Remembering 1916: Your Stories

Rare Easter Rising and Battle of the Somme memorabilia featured as part of Ulster Museum's new exhibition

A new exhibition exploring the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme has opened to the public at the Ulster Museum.

Set within the context of world events of 1916, the Remembering 1916: Your Stories exhibition will acknowledge the importance of the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme as distinct events, while encouraging visitors to make new connections and appreciate the impact of the First World War on wider society.

Developed in collaboration with ‘Living Legacies 1914-18’, an innovative research initiative led by Queen’s University Belfast, the exhibition features artefacts which were donated by members of the public, as well as significant loans from the National Museum of Ireland and Imperial War Museum.

Rare and compelling objects including uniforms, equipment, medals, firearms, photographs, artwork, souvenirs and poignant personal mementoes, will be on view together for the first time, providing new insights into this defining period of our history. 

Many of these objects are directly connected to significant personalities.  In relation to the Rising, this includes prominent northern republicans such as Denis McCullough, Roger Casement, Bulmer Hobson and Winifred Carney. In relation to the Battle of the Somme, the exhibition includes items associated with Major General Nugent, commander of the 36th (Ulster Division) and Lord Farnham, his aide-de-camp, alongside material reflecting the experience of both soldiers and nurses at the Front.

Highlights include a recently acquired Irish Volunteers tunic which will be displayed for the first time. This tunic belonged to Irish Volunteer Jack Greenan from Keady, Co. Armagh. His family believe Jack wore it while taking part in the Easter Rebellion of 1916.  Also included are a blood-stained booklet that belonged to Private Adam Stewart from Co. Londonderry who was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Ulster Museum Remembering 1916

There are two paintings of Thiepval by William Orpen - regarded as one of the most important war artists - on loan from the Imperial War Museum, as well as an autograph book, on loan from the National Museum of Ireland, from Reading Jail which bears the signatures of Denis McCullough, Sean T. O’Kelly and Arthur Griffith. 

William Blair, Head of History at National Museums Northern Ireland said: 'The Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme appear to lie at opposite ends of our political spectrum, but they are linked by the First World War and the profound social and political change that it brought about. Both the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme form an important part of the complex weave of history that continues to influence our present and our future.'

Mr Blair added, 'Our collection, largely donated to the museum during and immediately after the First World War, reflects what people believed to be important and worth preserving. Since 2014 we have also been collecting family histories through the Living Legacies 1914-18 Engagement Centre and it has been wonderful to work with academics from Queen’s University Belfast as well as the public to create a truly collaborative exhibition combining leading-edge research with human stories.'

Prof. Keith Lilley, Director of Living Legacies 1914-18 Engagement Centre said: 'Remembering 1916: Your Stories is a remarkable exhibition that combines personal items drawn from communities across Northern Ireland and places these alongside material from museum collections. The exhibition marks a significant point in an ongoing collaboration between National Museums Northern Ireland and the Living Legacies 1914-18 WW1 public engagement centre, based at Queen’s University Belfast.

'The exhibition offers us the opportunity not only to understand the war and its impacts in new ways, it also provides a model of co-curation and participatory research that deepens meaningful links between museums, universities and local communities. Out of the trauma of war, Remembering 1916: Your Stories draws us all together.'

Remembering 1916: Your Stories exhibition will complement wider initiatives associated with the Decade of Centenaries including the Royal Irish Academy 1916 Portraits and Lives photographic exhibition on display until 3 April in the Belfast Room at the Ulster Museum.

Remembering 1916: Your Stories exhibition will run until 2017. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of talks and curator-led tours, workshops, film screenings and family activity events.

Admission to the Ulster Museum is free. For further information visit www.nmni.com/um