Niall Butterly

What do museums in Northern Ireland reveal about local identity?

The purpose of this thesis is to examine the museums of Northern Ireland and their revelations concerning the local identities of Northern Ireland. While literature surrounding museums and identity is plentiful, this study is geographically particular. The research process consisted of site visits to several museums across Northern Ireland. Each chapter focuses on a specific museum. Within these chapters a visual analysis is performed upon a selected artefact from each respective museum’s collection. The thesis determines that identity cannot be confined to the sectarian binaries typically associated with Northern Ireland. Rather, the identities that are local to Northern Ireland are deeply complex with many factors contributing to their construction.

This research explores themes such as, local identity which surrounds a museum and its influence on a museum’s allegiance, collective trauma, the differing approaches towards the presentation of identity by independent and public museums and, finally, shared local identity.
The research conducted is supported through relevant literature. Referenced texts include “Museums and Community” by Elizabeth Crooke, Ulster: The Common Ground by Emyr Estyn Evans and annual reports published by the museums themselves.