Bin lids, coins, bus tickets and milk bottles are examples of the everyday objects that were “transformed by the conflict” and bring together diverse narratives.
An exhibition of everyday items in use during the conflict in and about Northern Ireland was launched by Healing Through Remembering (HTR) as one of the events that opened the West Belfast Festival — Feile an Phobail.
The items displayed include over 50 artefacts from national museums, small collections, political organisations and private collectors who actively acquired material throughout the conflict. The artefacts, archives and audio-visual material reveal a multiple perspective on the conflict, and are used to hold memories and learn lessons from the past.
The stories behind these objects not only offer a glimpse into the everyday lives and memories of individuals, communities and organisations, they also help visitors explore the nature, causes and effects of conflict. According to Kate Turner, director of Healing Through Remembering, “It’s a different way of look at things through these everyday objects, which have a mix of residence with who you are and what you do, rather than look at in terms of history.”
The exhibition brought the opportunity to create a space to tell diverse experiences from people and communities with various backgrounds and gave the chance to establish a network trough the largely dispersed objects and documents and a best use of holdings. Most of the objects came from within Northern Ireland, however, there are also contributions by collections from across the UK and Republic of Ireland.
According to Kate Turner, “Working with those collectors helped us decide what would be the criteria for being in the collection and where the exhibitions should be staged. Everybody would like their own label, that means there are lots of different voices and perspectives with them in this exhibition, but they are here together, there are in glass cases together.”
The exhibition was running between St Mary’s College in Falls Road and Spectrum Center in Shankill Road. The director reveals her desire “to be part of the area” and to not aim to agree on one single version of history, but instead to let people from various backgrounds speak for themselves.
Talking about the response of the people, Kate Turner said that it was very positive: “It’s challenging, some people say it’s challenging to see the stories together. We have been quite amazed by the amount of positive feedback we have got from people of different generations.”
She sees the future of the exhibition as a work in progress: “We are hoping that there is a future in it, but the exhibition is very much about asking people what should we do about remembering the conflict through items, through artefacts, and through discussion, so it will grow as we get responses.”
Belfast was the last stage of the exhibition tour that took place throughout Northern Ireland and the border counties from March-August 2012. The first display was in Derry-Londonderry, and has been shown also in Omagh, Clones and Ballymoney.
A Piece of View
“A Piece of View” is another experience related with stories behind objects.
The exhibition took place during the Forum for Cities in Transition 2011 conference in Derry-Londonderry. Delegates were asked to leave on a table a personal item that had particular meaning for them.
In the following video, delegates spoke about their item and its value as a connector with their everyday life.
The exhibition project originates from an audit of artefacts commissioned by Healing Through Remembering, in partnership with the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s University Belfast. During the two-year audit, more than 400,000 artefacts relating to the conflict were documented from 79 public and private collections.
More information about the Everyday Objects exhibition: http://www.healingthroughremembering.org/everydayobjects
More information about the Forum for Cities in Transition 2011 conference: http://citiesintransition.net/derrylondonderry2011