Conference: Should We Put History Behind Glass?

March 25, 2008

Healing Through Remembering and the Institute of Irish Studies at Queens University Belfast held a Conference:

Should We Put History Behind Glass?

The debate about a Living Memorial Museum to the conflict in and about Northern Ireland

Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th April 2008

Elmwood Teaching and Learning Centre

Queens University Belfast

Issues and Themes


The issue of timing raises a number of questions, such as, when is the time right for a Living Memorial Museum? How do you know when the time is right? What are the possible effects if a project such as this is taken on to soon? Could it be damaging to the political climate? Perhaps lessons can be learnt from other examples, both local and international.

Inclusive or Exclusive collections/displays

Choosing how to display various histories/stories/information can have a profound impact on visitors. There are strengths and weaknesses in choosing to focus on inclusive collections/displays, as opposed to exclusive, and vice versa. What are those strengths and weaknesses? Is a collection that only tells a select part of a story still as valid as one that chooses to tell the whole story? How can an exclusive display still appeal to others whose history has not been shown?

Challenging/Contentious Displays vs Safe Displays

Why do people visit museums? Is it to acknowledge that some stories are open to debate and therefore certain views may be challenged? Do people expect to have their beliefs and conceptions questioned? If so, there may be value in contentious displays. Perhaps these create dialogue, causing people to define themselves differently. Alternatively, if this may lead to refusal to accept the various displays, to refute or reject them completely, and if so, has this attempt at memorialisation and remembrance been a valuable exercise? Perhaps safe displays are more ‘visitor friendly’, while still educating people in a ‘safe way’. Is this the overall purpose of a museum?

There will be a number of local and international speakers, launch of Display Books, launch of Artefacts database and report.