Hillsborough Castle, which recently opened to the public after a £16m renovation, will be discussed in a session about Ireland's historic houses

Conference to explore Ireland’s fascinating history

Simon Stephens, 04.10.2018
Sessions will cover historic houses, the Decade of Centenaries and the Belfast arts scene
Ireland’s complex and fascinating history will be a major focus at this year’s Museums Association (MA) Conference & Exhibition, which is taking place in Belfast on 8-10 November.

Sessions will include Exploring a Divided Society, which will look at how museums have marked the Decade of Centenaries – the significant events in Irish history that took place between 1912 and 1922. The speakers are Lar Joye from the Dublin Port Authority; Paul Mullan, the head of Heritage Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland, and Helen O’Carroll, a curator at Kerry County Museum.

Another session, Exhibiting Troubled Pasts, will discuss the history in Ireland and Northern Ireland of institutions such as the Magdalene laundries, mother and baby homes, children's homes and industrial schools. The speakers are Brian Crowley, the curator at Kilmainham Gaol, Megan Dennis, a curator from Norfolk Museums Service and Olwen Purdue, the director of the MA in public history at Queen’s University Belfast. The chair is Emily Mark-FitzGerald from University College Dublin.

Belfast itself will also be in the spotlight in a session that will help delegates discover the challenging context in which cultural organisations operate in the city. Chaired by Hannah Crowdy, the head of curatorial at National Museums Northern Ireland, it will highlight the radical work of arts organisations such as Outburst Arts and Seedhead Arts.

Historic houses will also be under the microscope in a session chair by Frances Bailey, the lead curator at the National Trust, Northern Ireland. The speakers are Shân McAnena from Hillsborough Castle, which is run by Historic Royal Palaces, Terence Dooley, the director of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, Maynooth University, and John Orna-Ornstein, the director of curation and experience at the National Trust.