Monday, 31 May 2010

The Ulster Museum controversy (5)

I have just listened on BBC iPlayer to the Seven Days programme on Radio Ulster. The programme, which was broadcast yesterday, included a discussion on the Ulster Museum and the contributors were Christopher Stalford (DUP councillor), Richard Warner (archaeologist and a former curator in the Ulster Museum), Daniel Jewsbury (artist and co-editor of Variant) and Deirdre Nelson (Independent councillor in Ballymena).

Deirdre Nelson was critical of my position and said, 'The Orange Order is now, whether people like it or not, a minority organisation within Northern Ireland. It also has its own very well equipped museum up at Schomberg House. If the Orange Order wants to promote and portray its history, they have a museum.'

This is a bizarre argument from the Ballymena councillor. Yes there is a interesting display of Orange artefacts at Schomberg House and the Orange Order plans to develop a museum located in Schomberg House and Loughgall but that does not justify the exclusion of any Orange Order artefacts from the Ulster Museum.


  1. It is worth pointing out that, when I visited the Ballymena museum with a friend who has a doctorate in 17th century history - perhaps 18 months ago - it had a very clever interactive presentation which tried to summarise the history of Co Antrim in about 10 minutes.

    However, during the technical wizardry the sullen voiceover claimed (and I paraphrase, but as accurately as memory will permit) that the only thing the Covenanters did in the mid 1600s was "burn down Irish homes". I would be very interested in seeing the primary source or reference to that. At the very least it's a highly selective and gross misrepresentation of the Covenanter story - but I suspect it's made up nonsense which, if I'm right, is just another example of how (most of the) current generation of museum curators world haven't got a clue about the huge influence of Scottish history and culture on Ulster/Northern Ireland. It's frankly disgraceful.

  2. If I might point out a positive example - North Down Museum in Bangor does not enjoy the lavish funding of other museums. However, it has on display the only surviving set of the beautiful 1625 Thomas Raven maps of the James Hamilton estates, and also a 1630 sundial which was once at Bangor Abbey. The sundial was made by John Bonar of Ayr, another one of his sundials can be seen at Kenmure Castle near Kirkcudbright. Bonar was a schoolmaster, Latin scholar and poet - he wrote a poem of his journey from Ayr to Bangor and back again. There is an excellent study of the sundial in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology's October 1901 edition.


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