Inclusive heritage, conflict commemoration and the Centenary of World War One in Northern Ireland

Rachel Tracey, Keith D. Lilley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The commemoration of World War One (WWI) in Northern Ireland is explored through the lens of ‘inclusive heritage’. Using the Centenary anniversary of WWI as a focal point (2014–2019), the chapter draws on the experience and findings of a six-year public engagement centre based in Belfast called Living Legacies 1914–18. The centre’s projects and outreach are explored here as an example of how contested and conflict heritage can itself provide a bridge to bring together communities in divided societies. Rather than adopt the position of finding a consensual view of the past—a “shared heritage”—however, Living Legacies researchers emphasised the importance of “sharing heritage”. This has yielded significant insights on the impacts and legacies of WWI on Ireland and has proven to be a robust and positive process in conflict commemoration that has wider significance and implications. This chapter uses examples of Living Legacies projects and collaboration to draw out these broader lessons, which indicate clearly the need for an inclusive approach where contested and troubled pasts have contemporary consequences. The chapter particularly focuses on the role of museums as key interlocutors in memorialising the past, in shaping individual and collective memory practices and policies, and in defining how past and present intersect in contemporary cultures. In the context of Northern Ireland, with its contested and fractured pasts and their continued resonance in communities today, such agency is all the more critical and so this chapter highlights—from collaborations with museums across Northern Ireland—how creating more inclusive heritage as part of conflict commemoration has scope to define new relationships with our difficult and troubled pasts. This process we argue has particular efficacy if such collaborations take place ‘in the field’, and outside traditional formal museums settings. To this end, academic researchers, as collaborators with communities and museums, play an important and relevant role through drawing not only on critical heritage concepts and ideas, such as Inclusive Heritage Discourse (IHD), but through models and methods of field-based research that are germane to disciplines such as geography and archaeology. In finding ways of using past conflicts to create more inclusive heritage discourse and practice in our post-conflict, divided societies, our landscapes and localities are a rich resource for those seeking to shape a more inclusive future through drawing positively on the diversity and plurality of the past.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPlaces of Memory and Legacies in an Age of Insecurities and Globalization
EditorsGerry O'Reilly
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9783030609825
ISBN (Print)9783030609818
Publication statusPublished - 04 Dec 2020

Publication series

NameKey Challenges in Geography (EUROGEO Book Series)


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