Joint Working Group Study Visit in Dublin and Belfast 11-13 October 2017

For the first time ever two NEMO Working Groups met for a joint Study Visit in Dublin, Ireland and Belfast, North Ireland. The working group Learning Museum (LEM) was in charge of planning the first day of the study visit and  Museums and Creative Industries organised the second day. From 26-28 April 2018, ten NEMO members, representing Belgium, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Russia and the United Kingdom, gained insight regarding the collaborative efforts with creative industries undertaken by some Irish and North Irish museums, as well as their incorporation of children and learning in the museum.

Day 1

The participants met one another outside the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, on the morning of Thursday, 26th April 2018. The program started with a brief introduction of NEMO and the two leaders of the working groups; Margherita Sani (LEM) and Ineta Zelca Simansone (Museums and Creative Industries). Sani and Simansone welcomed the participants and presented an overview of the Study Visit program.

The Head of Education at the Chester Beatty Library, Jenny Siung, introduced the participants to the Chester Beatty Library and gave a crash-course about the current educational system in Ireland. The Library is actively working towards having its collection and wealth of knowledge incorporated into the general school plan. Siung also pointed out that the Library prioritizes the multicultural aspect of Dublin and works to ensure that everyone feels welcomed and represented at the Library.

After the presentation, Siung gave a tour of the collections and explained how the Library works with volunteers, school groups, and visitors in general. Throughout the tour, as well as during the presentation, Siung explained how easy it can be to offer hands-on experiences in a museum without compromising the collection’s safety. When children (and adults) get to touch and explore objects while being informed about its function and meaning, they usually leave the museum with a greater understanding and knowledge. She illustrated this with a description of student teachers whom take the opportunity to enhance their appreciation and understanding of their subjects by, for instance, holding religious texts such as the Quran while visiting the library to learn more about world religions. As it happened, a free lecture by author and Middle East cultural expert Diana Darke was given directly following the visit at Chester Beatty Library, and the NEMO members were invited to listen in if they so wished. Darke had recently released her book, “Islam and Christianity - Divinity Shared or Divided?”.

Afterwards the group met at the National Gallery of Ireland, where Sinéad Rice, the Head of Education, introduced them to the museum’s public engagement programme. Participants received material produced by the Gallery wherein staff contact information was provided, in case they should wish to learn more about a certain initiative. The introduction was followed by a tour of the newly refurbished museum. Dr. Sarah Wilson, NGI Guide, Facilitator and Lecturer, led the tour which highlighted Irish artists and informed participants of the Gallery’s award winning conservation project.

The guided tour concluded with a visit to the Millennium Wing Studio and an introduction to the young artists in residency; the GUM Collective. The young Dublin-based artists interpret art at the Gallery through a discipline of their choosing. Each of the young artists introduced themselves and their current project to the NEMO members. It was explained that interaction with visitors is one of the GUM Collective’s tasks while in residency: once a week the studio doors are kept open and the general public is welcomed in to interact with the artists. Following their introduction to the GUM Collective, NEMO members were encouraged to explore the museum on their own; the temporary exhibition “Emil Nolde: Colour is Life” was especially recommended.

Day 2

All participants travelled from Dublin to Belfast to attend a presentation of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s programme Kick the Dust, which stimulates heritage project initiatives for young members of the community with funding distributed by the National Lottery. The presentation focused on the ‘Reimagine, Remake, Replay’ project at the Ulster Museum supported by Kick the Dust. The presentation demonstrated the importance of engaging youth and heritage, and exhibited the efforts made by museums and the greater culture sector of the region.

Afterwards, the participants were given a guided tour of the museum and an extra focus was allotted to the interactive exhibitions and experiences offered by the museum. The topics Nature, History, and Art are covered in three different studios where visitors are invited to interact with the exhibitions and even touch the objects on display. Visitors to the museum are encouraged to touch the conserved animals in the nature room, dress up in historical costumes in the History room, and practise various art techniques in the Art room. Like the museum itself, these rooms are open for visitation free of charge and a member of the staff is present at all times to offer further information about the exhibited items. Apart from catering to the museum visitors, the educational staff also offers workshops for teachers. The participants were welcome to visit the general exhibition at the Ulster Museum after the guided tour.

Later, all of the participants met outside the museum for walk through Belfast. In the evening, the group was invited to a dinner hosted by Chris Bailey, former director of Northern Ireland Museums Council and Museum consultant, where they met people from the museum sector in North Ireland and together were able to discuss further all that they had learnt throughout the study visit. With the dinner, the official program of the study visit came to a close. However, most participants decided to visit the Titanic Museum at their own expense the following day.

This event was awarded with the European Year of Cultural Heritage Label, showing that the event supports the role of Europe’s cultural heritage and its importance to cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. Learn more about obtaining the label from NEMO here.