Sharing the Past in a Divided City: Belfast’s Ulster Museum

By Shawn Reming Jr..

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This project focuses on the Ulster Museum’s function as a shared or inclusive space utilising participant observation, visitor surveys, and analysing the museum’s own archives. Starting with a brief history and a look at the museum’s location, this paper aims to answer and raise questions about the validity of a museum as a shared or inclusive space in a contested city. When a portion of the population does not support, or is at least not content with, the existence of the state, can a state organisation be inclusive?
The Ulster Museum, a multi-focused museum, is essentially Northern Ireland’s “National Museum”. Comprised of art, science, and history exhibitions, including past and present “troubles” related exhibits, it offers a range of experiences for potential visitors. But who are these visitors? How accessible is the museum and what have visitors experienced coming to the Ulster Museum? All museums struggle to attract a wide range of visitors utilising varied practices to expand their target audience. Being more than just a history museum or an art gallery increases the number and type of visitors, but what other steps has this museum taken to create an inclusive environment?

Keywords: Conflict, Shared Space, Visitors, The Troubles, Northern Ireland

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.1-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 749.535KB).

Shawn Reming Jr.

Ph.D. Candidate, Institute of Irish Studies, School of History and Anthropology, Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

Currently pursuing his Ph.D. under the supervision of Dr. Maruska Svasek at Queen’s University of Belfast, Shawn is researching the museum visitor’s experience of exhibitions of the conflict in and around Northern Ireland. Originally from the United States, he received his B.A. in history from Saint Vincent College and his M.A. in history from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Professionally, Shawn worked in museum education at the Jamestown Living History Museum, Virginia, as a museum program assistant. This work included conducting guided tours for national and international groups of all ages, as well as working in the on-site classroom with visiting school groups. His research interests include visitor experiences as well as uses of material culture when presenting contested history.

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