UK Partner Placement: Claire Messenger visits National Museums Northern Ireland

Claire Messenger, ITP Manager

This summer I had the pleasure of spending 5 days of the ITP Summer Programme with Mariana Sainz Pacheco, Namrata Sarmah and Chantal Umuhoza at our newest UK Partner museum, National Museums Northern Ireland.

In just a few days together we managed to see and do so much – thanks to the wonderful organisation of our colleague NMNI Training and Development Advisor Louise Smyth.  We visited Ulster Museum, which tells the unique human story of this part of Ireland and is home to a vast array of art, historical artefacts and specimens from the natural world.  Particularly of interest to me was the newly opened The Troubles and Beyond exhibition with a tour and set-up discussion with Karen Logan, Curator of History.  Back in February this year when Rebecca, Jessica and I visited NMNI for the first time, we had heard about the thoughts and plans behind the new display, so the opportunity to see it was fascinating.  Looking at the display and thinking about the concept and content was particularly interesting to Mariana and Chantal, who both reflected on issues in their home countries of Mexico and Rwanda.

We also had time to enjoy Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, a museum of two distinct parts. The first, an experience of life over 100 years ago. The second, one of the most comprehensive transport collections in Europe.  Something that stood-out to all of us were the wonderful visitor hosts NMNI  have giving insights into the collections.  Their knowledge was very impressive and their enthusiasm was infectious – we all left with a much greater understanding of life in Northern Ireland – and a passion for historic transport collections we never knew we had!!

On my last day we visited Ulster American Folk Park: an exploration of the human drama behind emigration from the thatched cottages of Ulster to the new world homesteads of the American frontier. Following a tour of the museum and park, we had a fascinating discussion with colleagues at the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies on the future of the site and their initial plans for possible reinterpretations of the migration story.

Belfast_summer programme_3

I have to confess that I have a new found interest in the TV series Game of Thrones.  Mariana, Namrata and Chantal were all avid fans (who couldn’t believe I had never even seen one episode!!) and were very excited to see the stunning tapestry depicting key scenes from every episode of the show.


Finally, many thanks to Colette McCafferty, Independent Tour Guide who took us on a tour of Belfast – and treated us to our first pints of Guinness – and to John Williams, Head of Photography and Imagining here at the British Museum, who kindly joined us for a few days and took some lovely photographs of our fellows and colleagues at the NMNI venues we visited.