‘Global Voices, Local Choices’ - celebrating a community engagement project at Carrickfergus Museum
Friday 1 December 2023
Thursday 7 December will see the launch of a poignant exhibition at Carrickfergus Museum. Global Voices, Local Choices is the result of a new programme designed to engage marginalised communities.
Carrickfergus Museum was one of six local museums who took part in the project organised by a partnership of the NI Museums Council, the African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland (ACSONI) and National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI).
Approximately 60 people took part in a series of workshops in museums across Northern Ireland, including Carrickfergus Museum; Tower Museum; Armagh Robinson Library and No. 5 Vicar’s Hill; Fermanagh County Museum; Causeway Coast and Glen Museum Service; and Ulster Museum. Professional creative facilitators supported the groups to focus on the meaning and cultural significance of objects that reflect their history, identity and culture, and encouraged open dialogue to help greater understanding into the future.
The reflections of the participants, whether through art and crafts, music and dance, poetry or creative writing, are being displayed and interpreted in the museums to encourage better public understanding and celebration of diversity in Northern Ireland.
The Carrickfergus participants are made up of people from a diverse range of countries - all living in Carrickfergus. Some have settled in the area and some of are seeking asylum here.
With the help of artist Janet Crymble and photographer Bernie McAlister the group created individual pieces which have all been joined together to create a series of wall tapestries. The exhibition also highlights the stories of some of those who took part. For example Sunny Oyem, having fled persecution in Nigeria has found new opportunities here. “I have made a new life and become part of the life here. I now volunteer at Jubilee Farm and Carrickfergus foodbank”. Mohamed Eissa from Sudan has also embraced Northern Ireland. He says, “After a lot of suffering, I arrived in a country where humanity was found…and I am very grateful for this country. All people meet you with a smile. I found protection and human rights”.
The project was celebrated at a showcase event on Saturday 28 October at Stormont. MLA Kate Nicholl sponsored the event and in her speech she reflected on the importance of providing people from all communities and backgrounds a fair opportunity to make choices relating to Ulster Museum’s World Cultures collection, and how the objects within it might be interpreted in museum spaces in the future.
Also present at Stormont was Mid and East Antrim Mayor, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna, who was delighted to see Council’s Museum represented in this way, and is very much looking forward to launching the exhibition at Carrickfergus Museum. “I am absolutely thrilled to see the success of this initiative. Museums are important spaces for people to come together and share their experiences. It is people and their stories that enrich our museums and make them special places to visit. I commend each and every one of the participants who took part and I found the speeches by our Carrickfergus representatives extremely poignant and moving”.
The project was also recently shortlisted for a Museums Change Lives Award, run by the Museums Association. It was one of 12 total projects and people shortlisted, and one of three in the ‘Decolonising Museums Award’ category alongside Judges’ Lodgings Museum and Wilberforce House Museum.
The awards recognise and celebrate outstanding practice by UK museums delivering social impact, promoting the best examples of work by museums and individuals that support communities and engage with contemporary issues.