Anthony  D  Buckley

'Mutual understanding and cultural heritage in an oasis of calm: divided identities in a museum in Ulster'

by A D Buckley and Mary Catherine Kenney. In (ed.) Ullrich Kockel Culture, Tourism and Development,: the case of Ireland University of Liverpool Press, 1994, 129-147.



This article will explore three strategies which have been used for the presentation of culture in schools and museums in the context of Northern Ireland's 'troubles'. The strategies, indeed, have labels which are well¬ established in the vocabulary of Northern Irish educationalists. They are:

  • that schools and museums should be 'oases of calm';
  • that schools and museums should provide opportunities for intermingling between individuals of different ethnicities to encourage mutual understanding; and
  • that schools and museums should enable individuals of different ethnicities to explore their own and each others' cultural heritage.

We shall first try to give these strategies a basis in an anthropological theory of ethnicity.

Second, we shall show how these strategies have been given expression in some work at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

The three strategies are directly related to three interconnected theoretical approaches. All of them emphasise the fact that Ireland (and specifically Northern Ireland) is a modern society. As in other modern societies, the culture of Irish (or Ulster) people is diverse, fragmentary and pluralistic.

The first point will be that ethnic identity is not the only identity that a person has and that different forms of identity are defined in the frameworks provided by specific relationships, situations and 'worlds' (Finnegan 1989). The second, derived from Barth (1969) will be that ethnicity arises not primarily because of the cultural diversity between the ethnic groups but because of patterns in the way that individuals and groups typically inter interact. The third will he that individuals tyically define themselves in the course of different kinds of discourse and 'social drama' such as narrative, gossip, music, dance, ritual or ceremonial. Some of these cultural forms are the 'property' (Harrison 1992) of a particular ethnic group cared for by individuals and organisations who act effectively as their `curators'.

The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum has a responsibility to present the way of life and traditions, past and present, of the people of Northern Ireland. It will be argued here that it is correct for such a museum to represent a wide variety of the different worlds in which individuals define themselves; it should also provide opportunities for friendly and practical interaction between individuals of the different ethnic groups; and it should occasionally display aspects of cultural heritage which are characteristic of specifically ethnic identities.



The idea that educational institutions ought to be 'oases of calm' has long been important in the world of Northern Irish education. Its usually unstated theoretical premise is that people live in distinct and separable worlds.

The idea that individuals live in different worlds comes from a discussion by Ruth Finnegan (1989) of music in the English town of Milton Keynes. Finnegan shows that there exist many different musical 'worlds'. There is the world of brass bands, of folk music, of different kinds of classical music, of jazz and so forth. Each world is quite distinct from all of the others, has its own standards of judging between good and bad music, its own means of learning about music and so forth.

Quite apart from music, the more general point to be made from Finnegan's work is that individuals in modern society (and probably in most `traditional' societies too) habitually live in countless different worlds, moving easily between them and acquiring in relation to each world a separate identity. An individual, therefore, does not have a single identity, but has in fact many different partial identities each defined by means of his or her relation to a specific world. In a Northern Ireland context, the most relevant fact is that only some of these worlds are definable in relation to ethnicity.

The fact that people do, indeed, live in different 'worlds' provides the pragmatic basis for the long-standing policy of creating, in schools and p130 museums, 'oases of calm’. There is a tradition that the phrase 'oases of calm' originally referred to schools in the battle-torn, nationalist areas of west Belfast in the 1970s. It is said that, at a time when homes were being nightly raided, when rioting was an everyday occurrence, and when explosions and gunfire regularly rattled the windows, one could walk into a school and find peace. In these schools was an orderliness, a cleanliness, and a sense, above all, of calm, only heightened by the devastation outside the school railings. Children who spent their evenings 'bricking peelers' (or worse) would, in the daytime, sit in the school surrounded by vases of flowers and statues of saints.

Whatever the origin of the expression, the practical goal of creating an oasis of calm quickly extended into the state schools and into the world of museums. Schools and museums were to be 'neutral territory'. Into them, the troubles should not intrude. As well as the mere physical exclusion of `the men of violence', it was also hoped to keep out of the classroom and the museum gallery contentious forms of debate that could 'politicise' these places.

In practice, however, this was not such a great problem. The school curriculum, in fact, exemplifies the division of the cultural universe into discrete worlds, and only some of these are directly related to ethnic division. In a school there are some subjects, notably history, religion, and the Irish language, which might raise sectarian issues. However, in segregated schools it was generally possible to deal even with these issues without raising hackles. For the most part, discussions of physics, chemistry, biology, art, woodwork, geography, literature and so forth can be undertaken without reference to sectarianism or social conflict.

Teachers, therefore, took refuge in the pluralism of the curriculum, and in the ideal of producing 'well-rounded individuals', i.e. people whose identity is defined in relation not only to parochial worlds where ethnicity is relevant, but also to the worlds of literature, science and the rest, where ethnicity has smaller importance. There was a parallel in the two 'national' museums in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Museum in Belfast and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in County Down. Of these, the Ulster Museum has a precisely similar breadth of concern as is found in a school. Inside its walls are departments concerned with such subjects as antiquities, art, botany, geology, textiles, or zoology, none of which would have any ethnic connotations.

The Ulster Museum, however, also has a department of local history. In this, though with a different emphasis, it shares concerns with its sister institution, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. In fact, neither the local p131 history department of the Ulster Museum nor the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum have been highly controversial institutions.  The reason for this again, as in the schools, has been because of the division of the social and cultural universe into diverse worlds.

A major feature of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is its open air museum, which depicts a dispersed rural community and a small town in Ulster in about the year 1900. Most of the exhibits in the open air museum have been dismantled and brought to the Museum, 'brick by brick'. As well as the open air museum, there are also galleries suitable for both 'folk' and `transport' exhibitions. The Museum also stages demonstrations and 'events' aimed at illustrating the way of life of the people of Northern Ireland.

The themes depicted by the Museum over the years have been many and various, and in them the topic of ethnicity scarcely at all arose. The buildings exemplify older forms of vernacular architecture, and the way these have been used by different kinds of people from different parts of Ulster. Another theme has been the variety of agricultural practice. The museum's agriculture department has sought to encourage the breeding and preservation of rare breeds of farm animals. The Museum's textile department collects and displays textiles and their manufacture both for their own intrinsic interest, and for the light which these throw upon the lives of those who made and used them. Crafts, such as blacksmithing, printing, spademaking and woodworking, are regularly illustrated and displayed. The Museum displays all kinds of transport, including shipping—a major aspect of Ulster life—and road transport. Recently, a large gallery has been opened devoted entirely to railways. To nearly all of this, to raise the topic of ethnicity would have been inappropriate. The story of ethnicity in Ulster is not central to most of the worlds which exist in the north of Ireland. There are, simply, many other stories to be told.

The attempt to create 'oases of calm' in the schools and museums in Northern Ireland was, therefore, in large measure made possible through a recognition that the social universe within which Northern Irish people lived should not be divided into sectarian dichotomies. It was, however, a response by teachers and curators to the very extreme conditions of the 1970s when physical intimidation threatened the very foundation of their educational endeavours. As such, it tended to evade (though with some considerable justification) some of the central issues of Northern Irish life.

From the mid 1980s, however, a new atmosphere became apparent. Ethnic conflict in Ulster ceased, at least for a time, to be acute and became chronic. Government took steps to encourage reconciliation, and local politicians responded with cautious goodwill. At the same time, educationalists also felt themselves able to take on a more positive role to encourage reconciliation.



If identities are constructed in the context of specific 'worlds', they are also produced in the course of social interaction. Barth (1969) has famously argued that ethnic identity is defined not by the existence of distinctively ethnic 'cultures', but rather by patterns of social interaction which systematically maintain social boundaries. Akenson (1991) has taken up this viewpoint and has argued, using nineteenth-century data, that cultural differences between Catholics and Protestants are comparatively few (see also Buckley 1988a). In the same tradition, Whyte (1986) has weighed the factors in the Northern Ireland situation which sustain social boundaries—segregated religion, segregated marriage patterns, segregated residential territories. He concludes that the most crucial element in the maintenance of ethnic division in Ulster is segregated education. Buckley (1989), without disagreeing strongly, has argued that the lack of intermarriage is more important.

Since at least the 1970s, there have been attempts to provide opportunities for Catholic and Protestant children to intermingle. There are several 'integrated' schools, the most famous of which is Lagan College in Belfast (cf. Irwin 1991), where selection procedures ensure that no one ethnic group predominates. Government has declared itself in favour of these schools, and gives them financial support. Nevertheless, by leaving the creation of integrated schools to the initiative of parents, the pace of integrated education has been effectively slowed down.

One reason for the muted nature of government support for integrated education may have been the political opposition which such schools could generate. Another reason has been well articulated in a pamphlet by Wright (n.d.). This is that the commonly stated popular support for integration can sometimes disguise a desire to 'put something across on the others':

Do you know either of the following? Someone with a fantasy of Catholics and Protestants standing reverently before a Union Jack fluttering from the school flagpole; or someone with the fantasy of p133 Protestant and Catholic children dutifully absorbing a history syllabus which puts Protestants 'right about their Irishness'.

Separate education, he suggests, may itself be a means of managing mistrust, and too rapid an erosion of segregation may destroy the quiet which is currently in most schools.

The main thrust towards intermingling in the classroom comes not within schemes for integrated education, but rather through 'Education for Mutual Understanding' or 'EMU'. EMU was set up in face of a recognition that to force the pace of integrated schools would be unwise. EMU is now one of six cross-curricular themes built into the Northern Ireland Curriculum (Northern Ireland Curriculum Council 1990). Care is taken by those who support it to insist that it is neither 'a threat to particular cultures or traditions' nor 'an attack on the concept of segregated education in Northern Ireland'. Indeed, its critics suggest that, as such, it is ineffectual (e.g., Dunlop 1987).

Central to the EMU strategy has been the cultivation of regular and practical links between maintained and controlled (Catholic and Protestant) schools. Typically, classes from different schools come together on a regular basis for lessons in common, or they will undertake occasional projects often involving field trips or other outings together.

In this work, the education departments of the different museums have taken an active part. At the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, there are, during school terms, some three 'EMU groups' visiting for 'EMU work¬shops' every week. On these occasions, the children are usually divided into small ethnically mixed groups of six to eight children to do practical work involving farming, cooking, candle-making, embroidery, laundry and so on. The children may then be distributed into larger groups to take part in other activities, such as a visit to one of the houses in the Museum's open air collection to complete a 'work book' or a lesson by one of their teachers taken in the Museum's village school.

The schools that participate in these activities are almost always a pair of schools, one Catholic, the other Protestant, which have ordinarily been working together in close cooperation, for months or even, nowadays, years. Classes from these schools will usually visit the Museum on four separate days, and on each occasion, the children will work together in the same small groups. Often their visits to the Museum culminate in a longer visit to the residential unit situated in the urban area of the Museum's open p134 air collection. This gives the children a chance to live together for a few days, working together and making friends.

In cultivating such contacts, care is taken to ensure that the effect will be positive. On the basis of research (McWhirter 1983), the work is designed to encourage practical interdependence and to be part of a long¬term relationship between groups of Catholics and Protestants rather than a transitory relationship between individuals.



The final policy to be considered here is that of encouraging schools and museums, and indeed private individuals and groups, to explore their `cultural heritage'. The policy has operated through two governmental agencies. One of these, the Cultural Traditions Group of the Community Relations Council, assists individuals and associations in the exploration and portrayal of the 'cultural heritage' of Northern Ireland. The other, the Department of Education (Northern Ireland), is more concerned with specifically educational matters. As with EMU, 'cultural heritage' is now one of the cross-curricular themes intended to permeate every subject in the Northern Ireland schools curriculum.

The idea that encouragement of the idea of 'cultural heritage' (including distinctively Protestant and Catholic heritage) might be conducive to social harmony is, at first sight, somewhat opposed to the practice of schools and museums in the early 1970s. At that time, in trying to sustain 'oases of calm', most educational bodies strove to avoid topics relating to cultural heritage, for fear that such subjects might stir up dissent. In practice, however, the gulf between the past and more recent developments has not been very extreme. The trail, indeed, was already blazed by the museums which, despite the constraint of political fears, had nevertheless continued to present Ulster's 'cultural heritage' throughout the troubles.

At the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, as was explained above, an `oasis' was initially created by representing to the public only those Northern Irish worlds which bore little controversial weight. The Museum's aim, however, was never a wholly negative one of 'not stirring up trouble'. On the contrary, under its then director, George Thompson, the Museum had a much more positive vision. Thompson's frequently reiterated purpose was to present to people living in Northern Ireland a vision of what they had in common, a vision around which people of all persuasions could unite.

If there has, therefore, evolved a need to alter Museum practice, it is not because the earlier practice was mistaken. It is rather because, in changed times, the earlier vision can now be made more complete. To the vision of a common heritage, one must, therefore, add an additional vision of cultural diversity. The reason this is necessary is that, in reality, Northern Irish society is diverse and plural. If local people are to discover a pride in their own society, then this pride has to be, faute de mieux, in a plural society.

There is, of course, something of a paradox in asserting, on the one hand, that there are comparatively few elements in Northern Irish culture which are not shared by people on each of the two sides, and, on the other, that there is a need to display and even celebrate cultural diversity. The paradox is solved by showing that, in general, the distinctive elements of ethnic culture tend to be found not among the population at large but among enthusiastic individuals.

In particular, there are a number of different organisations—the churches, the political parties, Hibernians, the Orange Order, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Ulster Society and others—which have a quasi-curatorial function, conserving different kinds of intellectual or other cultural property on behalf of a wider ethnic group and enabling this property to be commemorated or reproduced and transmitted to a wider public and to subsequent generations. Although many of these organisations have a widespread following, each one contains small groups of enthusiasts, and even professionals, who have responsibility to keep the culture alive for the benefit of less active members and a more general public. And there are other, less highly organised individuals, storytellers, musicians, dancers, 'local characters' etc, who are occasionally called upon to give performances. All such people act effectively as curators or custodians of the culture on behalf of the wider ethnic group providing, in different circumstances, a focus for ethnic allegiance, for political influence or for occasional but vital social organisation.

In using the idea of 'curatorship' in this way, we are suggesting that museums are in many ways similar to other bodies which, however, are more concerned with the preservation and presentation of specifically ethnic culture. Museum people are familiar with the idea that museums are a `treasure house, educational instrument, or secular temple' (Baxendall 1991), an idea which has been most graphically elaborated by Duncan (1991). Such ideas, indeed, permeate current debates about the nature of museum curatorship (see, for example, Alpers 1991). Horne mocks his own use of this imagery, describing museum-visiting tourists as 'pilgrims', p136 moving from holy place to holy place.  He calls this pilgrimage `the way of the tourist' (Ilorne 1984).

Cameron, however, has argued that museums need not always be `temples'. Instead, he says, some museums move towards another classical form, the 'forum' (Cameron 1972). In a forum, there is no mere reverence for the treasures and symbols of the dominant groups in society. There is, rather, a coming together of diverse opinions for disagreement or debate (Karp and Levine 1991).

The idea of 'museum as forum' in a context of acute ethnic tension is, of course, a risky one. A forum can too easily become not so much a place for civilised debate, as 'disputed territory'. The questions which can too readily arise in debate may include: which people in society are eligible to have their symbols and representations of themselves placed in a museum; and who should be excluded? In such a case, the museum might cease to be a forum and could revert to being, once more, a temple, except that what would be in dispute would be the right to occupy the temple.

In attempting to show the 'way of life and traditions' of ordinary people, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum has always tried also to show the considerable variety of the worlds within which these people live and move. In so doing, it has tried to provide versions of the past, and sometimes of the present, which members of the public of all kinds could enjoy. In the same way as other 'cultural' bodies strive, somewhat exclusively, to care only for the 'culture' of their own ethnic group, so the Museum's responsibility has been to do this on behalf of people of all Northern Irish groupings.

This is not to say that the Museum has set itself only the evangelistic purpose of 'reconciling the two sides of society'. On the contrary, the Museum has seen itself as representing life in Northern Ireland in all its complexity. As we have suggested, individuals in Northern Ireland, as else¬where, live in multitudinous different worlds. To explore a large number of these worlds, to present to a general public what the participants in these worlds see as vital and valuable, is to validate the lives of these individuals, and to recognise and to celebrate their identities in each of these diverse worlds.

However, it must be recognised that the earlier tendency of evading discussion of sectarian issues was ultimately unsatisfactory. It might be valid not to overemphasise Ulster's ethnicities: to miss them out altogether, however, is to be untruthful. The earlier policy was a positive response to p137 dreadful circumstances, but it was also one which had to change as circumstances altered.  By the mid 1980s it was possible to consider a modified approach based, however, firmly upon the achievements and insights of the past. The Museum, therefore, began gently to move towards the explicit presentation of divisive and sectarian culture. In so doing, it could not afford to court disaster by becoming a 'forum'. It could only hope, in the 1980s and 1990s, to be a 'temple'. This, however, in its context, was not a timid, ignoble or outmoded aspiration, for the temple to be constructed could hope to be one for the whole of society. Although it might give recognition to the reality of ethnic cleavages, the Museum could also hope to provide a vision of society in which everyone could take some pride, and around which everyone could, in due course, cohere.



We shall now consider two exhibitions at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum which attempted to address directly that culture which provides a focus, in the wider society, for ethnic allegiance, and which also expresses ethnic rhetoric. In so doing, we most emphatically do not wish to suggest that these exhibitions in some way implied a challenge or condemnation either of other present day work at the Museum, or of the work which had preceded it. On the contrary, it would be wholly improper of a museum such as the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum to devote itself exclusively to subjects relating directly to ethnicity, for life in Ulster is much too rich to be characterised within such a narrow framework. Moreover, it is only because the Museum has, throughout the difficult period of the 1970s, established itself as an 'oasis of calm', as a place where Ulster's past was explored with impartiality, that it became possible in the late 1980s to venture into more difficult territory.

The two exhibitions were called, respectively, Brotherhoods in Ireland and Remembering 1690: the folklore of a war. Both exhibitions arose out of a piece of library and field research undertaken by A D Buckley but supported and assisted by his colleagues, most directly by T K Anderson, C McCullough and P S Robinson, and also by M C Kenney. The research began as a study of the Orange Order but it extended, little by little, to include the Hibernians, the Knights of St Columbanus, the Freemasons, the friendly society movement, the temperance movement, the trade unions, the Roman Catholic sodalities and the guilds. The bodies which were studied p138 were selected because of their manifest similarity one to another. Because of this similarity an all inclusive name was sought, and eventually, P S Robinson suggested 'Brotherhoods in Ireland' as a title.


The 'Brotherhoods in Ireland' exhibition

Brotherhoods in Ireland was a temporary exhibition presented in the course of 1988. Its storyline was based on the rather abstract ideas of Goldman (1970), namely that actions are complex, and stratified at different levels. Its central theme was that, while in some respects (i.e., at some levels of organisation), the ritual and other actions performed by the different groups were different, in other respects (i.e., at other levels), their cultures were the same. In the apparent diversity of the different brotherhoods was the unity of a common culture.

The exhibition was organised into sections, each devoted to materials relating to different organisations or types of organisation. The sections can quickly be listed:

introductory section

• the urban guilds

• the Order of Malta (once a crusading order, now a charitable body devoted to medical care)

• the Freemasons

• the Orange and Royal Black Institutions (bodies devoted to upholding Protestantism)

• the Ancient Order of Hibernians (similar to the Orange Order, but devoted to upholding Catholicism)

• the Archconfraternity of the Holy Family (a Catholic sodality)

• the Knights of St Columbanus (an order devoted to upholding Catholic values)

• the Ancient Order of Foresters (a friendly society) p139

• the Independent Order of Odd Fell9ws (a friendly society)

• the Independent Order of Rechabites (a temperance friendly society)

• the British Order of Ancient Free Gardeners (a friendly society)

• the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds (a friendly society)

• the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (`the poor Freemasonry'—a social club)

• the trade unions


In this array of different organisations, there was, first of all, much diversity. Part of the very purpose of the display was to emphasise the ethnic diversity, and this feature of the exhibition was evident to anyone who had even a slight local knowledge. Several of the bodies, the Orange Order, the Black Institution, the Hibernians, the Order of Malta, the Knights of St Columbanus and the Confraternity of the Holy Family, had purposes which were explicitly related to a specific religious tradition. The other organisations—the trade unions, in general, being a notable exception—had an informal tendency to confine their recruitment to one or the other ethnic group.

The diversity, however, went beyond religion and ethnicity. Some of these bodies were strictly temperate; others were drinking clubs; some were organisations to encourage piety; others had a quasi-political purpose; many had the narrowly practical purpose of organising health insurance. The political ethos of the groups varied considerably. Some were straightforwardly nationalistic or unionist, but other, notably the friendly societies and the trade unions, were ideologically rooted in forms of socialism. They also varied in the social classes from which they recruited. The Order of Malta, in its more exclusive reaches, is restricted to Catholics who can lay claim to aristocracy. The friendly societies (now largely defunct in Ireland) drew their support among the skilled or white collared, as too do the Freemasons, who, nevertheless, also appeal to the well-to-do.

The aim of the exhibition, however, was to show the unity underlying the diversity. The diversity of purpose, ethnicity and ethos between the p140 different organisations, portrayed through the division of the exhibition into sections, was, therefore challenged by the similarity between the sections. As far as was practical, each section contained an inherently similar set of artifacts:

• regalia in the form of collars, aprons, sashes, or uniforms

• lists of officers often with high-sounding titles such as 'Worshipful Master', 'Chief Ranger' or 'Worthy Primo'

• lists of degrees, again with elaborate titles, such as the Sublime Degree of Master Gardeners', or 'the Excellent and Perfect Prince Rose Croix of Heredom and Knight of the Eagle and Pelican'

• degree and officers' certificates

• jewels to indicate degrees and honours obtained

• wall charts and similar teaching materials for instruction in the significance of the organisation's symbolism

• banners for use in processions

The point behind all of this was that the diversity which existed in the different organisations was a diversity expressed through inherently similar cultural forms.

It is not for a Museum exhibition to provide an opportunity for commingling between different groups of people. Nevertheless, it seemed to be appropriate, at the formal opening, that the invited guests invited should include members of significantly opposed organisations, Hibernians, Orangemen, National Foresters, Freemasons, clergy and religious of different denominations and others, all of whom had contributed, by advice and also by lending items, to the production of a single exhibition. This exhibition celebrated a tradition, common to each of the two ethnic groups, which was so multipurpose that it was even used to express and provide a focus for division. P141


'Remembering 1690': the folklore of a war

The second exhibition was constructed, in 1990, to commemorate the 300111 anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. This battle, as everybody in Ulster knows, is annually commemorated by the Orange Order as the moment which established a Protestant ascendancy in Ireland. Its title, Remembering 1690, evoked the slogan, 'REM 1690', often written on Northern Irish walls.

This exhibition was, in fact, only one of several exhibitions and events put on, over several years, to commemorate anniversaries of the events of the Williamite/Jacobite Wars. As well as the 1690 celebrations, there were commemorations of the siege of Derry organised, with a remarkable show of goodwill on all sides, not only by the unionist Apprentice Boys of Derry but also by the mainly nationalist Derry City Council. There were official celebrations in Dublin, and the city of Limerick also joined in with celebrations of its two sieges.

In the world of Northern Ireland museums, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum exhibition was by no means the most important of the 1690 exhibitions. The Ulster Museum in Belfast put on a magnificent, specifically historical display, entitled Kings in Conflict. This exhibition recounted the Williamite/Jacobite war as one between three kings, not only William III and James II, but also Louis XIV of France. In this context, the Irish campaign was relegated to a small place in the wars, and much of the Irish folk history was obscured by a depiction of the conflict in Europe. Ireland did, however, feature in the exhibition's most splendid feature, a tableau showing the signing of the Treaty of Limerick in which the faces of actors delivering speeches were projected on to the faces of life-size models. In the Ulster Museum's exhibition, therefore, emphasis was shifted from Ireland to Europe, and from the battle of the Boyne (sacred to Orangemen) to the Treaty of Limerick which concluded the war, and which settled Ireland's fate for the next hundred or more years.

The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum's exhibition was more modest. It dealt with the 'folklore of the war', i.e., with the popular history as depicted in banners, bonfires, trinkets, songs, dances and narratives. Its central materials for display, therefore, consisted of rhetorically divergent representations of the traditional histories of Ireland.

While researching this topic, it was noted that certain organisations had effectively appropriated certain events of the war, becoming unofficial `curators' of these specific traditions. Thus, the Apprentice Boys of Derry p142 twice annually commemorate the Siege ()I Londonderry. Similarly, on the Twelfth of. July the Orange Order commemorates the Battle of the Boyne. In addition, it was found that events in the south-west of Ireland, specifically the Battle of Aughrim, the two sieges of Athlone and the two sieges of Limerick—in short the 'Fight for the Shannon'—as well as the aftermath of the war had become the 'property' of nationalist traditions. These events were most readily accessible through pictures on banners preserved by the National Foresters and Hibernian movements, both of which recruit among Catholics, and also through Jacobite and nationalist songs and 'Irish dances' which refer to these events.

To tell the story of the Williamite/Jacobite wars through its 'folklore', it was simplest to divide the exhibition into four sections. Two of these dealt respectively with the 'Siege of Derry' and the 'Route to the Boyne'. The other two dealt with the 'Fight for the Shannon' and with the `Aftermath'.

The first two sections concentrated mainly upon narratives and practices derived from Apprentice Boy and Orange tradition. As well as paintings on banners and drums, the Museum was able to borrow paintings of the Siege by Robert Jackson, a well-known mural painter from Londonderry. Jackson also provided a full-size 'half model' of the effigy of Lundy (some 15 feet high, in full dress uniform, and replete with a moustache of which Salvador Dali would have been proud), as well as other models to illustrate the former practice of burning the effigy from the massive Walker monument (now destroyed by explosion) in Derry. The Museum also borrowed some precious commemorative glassware in the Williamite tradition.

The other two sections dealt respectively with 'the fight for the Shannon' and with the aftermath of the Treaty of Limerick. These stories were told through banner paintings of the National Foresters and the Hibernians, but the sections also included glassware, trinkets, photographs of statues and so on relating both to the battles and sieges and to the Treaty of Limerick.

As well as this, there was a videotape presentation. This too was in two parts. The first half dealt with processions, bonfires, drumming and so forth, relating to the Siege of Derry and the route of King William to the Boyne. The second also had processions, but it also focused upon the narrative, poetry, music and dance in the Jacobite and later the nationalist traditions which commemorated the later stages of the war in the south west.

As this exhibition was being prepared, it was interesting to note that many of the people who ventured an opinion or who were consulted, not least those involved in the teaching of history, thought that the purpose of the exhibition ought to be to correct the mistaken history found in the folk histories.

In general, the temptation to debunk was resisted. Instead, the exhibition adopted a rhetorical conceit that the specific popular histories of the Williamite/Jacobite wars were not incorrect, but were rather incomplete The exhibition suggested that it was only by putting together the nationalist and the unionist histories that an adequately complete and, indeed, broadly true picture of the war could be presented.

Because of the nature of the ethnic division in the north of Ireland, the Museum daily confronts an especially acute form of the problem identified by Livingstone and Beardsley (1991) of how to include the points of view of several different publics 'without sacrificing ... coherence and aesthetic will'. It was not felt to be the Museum's place baldly to declare that these ethnic histories were wrong, nor to claim merely that 'the professionals know best'. Equally, however, it had to tell a limited and coherent story. The exhibition, therefore, sought to affirm the validity of the popular histories of both sides, thereby upholding the honour of the people who espouse these histories. It did not merely disparage the popular histories, nor the largely working class and ethnically-based groups which espoused them. Nor did it try to uphold the honour of one section of society against another. It rather declared, by implication, that each section of Ulster society has as much right to have its importance confirmed as any other.



We have suggested here a social-theoretical framework to underpin certain pragmatic policies current in schools and museums in Northern Ireland. Our hypothesis is first, that identity in Ulster is pluralistic, being defined within a variety of different worlds; second, that ethnic identity and ethnic conflict arises through the maintenance of social boundaries in social interaction; and third, that certain cultural forms have become the cultural property of the ethnic group, under the curatorship of organised groups of enthusiasts or professionals, and that these provide a source of rhetorical ideas and act as a focus for ethnic allegiance and social organisation. This framework, we have argued, provides a satisfactory justification for the current educational and museological policies of providing oases of calm where individuals of different ethnicities can both meet together and explore both the cultural heritage they share, and that which is particular to each of the two sides.

It is always appropriate when discussing Northern Ireland however, to add a note of pessimism.  There is a limit to what policies of 'cultural heritage' and 'mutual understanding' in schools and museums can achieve, and the limitations ought to be pointed out. Schools, museums and, indeed, many unofficial bodies, among them sometimes the churches, have attempted to bring individuals of the two sides in Ulster into dialogue, and also to create images of a common heritage or common symbols around which the population might be able to unite. This is all very laudable, and indeed such activities, images and symbols might in the long run become building-materials from which peace in Ulster might be constructed. However, we have also argued that it is not the existence or non-existence of divisive or common culture which lies at the heart of ethnic differentiation and conflict in the north of Ireland. Rather it is the use to which culture is put in specific interactions. If it is the responsibility of schools and museums to push in the right direction, one cannot expect such bodies to undertake the task by themselves.

There are, of course, many substantial issues which lie outside the ambit of schools and museums. Schools and museums cannot, on their own, solve the major political conundrum of the Irish border; they cannot heal social inequalities; they cannot remove intimidation, sectarian murder and ethnic cleansing; they cannot, by themselves, make Catholics and Protestants want to give up their preferred 'social distance' from one another. What they can do, however, is to provide neutral territory where members of the two sides can sometimes meet each other and where they can also learn about the things which they have in common and the things which divide them. They can, therefore, provide some of the building materials with which people can hope to construct more harmonious relationships. The kinds of identities which will emerge in Northern Ireland will be in the last resort however, the ones that Northern Irish people negotiate and construct for themselves, in the worlds that they themselves create in their day-to-day social interactions.



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