remains a key part of many lives despite the growing secularism of the western world. The exhibition’s focus on faith in this part of the world is particularly apt now given that the Middle East features in the media so frequently due to the ongoing violence, often incited by governments and terrorist groups in the name of religion. One of the most moving exhibits which appears towards the end is a small woollen tunic. The label states that although the garment can be dated, it is impossible to work out whether the child who wore it was Jewish, Christian or Muslim. It was just a child. Anne Hodge is Curator of Prints and Drawings in the National Gallery of Ireland.


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PUBLICATIONS The Cobbe: an Anglo-Irish cabinet of curiosities museum Arthur MacGregor (editor). 2015. yale university Press, New Haven and London. ISBN 978-0-300-20435-3, £75, Hardback in slip cover

NIGEL MONAGHAN This handsome volume is the product of an abiding passion and drive by the current custodian of this important collection from an Irish great house, Newbridge, in north Co. Dublin. Alec Cobbe became intrigued by the family museum as a schoolboy and has expended a significant amount of time, energy, enthusiasm and finance in rescuing the museum. In this volume he has worked with Arthur MacGregor to bring together an impressive array of twenty experts in various fields to set the museum in context and to examine each aspect of the collection in some detail, including a full catalogue listing. The thirty or so contributions are profusely illustrated with excellent photographs by John Hammond, there are detailed footnotes and an extensive bibliography. The Cobbe collection was established in the mid eighteenth century and spans the interests of a succession of family members up to the present. The story of a significant Irish family over the centuries in interesting in its own right but what is so useful about this book is the attempt to develop the biography of a museum collection, and that takes up the lion’s share of the volume. An introductory essay by the editor acts as a valuable contribution to museology setting the family museum in context as it covers the history of cabinet museums and their place in the great houses of Ireland and Britain and the early development of institutional museums. Each of the subsequent essays adds pieces of the puzzle as the authors work through collections without detailed documentation or even labels in many instances. Alec Cobbe takes the reader through the history of the collection, including his personal reminiscences from the day in 1959 when he



learned that his childhood freedom to explore the dusty neglected museum was to end, as it was being considered for sale. relegated to basements and slowly deteriorating, it recovered due his personal attachments and energy. He details the furnishings down to the details of hand-made trays for specimens and custom furniture. Other authors use everything from the types of labels, handwriting, even the style of the hand-made pins and needles used to impale beetles as clues in the unravelling the sources of objects some of which can be reliably connected with voyages of Captain Cook (1772-1775) and HMS Challenger (1872-1876). The book is in five sections, the first being an overview. The four following sections cover aspects of the objects from Natural History, Archaeology, Ethnography additions in more recent years as objects are traced and reacquired or family additions from the continued tradition of collecting. The volume is very attractively produced and the high quality and expensive production is hardy reflected in the cover price. Every museum library should aim to have a copy as should any serious student of the history of museums. Newbridge House is run as a partnership between the Cobbe family and Fingal County Council and has been open to the public since 1989. For its own safety, the museum was relocated to another family home in Surrey and a replica installed at Newbridge. This volume makes the museum available to all and is a valuable contribution to our understanding of family museums in recent centuries, with numerous gems in terms of objects and their stories that will prove interesting to the public but particularly to those interested in the history and development of museums. Nigel Monaghan is Keeper of the Natural History Division, National Museum of Ireland.


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The People’s Galleries: Art Museums and Exhibitions in Britain, 1800-1914 Giles waterfield (Author). 2015. yale university Press ISBN 978-0-20984-6, €67.36, 349pp, Hardback Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art


This useful publication: The People’s Galleries: Art Museums and Exhibitions in Britain, 1800-1914, is divided into three clear sections. It is well-illustrated with a list of dates at the end and an up-to-date bibliography forming a staple for researching British museums. written in the author’s trademark clear and lucid style, it is encyclopedic in range and reflects the author’s knowledge and experience of regional, municipal and national museums. Giles waterfield’s background in museums and cultural heritage is brought to bear on this book; he was the first director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery (1979-96), one of the earliest British galleries founded in 1811. The early chapters outline the growth of interest in the visual arts in Britain in the nineteenth century and the reasons why it became critical to establish museums as they were seen as playing a key role in the growing spirit of nationhood. They formed part of the mechanism for advancing the nation while also becoming an embodiment of the nation in the nineteenth-century. Part two, the largest section of the book, starts by examining the creation of Victorian museums as heralds of the modern age, fitting in with the worldwide development of educational institutions like libraries and archives that were bound up with national identity and the creation of the nation-state. waterfield includes many key institutions, including the British Museum founded in 1753, the National Gallery in 1824, South Kensington Museum (later Victoria and Albert Museum) in 1852, the National Portrait Gallery in 1856, and the National Gallery of Scotland, 1850 and National Gallery of Ireland, 1854 (not 1859 and 1864 respectively as listed on p.325). This image shows the common practice of artists and students copying from casts of antique sculpture in museums in the nineteenth-century.



Fig 1 Richard T. Moynan (1856-1906) Taking Measurements, the artist copying a cast in the hall of the National Gallery of Ireland, 1887. Courtesy of the author.

An important part of the establishment of early national and regional museums were the universal exhibitions and world fairs from Paris to New york, notably the massive 1851 ‘Great Exhibition’ in London and Manchester’s ‘Art Treasures’ exhibition (1857). These exhibitions taught skills about displaying art and managing the public at events that were both instructional as well as entertaining. The book delves into the early patterns of collecting, defining what was art and the British school of painting. Key factors included the influence of the royal Academy, the


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challenge of French art, which ‘‘was seen as superior to other European schools’’, and the role of the Department of Science and Art and its influential art administrators. Many of the museums created between 1890 and 1914 had contested roles, between that of forming permanent collections as opposed to mounting temporary exhibitions and educational work. Presenting the past was another key factor and that meant the British past in the nineteenth-century. Museums’ boards and management would be amused to see that the acquisition of works of art was often directed at ‘‘immediate political rather than artistic purposes’’ in a situation that is still not fully resolved today. waterfield notes the fact that museums were very much aware of their role as educational institutions, indeed education was the driving force behind most regional museums, particularly in a century that developed a greater awareness of the needs of children. However it was left to the dedication of individual curators to deal with this area until services were provided to ‘‘instruct the public’’. Attention is paid to the role of patrons, donors (including the place of women in this context) and councillors, noting that while the founders of the private collections were determined and confident people, it was more difficult for the councillors, donors and curators who shaped the regional museums. The uncertain rise of the curator is highlighted together with the significance of the public to the museums. In the final section, the author looks at the new order with its building programmes and modernization of galleries following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. The training of directors and curators improved in the twentieth-century as power passed from council committees to staff and the museum became devoted to art rather than as vehicles for instruction and popular entertainment. The story of museums since world war II alternated between patterns of prosperity and unhappiness underscored by a lack of a national policy in a situation that is echoed in Ireland. waterfield concludes by welcoming the return of the ‘people’s gallery’ reflecting a museum open to everyone regardless of education and background and this may be the most important legacy left by the Victorians. Dr Marie Bourke is former Keeper and Head of Education at the National Gallery of Ireland

Exhibition Reviews



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Museum Space Where Architecture Meets Museology Kali Tzolzi, 2015. Ashgate Publishing Limited ISBN: 978-1-4724-3901-7, £63, 314PP, Hardback

FIONA BYRNE Museum Space offers a well-considered perspective on the intersections between architecture, layout, curatorial intent and the visitor. Kali Tzolzi is Assistant Professor of Museology in the university of Patras in Greece. Tzolzi’s academic research is focused on communication within museum space, specifically how architecture and layout impact on the experience of visitors. This book is a culmination of years of study and research into the topic. It examines the effects of architectural and curatorial decisions on the visitor experience by interrogating route ways through the museums and how visitors encounter the spaces and works on display. Through carefully selected case studies the book looks at key themes including: ‘visual fields’ which considers how space and objects enhance each other, ‘hierarchies and sequences’ which looks at the overall or “global” layout versus local spatial sequences and ‘order and choice’ which examines visitor movement and choice versus clear narrative direction. It is intriguing to consider how the order in which visitors experience the museum shapes their overall experience. Tzolzi compares a range of museums with distinctive architectural layouts. using syntactic analysis of the spaces Tzolzi demonstrates the properties of the spaces in terms of integration, depth, connectivity and control. Each of these properties influences the movement of the visitor in various ways, eg allowing personal exploration or a more defined interpretation or encouraging social interaction or focusing on singular pathways. By catagorising spaces within museums into those which link to another, those which provide links to multiple spaces and dead end spaces, Tzolzi creates graphs of spatial connectivity that illustrate possible pathways through the spaces. To explore the depth of the spaces the distance from the entrance of the museum is given a numerical value – the higher the number the greater depth. This quiet technical model of analysis provides clear quantitative means of comparison.

Exhibition Reviews


The floor plans, schematic diagrams and maps of visitor pathways are instructive and essential for understanding the detailed analysis of the case studies. They provide a clear visual to compare and contrast, revealing geometrical and topological similarities and differences which might otherwise remain undiscovered. For example, Tzolzi highlights the similarity in circulation between the Tate Britain and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art despite their visually contrasting architectural design. This analysis is complemented by an understanding of the evolution of the spaces and the curatorial aspirations for the exhibits. The only minor disappointment in this publication is the treatment of the photographic illustrations which add little to the book. These small black and white images had the potential to be aesthetic illustrations of the spaces under consideration adding a layer of visual impact to the publication. That said, this missed opportunity is no reflection of the depth of the research within the text of the book. In addition to the empirical data offered by this publication, a useful overview of the history of the museum space is presented. Chapter one deals with architecture and space; how thinking about the role of the museum has shaped the design of museum buildings through the years. The second chapter examines curatorial practice and museum theory starting from the sixteenth century up to the modern era. This chapter highlights shifting focuses from nationalism, to formal learning, to pleasure and more modern ideas of the museum as an immersive space for active engagement. Although these will be familiar subjects to most readers of this publication, the overview is framed from an angle specific to this book, providing not fresh, but curated information to support the new research. This book should prove to be an interesting and beneficial read for museum professionals, architects and scholars particularly those interested in the visitor experience. It should be practically useful for considering the layout of exhibitions within existing structures and for the creation of new spaces. The book raises many considerations in terms of how the basic structure of a building influences movement through it, and thus impacts on the way meaning is imparted to the visitor. This book is a valuable


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tool which will aid the construction of spaces aligned with curatorial intent, creating holistic visitor experiences where building, objects and audience work together to interrogate and interpret museum narratives. Fiona Byrne is a Ph.D candidate at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick and Acting Curator of Education and Outreach at the Hunt Museum since May 2015.

Exhibition Reviews



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Irishmen in the Great War: Reports from the Front 1915 Tom Burnell, 2015. Pen and Sword, yorkshire ISBN: 1473823455, £19.99, 256PP, Hardback

JOHN SCANLON The role of Irishmen in the British Army during world war I has for decades been a controversial topic among Irish writers and scholars. However, the period of commemoration which began in 2014 has brought these forgotten soldiers back into the cultural limelight. A range of new scholarship and museum commemorations continue to explore the stories of the men involved and describe their experiences to a civilian public. Tom Burnell, an Irish army veteran, has recently published his second collection of these experiences. Irishmen in the Great War: Reports from the Front 1915 is gathering of news stories harvested from twenty-six different Irish newspapers. Over one hundred and fifty of these stories are presented, varying in tone and content. The purpose of the book is common to many of the recent works on the war, such as Turtle Bunbury’s The Glorious Madness – Tales of the Irish in the Great War. Reports from the Front 1915 is not so much a dedicated thesis as a miscellany, into which a reader can dip at will. That said, there is a vast collection of information here of interest to any reader with an inclination towards military history. It contains firsthand descriptions of equipment used by the British military (including fascinating details such as the total cost of a broadside from a dreadnought), juxtaposed with moving stories like that of a chaplain giving the last rites to soldiers while under fire. The approach to violence within the newspapers draws an interesting contrast with more sterile mass media. Descriptions of gunshot wounds and shelling casualties approach lurid, often callous levels of detail. Although these are undoubtedly meant to garner sympathy for the soldiers’ sacrifice, readers of a nervous disposition should be warned. The final section consists of a description of each of the twenty-six newspapers from which the stories were collected. Each entry contains a sobering note that the newspapers’ reporting of both casualties and war news lessened after the rebellion of 1916. Exhibition Reviews


The presentation of the book is largely plain and unadorned. It is not broken up by illustrations or maps save for a small collection of photographs. In a sense, the unembellished nature of the book works against it as it is difficult to place the stories themselves in a geographic sense without outside research. There is also little information on specific regiments or units, but there is a comprehensive index which aids in searching for stories involving those regiments. Reports from the Front is not so much an aid to study as it is a storybook, but the stories it tells are from remarkable primary sources. A glossary explaining the colourful slang in use at the time would be useful as the stories are peppered with it but there are many such resources available online. In short, Reports from the Front is a useful and entertaining book, providing an insight into hitherto-unconsidered facets of the war. It does not make for a taxing read and offers great insight into warfare on the common man’s terms. In this period of remembrance, it is the common soldier who should receive much of the attention. John Scanlon recently completed an M.A. Museum Practice and Management (distance learning) at Ulster University.


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Board of Directors and Staff,  Irish Museums Association Ltd, 2015 Brian Crowley Chair Anne Hodge Vice-Chair Ken Langan IMA Treasurer and Company Secretary william Blair Director Professor Elizabeth Crooke Director Paul Doyle Director Lar Joye Director Dr Hugh Maguire Director Dr Emily Mark-FitzGerald Director Carla Marrinan Director Aoife ruane Director rosemary ryan Director Gina O’Kelly Director of Operations


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