WORK will soon begin on a new permanent exhibition highlighting the most significant events of Irish history in the last 120 years which will be installed in the National Museum of Ireland.
The plans were announced this week, in a joint statement by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin.
The statement confirms the Irish Government’s 2021 Programme for the Decade of Centenaries - which will include the new 20th Century History of Ireland exhibition, among a raft of other projects.
The 20th Century History of Ireland Galleries will be based at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History at Collins Barracks in Dublin.
Work on the project starts this year, with the exhibition expected to open in 2023, coinciding with the centenary of the foundation of the Irish Free State.
Welcoming the announcement, Catherine Heaney, Chair of the National Museum of Ireland, said: “The 20th Century History of Ireland Galleries, announced by Minister Martin today, will offer an important opportunity for a wider public consultation process with communities across Ireland on our contemporary history, ensuring that the exhibition is relevant and engaging to multiple audiences and identities within our communities.”
She added: “The NMI is committed to ongoing engagement and dialogue with the public, and particularly those voices traditionally under-represented in narratives of our recent history.
“The historical collections of the National Museum of Ireland number in their hundreds of thousands, and these new, permanent exhibition galleries will represent the largest ever interpretive showcase of Irish political, cultural and social history dating from the year 1900 to the present.”
Minister Martin’s department is contributing €2.2million in capital funding to the museum project, with a further €5million in funding being made available for the Decade of Centenaries plans more generally.
These additional initiatives will include substantial investment in new exhibitions and artistic commissions to mark key centenaries, a state commemoration to mark the centenary of the Truce on July 11, 1921, enhanced funding for 31 local authorities across Ireland to support community-led commemorative initiatives and extensive new releases of digitised national and local archival collections.
The funds will also be used to help reinforce new creative partnerships and to provide ongoing support for the Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury research project.
Commenting on the very real responsibility Ireland has to appropriately mark the Centenaries that lie not so far ahead, Minister Martin said: “We are now in the most sensitive and complex period of commemoration, as the State marks the centenaries of the Struggle for Independence, Partition, Civil War, and the Foundation of the State.
“My responsibility is to ensure that these significant events in our shared history are remembered with an appropriate, meaningful, proportionate and sensitive programme, which recognises the legitimacy of all traditions, and values mutual respect and historical authenticity.”
She added: “The history of this period belongs to all of us and it is really important that we approach our remembrance of these events in a holistic way – seeking to understand how each impacted upon the next.
“For this reason, I have taken a three-year approach to planning this final phase of the Decade of Centenaries. This is the first in a series of three programmes – all with a common set of broad themes and partnerships.”
Launching the plans this week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “The aim of commemoration should be to broaden sympathies without having to abandon loyalties. We share an island where, contested history can be a barrier to mutual accommodation and the reconciliation necessary to our shared future.”
He added: “History cannot be a dehumanised, reductive, simplistic, or self-serving narrative.
“And when we look back to a period of conflict we must be especially careful to recall that history is the complex story of individual men and women, their lives, their flaws, their strengths, their struggle and their suffering, however they identified, whatever uniform they wore.”
Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar said: “We are all aware of the need to approach the upcoming centenary events with sensitivity, respect and appreciation for all the complexity of our history.
“We can do this with self-confidence because the story of the foundation of the State and its institutions is a story of hope and optimism for today. “
He added: “As we emerge from our own period of crisis and uncertainty, we can find much to guide us by commemorating, remembering and learning from the idealism, courage and self-sacrifice of the founding generation of men and women who helped make our State a reality.”