Healing Through Remembering
New pop-up exhibition in Belfast explores the concept of a permanent memorial museum to the Troubles
Cigarette tins enbossed with Celtic symbols by Republican prisoners. Pencils hollowed out to act as receptacles for clandestine messages passed between inmates and visitors. Shaker-style quilts designed as memorials to the dead. Plastic bullets, protest songs, metal bin lids and RUC gas canisters – these are the things that memories are made of. In Northern Ireland, at any rate.
And so, in the absence of a 'living memorial museum' to the Troubles, or some sort of permanent exhibition – with all political persuasions evenly represented, all histories considered equally valid – Healing Through Remembering, the independent conflict legacy initiative, has displayed all of the above exhibits and more in a temporary pop-up gallery on Belfast's Queen Street.
The aim is to gauge the response from the public, to assess the demand for a permanent memorial to the Northern Irish conflict, and to consider, and debate, the nature of such a memorial.
Through feedback forms provided, opinions on the proposed Peace Centre at the former Maze/Long Kesh prison, the current Art of the Troubles exhibition in the Ulster Museum, and the various sources of the pieces on show as part of Everyday Objects Transformed by the Conflict, among other things, will no doubt be shared.
Ultimately, it will be Tríona White Hamilton's task, along with her colleagues at Healing Through Remembering, to collate that data and attempt to make sense of it – no easy task in a country as wounded as Northern Ireland, but there are precedents.
In South Africa, for example, the Apartheid Museum is an enduring success, where conflicting histories, memories and experiences co-exist under one roof, and where bridges are ultimately built.
For the time being, members of the public can view the exhibits on show in Unit 6, Lydon Court, Queen Street – which will be continually refreshed until Everyday Objects... closes at the end of July, 2014 – and read the complementary texts written by the various providers, from private individuals to staff from the Linen Hall Library, Ulster Museum, St James Street CBS Dublin and elsewhere.
According to White Hamilton, the Living Memorial Museum Sub-Committee at Healing Through Remembering has discovered that 'there are a quarter of a million objects out there in about 85 different collections not just in Northern Ireland, but throughout the UK and in the Republic of Ireland... There's not one narrative of the conflict within this exhibition, it's about various different political perspectives, views and experiences'.
Everyday Objects Transformed by the Conflict runs in a temporary pop-up gallery on Belfast's Queen Street until July 31.