‘World cultures’ in the North: histories of representation in National Museums NI

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This paper examines imperial connections that led to what is now the World Cultures Collection in National Museums NI. It considers the impact of Partition on the collection; and the ensuing complexity of using ethnographic collections to shape historical representation in Northern Ireland. The paper argues that, throughout the twentieth century, the potential of the topics of colonialism and Empire to become politically inflammatory was such that they were not explicitly tackled as interpretative themes. Instead, the Ulster Museum discussed these collections through biographical narratives relating to people from the north of Ireland; as generalised representations of cultural practices in distant places; and as a means of understanding the history of the world through a Northern Ireland lens. Reviewing the collection in the light of the decolonisation movement, the paper discusses recent National Museums NI initiatives to tackle prejudice, address exclusion and encourage diverse dialogue, including collaborative engagements with source and local communities. Finally, it considers the potential for new approaches to colonial collections within museums in Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 05 Nov 2021
EventNational Museums - Narrating the Nation - National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 29 Oct 202105 Nov 2021


ConferenceNational Museums - Narrating the Nation
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