Ulster Museum's 26 Treasures

Northern Irish writers and artists interpret ancient and new exhibits

Some of Northern Irelands best known writers and artists are taking a fresh look at the Ulster Museum’s greatest treasures to form an exciting new exhibition set to open this autumn.

The project, 26 Treasures at the Ulster Museum, involves 26 writers, including poets Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon and Bernard MacLaverty, who have been paired with 26 visual artists, such as Peter Anderson, Ross Wilson and Sonya Whitefield, and a well-known museum artefact.

The writers will compose a 62 word response to their artefacts, which include Takabuti the Mummy, the Clonmore shrine and Bog butter, amongst other things. The brief they have been given is that the response can be funny, sad, prose or poetry, but always personal.

They will collaborate with the artist to produce a visual and verbal response that will be exhibited at the Ulster Museum in October 2011 as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s and Irish Design Week.

26 Treasures first took place in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London last year, and following its success the project has been extended nationally to include the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, as well as the Ulster Museum.

Paddy Gilmore, Director of Learning and Partnerships for National Museums of Northern Ireland, said: 'The Ulster Museum is a real treasure house of objects dating from the arrival of man on the island of Ireland to the present day, and each has the capacity to excite and enthuse the visitor.

'The responses of the many creative talents involved in this project will provide unique and fascinating interpretations. I hope they will provide the inspiration for new and innovative ways of exploring and engaging with our collection.'

Project co-ordinator Gillian Colhoun said the aim was to highlight how every exhibit has its own story, its own reason to exist, providing inspiration to every age and every background. '26 Treasures is an opportunity to give 26 objects from the museum a new voice and a new energy,' Colhoun explained.

'In Northern Ireland, we’re lucky to have so much collective creative talent. This is one way of celebrating the Northern Irish talent for telling stories through words and pictures.

'That's why we invited writers and visual artists to work together to create 26 new artefacts from our original objects. In October, visitors to the museum will be able to enjoy an alternative personal response to these wonderful objects, as well as see how they will have inspired something new and inventive – a whole new idea.'

Watch the video below for more information on the origins of the 26 Treasures concept.

26 Treasures at the Ulster Museum will be exhibited in The Belfast Room at the Ulster Museum, from October 14 to 29 as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's.