Conference article

One Common Event; Two Distinct Narratives: Commemorative Displays in National Museums in Ireland and Northern Ireland in the 1990s

Thomas Cauvin
European University Institute, Italy

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Published in: Great Narratives of the Past Traditions and Revisions in National Museums

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 78:36, p. 587-596

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Published: 2012-10-30


ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


The article explores the production of historical narratives in two national museums; the National Museum of Ireland (Dublin; Republic of Ireland) and the Ulster Museum (Belfast; Northern Ireland) in the context of political reconciliation. In 1998; the Irish and British governments associated with most of Northern Ireland’s political parties; agreed to set the bases for restoring peace through the Good Friday Agreement. This was in this context that the two national museums arranged exhibitions for the bicentenary of the 1798 Rebellion; which had been at the heart of the opposition between nationalist and unionist conceptions of the relations between Ireland and Britain. The purpose of the article is to question how; and to what extent; the organisation of the commemorations impacted on the construction of historical narratives in the two national museums in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The two commemorative exhibitions and their organisation reveal how the 1990s politics of reconciliation contributed to building new historical narratives in Ireland and Northern Ireland’s national museums. However; I argue that the two exhibitions were still representative of the opposition between cultural diversity and national unity supported respectively in Northern Ireland and in the Republic.


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