HERITAGE PRACTICE IN CONTESTED SPACES – Summary of seminar presentations and discussions


Summary of seminar presentations and discussions


Welcome and Introduction Helen Perry Causeway Museum Service[i] [HP]  [insert speech content]

Remarks from Paula Assuncao dos Santos, President of MINOM[ii] [PAS]. – delivered greetings and thanks from MINOM and gave a brief summary of the aims and structure of MINOM and the organisation’s interest in this seminar as a way of connecting with how organisations outside the  Latin countries  are dealing with heritage.


Ideas Market Introduction Robert Heslip, Northern Ireland MINOM board member [RH] The Ideas Market is aimed to share learning as widely as possible, looking at projects  which people have brought along to present. The concept of ‘selling’ ideas in the Idea Market was to encourage reflective and critical practice, so that the group can look at them and consider what presenters are doing. All delegates received ‘currency’ based on Robert Owen’s National Equitable Labour Exchange currency, an economy based on l hour’s work , to encourage delegates to think beyond restrictions such as money and consider the exchange of ideas. The currency provided a useful way for delegates to interact, critically asses displays that presented the work and projects of others and in doing so learn outside their areas of expertise.




Professor Ross Velour Roholt (University of Minnesota)  [RVR] – The session was opened with remarks from RVR, using a story to introduce the theme of practical involvement. “You must be able to dance if you are to heal people” and old Native American  said. “And will you teach me your steps?” I asked, indulging the ageing priest. Santiago nodded. “Yes, I can teach you my steps, but you will have to hear your own music.” from The Dancing Healers: A Doctor’s Journey if Healing with Native Americans by Carl A Hammerschlag.

The structure of the seminar would involve a lot of interactive activities and the session on evaluation would address four key questions:


  1. What is evaluation?
  2. What are the challenges that exist when doing evaluation in contested spaces?
  3. What do we know about heritage practice in contested spaces?
  4. What questions remain and how do we fill in the picture

The group session divided into five tables of small groups to discuss their own projects and what evaluation means to them. When the session met again as a large group to deliver the findings of their conversation the following points and questions were raised:


  • The need to establish base knowledge
  • Time constraints
  •  How do we ask questions that do not steer response in a particular way?
  • Much of the evaluation we do is externally determined
  • Crucial how do you engage with people?
  • Much of the work we do is interconnected, holistically interwoven, and it is difficult to break them down into what an evaluation process requires.
  • Negative evaluation processes, asking where did you fall down
  • Personal evaluation
  • Building something, the core evaluation of what has been built, what has been there before and assess what has been build, relationships, confidence, skills, knowledge, understanding, what exists at the end or at a pause
  • Process, all of the structural things being affected by who is doing the evaluation
  • Complexity of evaluating learning
  • Limits of survey based evaluation
  • Desirability of longer term qualitative processes to evaluate, instead of surveys
  • Is evaluation box ticking?
  • Can we engage more creatively, seeing evaluation not as an end point, but using data as a case for taking projects forward – looking at evaluation creatively?


RVR spoke about the four key purposes of Evaluation –

  • Accountability
  • Improvement
  • Decision Making
  • Policy making

RVHqueried whether the small group discussions suggested that we focus more on accountability than improvement and whether admitting that a project needs work or improvement is the death-knell to getting funding. Historically evaluation is a very creative act but in the last decade it has become a very rigid . Evaluation is different from research  and  evaluation done well should have a use, particularly when the body funding a project is centralised and perhaps geographically distant. We have the right to speak to funders about the evaluation process, such as was done by American Evaluation Association in challenging a political move to a more rigid standard of evaluation. The questions remain then of how we make evaluation useful, and how do you have a conversation with funders when there is distance.




  • Evaluation is a good idea in theory but is difficult to make meaningful in practice, we need to find new ways of encouraging participants to engage in honest useful evaluation.
  • Find new forums.
  • Building things – where you start, where you finish, skills, knowledge, trust, understanding, objects, recording what is built
  • Personal and professional evaluation, summarising ideas and feedback
  • Creating relationships
  • Depends on the position/purpose/value/practice of the organisation/groups doing to the evaluation – what you measure – the evaluation process – who is doing to whom?
  • Complexity of learning often – the visual formal methods are used to create an evidence base to justify project
  • Users versus funders
  • Long term qualitative process
  • What are we evaluating and how do we qualify success? Depends on the nature of evaluation. Nebulous quality of human experience.
  • Interconnectedness – some things are so holistically interwoven that it is tricky to break them down into single strands/elements for assessment.
  • Is evaluation a learning experience, is it quantifiable? Sometimes not– as a process has limited life – everyday the baseline disputed.


RVR chaired a group discussion on the challenges of carrying out evaluation in places where the story is not agreed upon. The following comments and questions were noted:


  • A culture of ‘Whatever you say, say nothing’.
  • To be a good citizen is to say nothing.
  • You are only one element in that space and so your agency or control of influence might be slight.
  • Evaluation is an emotional process, and it affects the facilitator
  • Dialogue and relationships are key, so even if you are the programme holder and evaluator there is a grey area, but you are asked to present black and white, and in a contested space there is grey straight away.
  • People want the data point, not how the data comes together.
  • Diversity of agenda – every participant in that project has a different thing they want to be evaluated

RVR’s remarks on the group discussion: Evaluation in contested spaces challenges the evaluation enterprise. Three ideas are taken for granted in evaluation which are often missing from a contested space.

  • Safety: How do you get people to feel comfortable talking about difficult things when it is physically threatening to say these things?
  • Neutrality: If you are external you are seen as not knowing the situation enough to be a partner, but if you are ‘in’ the situation it is hard to have the distance needed.
  • Credibility: What does credible data look like? Even with a baseline there are complex changes over time. Example of the 2013 summer riots in Belfast – does a breakdown in community relations mean the whole Peace Process was a failure? Measuring ‘credible data’ assumes is complex and good practice is that which responds to change.


During further group discussions the following questions and comments were noted:


  • How do we evaluate refusal to engage if there is no information? In terms of looking at the overall picture this is a very important part.
  • What is the meaning of resistance to engagement? With kids for example, is it delinquency? We talk about trying to empower kids, but when they demonstrate independence we punish them.
  • How do we get people to tell their story and to go beyond that , making them feel their story is respected and to explore it further?


RVR asked the group to consider a brief or terms of reference to hold  over the next four days.






Presentation by Dr Max Hope and Gemma Reid (both University of Ulster) looking at Communities in Practice.


Gemma divided the group into small subgroups:


  • People who work in museums/heritage exhibitions
  • People involved in academia and universities
  • Community level and development
  • Public Sector

The presentation used a project on the small island of Cononsay in the Inner Hebrides as an example

Comments made by MH to accompany slides.

  • The presentation would address Authorised Heritage Discourse, referencing Smith and Waterton Communities, Heritage and Archaeology (2009) Knowledge/Skills transfer; Heritage as a Cultural Process; Social Benefits of Heritage, (Heritage as an end in itself, Expert-Led, Citizen as Expert, Heritage as a means to wider social ends); Lay public skilled up to make own decisions, carry out own projects. Citizen as a heritage expert.
  • Broadening out of what the purpose of heritage is. Well being, pride in the community. Those programmes might still be heritage led.
  • Heritage is a Social Process whether we acknowledge it or not. Some honest dialogue about the values of groups, and the power relationships, trying to capture the big picture. All heritage has social dimensions.
  • Looking at interactions between people and archaeologists, and the concern the experts have about this process.
  • Aren’t there limits to giving up control of decision and meaning making? I.e. in archaeology with the technical processes, all of this makes shifting control a difficult thing.
  • Interaction with the community as a social learning project and interaction between different communities of practice.
  • Wider social trends that influence the dynamics of social interaction. One of these is loss of faith in experts, which is a change that affects all authorities whether medical or natural science.
  • Boundary work people and objects – in the Colonsay project there were people amongst the community group who were terrific local historians.
  • Positions, values and points of entry – while the heritage experts cannot tackle issues like land ownership they can support other initiatives like the heritage centre and ensure further skills transfer with community members learning archiving skills.
  • Some key questions are: Where in the process are we at the minute? How far can we go? How far do we want to go? Issues of power and control in a community, how much influence can and should we have in that environment, and how much are we restricted by the funding, time, staff etc? Does that mean we will fail in our boundaries or activities?
  • Heritage as a cultural process as the ultimate goal, without ultimate control of what is valuable about the process?
  • The position of people who are defined as experts in the wider social and political context and the challenge towards expertise, and the historical process by the way professions identity themselves and then crate barriers of entry and then create areas of specialism, and that is interesting when looking at the relationship between expertise.
  • GR’s role in the Colonsay project – knowledge of archaeology, but her  role was not to be  an expert
  • The archaeologists were very aware of the social dimensions of what was going on and their interpretations were one amongst many. Knowledge can be a source of authority or you can be an authority for the position you hold. An ambiguity in the role.


Comments from GR:

  • My role is to facilitate, as much as I can, the relationship between archaeologists and those on site. It is to observe the process and find out where my position lies.
  • Is experience more important that expertise?
  • It is not the expertise so much as the personal role in the group, and what happens after, is key; does your work influence people’s identity or place? They are grappling with future sustainability.

In small Groups discussions on communities of practice the following was noted:


  • Group 1 –  working in museums/heritage exhibitions: the connection between benefits we can bring to each other, key audience target group, schools, define what are museums about, telling histories, how we can make use of our space and the values of our organisations, inclusiveness. Focus on education and citizenship. Schools target driven but also encourages link up with other organisations. Curriculum, tying into their needs and programmes. Barriers – transport issues, doesn’t matter good how project is, transport is issue in getting schools to a museum. Resource issues – schools relying on us for resources and expertise, and work experience offered by museum, the value of getting research that wouldn’t otherwise have been accessed. Engaging wider family network through children. In working with schools very one sided relationship. Relationship with individual teachers, and individual schools and the internal dynamics in schools. Making connections across the curriculum. Strength in subjects that go across the curriculum.
  • Museums Group 2 Struggled to find commonality of experience – looking at two elements in National Trust – pursists and academics and specialists, and on the other side wardens. How to join funding and revenue schemes, are those separate worlds, are they a problem – Learning Officer for NI, huge desire to protect what we were to look after considering the slogan, ‘Forever For Everyone’ which aspect is more important, the protection or the access? How best can we link separate Communities of Practice?
  • Group 3 involved in academia and universities: Barriers in place to prevent us engaging with wider communities, people who study the communities they are engaging with, archaeologists who study long dead communities and how they engage with the wider society in which they live. IS there any autonomy around scholarly endeavours? The economy of a scholarly agenda is contested.
  • Group 4 working at community level and indevelopment: Boundary Workers – interface between one Community of Practice and another. People have experience of competing expert views which can be problematic, that sometimes a reluctance to challenge the experts. With regard to barriers there may be groups who may have a similar interest but conflicting interest in heritage, and feel the need to protect funding. A perception of the predatory behaviour of some agencies in the heritage field. Some people work in a professional versus voluntary area or part time, and other people are paid experts and that can create antagonisms. Issue of those ‘Parachuted in’ to work with a community; complex relationships at different stages.
  • Group 5 – public sector: The key question the group addressed was ‘Do we do things or merely fund things?’ The public sector group felt it was often constrained by political context, with the associated policy and political constraints, and non departmental public bodies were held at arm’s length. The agencies which are sector specific are given specific tasks and in terms of political economy of learning in the wider public sector side it is driven by “evidence based’ techniques. Communities of Practice tended to be sector specific, e.g. NI Film Archive, PRONI or Sports Council, feeding upwards and downwards in terms of practice and learning but possibly more downwards because the learning is more driven by the requirements of the policy than the other way round. The group asked are those structures possible to change at all? Are there any points of entry or levers to fix the situation? There is a perceived similarity between Communities of Practice but actually big gaps in practice. Also Government departments have a minister, a single politician, and in central government practice is much more policy driven. Whereas in local government there are more business plans and practice is reactive and locality based, delivering to a specific place and the challenge often comes from the parliamentary situation rather than on the ground. Some powers are being devolved downwards to Local Authorities, whether that will change the dynamic and the barrier will shift remains to be seen.

In conclusion it was noted that the visual structure in the diagram distributed by GR was useful to bring things to the surface that are influencing things that are going on, but that are often not talked about.



The following key comments were noted from PDS’s presentation and discussion.

  • I witnessed especially in the conversation in our group of academics is a big debate about how to engage with people, models of participations and the mechanisms. In different places in the world people try to engage with this question and it is both essential and difficult to do it respectfully and cooperatively. The big model of participation  tries to work for everyone in society,  aims for  participation in a wider way and strives for equality. Examining Communities of Practice (COP) is a useful tool, to examine a set of methods and how cooperation and exchange between two Communities of Practice could affect the methods used by both.
  • Here is an overview of other ways of working with COPs around the world:

The concept of community in some places is very vague, and while the concept of community development is common in the English speaking world, it is seen differently in r other parts of the world community.. In 1960s and 1970s community practice meant small localities, so how does that apply to a highly cosmopolitan huge  city like Rio with different  types of communities playing a role? In the 1990s policies  on social inclusion began to look at groups of people differently, and to think of a local community as people sharing things like memories. This came at a time when museums were engaging with society, and people from outside.


  • A COP can be a social movement; in Latin America community groups will come and seek you out, because they will demand things, in a different way to how people relate society in Europe.   In this light,  COP is a useful method useful in different circumstances.
  • What is the role of the professional? Should we be the mediator? In Holland using the description ‘participatory society’  came to be used as an excuse for end of welfare state. – and this has become a dominant discourse in last 6 or 7 years. One of the new challenges is not to  get lost in a facile model of  participation.
  • I can give the example of the mass protests during the 500th anniversary of the ‘discovery’ of Brazil from which indigenous people had been excluded, then  were joined by other social movements and protested at the opening of a museum which resulted in their imprisonment in the town as police surrounded it for a number of days. This became a turning point for the country that subsequently created a more open space for these groups after realising they could not and should not be shut out any longer.
  • An experience in a very classic encyclopaedic museum which was redeveloped after falling into a state of disrepair. A father who had travelled for hours from the suburbs with his children and queued for hours, when he entered the museum did not have a positive experience of the new exhibits. When asked by his son what an exhibit with a shrunken head was he could not give him an answer, and his pride when queuing to enter the museum was replaced by humiliation as he did not know what to say to his son and left with a low head. I felt this is a lack of respect for someone who works all week to take his kids to a museum, and he is proud and he is humiliated by this museum. In this sense I ask myself if there really has been a change in how Brazil does things after the earlier 500th anniversary protests.
  • Are we able to externalise what respect means? The consequences are gigantic, so many things have to change – we have to change the world, from the museum director to the most junior member of staff.  How do we implement respect? Are our ideologies really capable of  taking on and practising respect without losing control?  Shouldn’t we be talking about ethics every time we meet? How can we bring humanity to our relationships? Dealing with communities is like dealing with family, with  moments of conflict anduncertainty.

Comments from the floor:

  • There is a problem with acknowledging the emotional and visceral connection of those who work with communities because it challenges how we see ourselves.
  • To go back to the business of expert and community, one of the things which we do not say is that there is also a problem not just with too much expertise, but also with there not being enough appropriate expertise.
  • The challenge of complexity – when students realise things are complicated they often leave.
  • What is more difficult is to work out what our role is and what we contribute to society.
  • The good people in this field engage with society, and want to do what they can to make it a better society, in relation to museums as organisations in the service of society.
  • We can’t expect the big things to change all at once. This issue is political, to do with beliefs and our duties as members of society, and if each of us do what we can, we have to believe that we can change things. If we work in this area it is our duty to make the change where we can  in  the sector.
  • There is a philosophical issue of respect, of understanding respect,and  how can we bring that to our work. We have a legacy of models of work from when the idea of respect was very different from today
  • This issue is about social organisations and whether individuals can make a difference.
  • Role of Hospitality: Ulster Hall (heritage building) having a staff that are passionate about the building and experience and we want to give visitors a good time like you would at your own home, and people respond to that idea of hospitality. We train our staff up to share their favourite experiences about the building, and when we get positive responses back we share that with the staff, and invest in our staff and make sure they are as passionate about the building as the leading directors.
  • No matter how well you write a piece of interpretation it is always written at one level, but human beings can bring a multude of levels of interpretation.  Who is it that can engage with the audience as a story teller?>
  • This is where the voluntary sector can really help , feeding back about what people  enjoy, where to get information, training up volunteers and reaching out.
  • Using the words expert and voluntary sector, why are the volunteers not experts? It is a distinction that we need to address. Often why they volunteer is because they have so much knowledge about the subject.  ‘Experts in an academic sense’ are not necessarily experts on a particular
  • Twickenham Rugby Club’s most successful engagement with educational audiences have been with retired rugby players, on a volunteer basis, the expert and the volunteer can blend into a great programme.
  • Relevance – it has to be relevant to its audience, so it engages your audience. Early stage development is important, for example the need for architecture  to capture the spirit of a place, and to an extent museums need to play the same role, combining the artefacts and context.r. In Kerry the  Blasket Interpretative Centre builds the artefacts into the walls and they become part of the indigenous landscape. The way to understand an artefact is to make it relevant to its audience, often with the help of the personal skills and knowledgeof staff  that can layer information to make it  revelant  to an audience.


RVR closing remarks: You have to put yourself in the middle of it to understand it, and that in itself is a form of expertise: to dance is how you learn and become an expert. When I started in participation it was a new age, and now research on youth participation says ‘often consulted, very little impact’. But in this room there is lots of wisdom on how to advocate for substantive work.




RVR opening remarks – How do we reclaim heritage practice in a meaningful way, so that the work is not just symbolic?. Combining the thoughts of the last session I have taken some words as touch stones to consider over the next three days.




EXPERT – and expertise


Using these words today we will consider our history in terms of wider global movements. We are often part of a global trend, at the end or the beginning, and the presentations today aim to help us view our landscape in that wider context.

A touch stone was a piece of rock on which samples of precious metal were scratched.  The colour of the smear revealed whether the sample was good gold or fake.



PL -The Peace Building Process in Mozambique

PL opened his presentation with looking at how civil war had developed in Mozambique, at its  economy and demography , the  history as a slave coast,European colonisation, the Berlin conference of 1884-1886, the role of Portugal, which continued to have a colonial presence in the country, the War of Liberation against Portuguese occupation, subsequent democratic independence, the establishment of an independent left-wing government, the civil war between Remano and Prelimo, the destruction of trade, desolation of land, wealth, schools and the collapse of the commercial network. The Conditions for Peace Agreement left the population very discontented, and global events over the 1980s and 1990s enforced the need for both sides which fought in the civil  to engage. In 1984 the Catholic Church established a commission following the death of the state’s first independent leader and an opportunity for dialogue opened up which lead to the  1990 Peace Convention in Rome. The civil war fighters from both sides integrated into one army, the Mozambique Armed Forces, but the question of what to do with the people who committed war crimes remained: should a strategy of Amnesty or Punishment be followed?; should what happened be forgotten or an appeal made to to the Court of Human Rights? One of the key issues was the legacy of traumatised child soldiers and the special arrangements needed to address this problem.



Lessons to learn include addressing which parts of Peace Process movements in Africa were successful and which were not. New issues have also emerged such as the emergence of countries like China, India, Brazil, South Africa, as new players internationally. This is no longer a European world dialogue.  Problems still remain in Africalike the arms trade. Also, the economic crisis in Europe is affecting l world trade, and since 2008 Europe has given less financial aid to Africa and this has affected practical abilities to build schools, healthcare system etc.


The role of Memory is a major question in Mozambique:, what is the role of the past and, can we use the past to build the present, or do we use the present to rebuild the past? When working with people and memories it is important to be conscious of the human rights context, and to link it to the empowerment of the community, which is one of the roles of this new  museology


PL is director of Casa Muss-amb-ike Encounters which works to the principle of  “Look at others with my eyes, Let the others look at me with my eyes.”


Colin Breen – Plantation. Archaeology and Society in Contemporary Ulster

Comments noted during presentation:

  • The presentation today will continue on some similar themes looked at in Max Hope’s presentation; the notion of a journey and trying to find a better way to practice heritage, remove ourselves from the ivory towers and think about how we can make what we do more relevant to society; to potentially throw out a whole series of ideas and concepts about where we are in archaeology and to contributeito  conflict analysis
  • What PL spoke of on a global basis applies to Northern Ireland, which is going through rapid and profound change, not all of it good, some of which we need to confront and some we need to respect.
  • CB’s  primary interests in archaeology are in terms of conflict analysis and  how archaeology and heritage narratives contribute to conflict resolution in society.
  • In a global context about 84% of all conflicts are cyclical. So we need to create ideologies to prevent the reappearance of conflict.
  • There are trends happening in society bringing about division and making it more prone to conflict, and much of that is associated with heritage and division.
  • Slide 1: The historical context – when we talk about the Plantation of Ulster there is a temptation to think that it is the only plantation to take place on the island, but the process has taken place in many guises for 1000 years. In many senses the Munster plantation was more ambitious and had a broader impact at the time but its legacy is less than in Ulster. Why does contemporary and historical Munster respond in a different way? Why is Protestant memory and practice less visible in a Munster context?  Plantation in Ulster proper commences after Nine Years War, a highly complex conflictrooted in local aspirations of power, wealth, land grabbing, inter-clan conflict, and types of religion. The plantation that took place in early 17th century did so for a myriad of reasons, not just nationalist expressions of power but for reasons much more associated with mercantile activity, the need to make money from the landscape, local conflicts and feuds, social power relations that imposed a new social landscape. There was a variety of different models of plantation, with areas in east Ulster and North East Antrim being planted in a very different way than Derry.
  • Slide 2: Drivers of colonialism/plantation: There are similar drives as in Mozambique  seen in the previous presentation, namely the acquisition of land, developing mercantile activity, making money from the land. When we look at it in detail much of it was about the acquisition of resources, including human beings. The suppression of existing social and political hierarchies, breaking of the old Gaelic order to a certain extent, introduction of a new renaissance society. The whole process of plantation was very complex and multi-nuanced.
  • Slide 3:  There was both official and unofficial plantation, with most of North-east Antrim being planted by a Gaelic lord, not guided by the crown and involving Gaelic relations between Scotland and Ulster, .
  • Slide 4: Isle of Lewis Plantation in 1590s, the isles were subject to a plan by undertakers from Fife in east Scotland that was sponsored by the king. So we are continually seeing lessons being learned from the past
  • Slide 5:  Chronology – Dunluce Castle in many ways exemplifies the process of unofficial plantation, the driving forces, and the people who were part of them.  – hHw did the Irish integrate themselves into the process? Example of Randal Macdonnell, who from about 1607/8  operated on his own albeit with the encouragement of James I and the patronage of the crown, but was still his own man, and developed extensive plantations. Nick Brannon  will show us Dunluce, Ballymoney, Clough and when we look at the archaeological evidence we see they were not building towns, they were rebuilding towns. There have been towns at these sites for 1000 years but what they were doing was rebuilding landscape to get financial gain.. Continuity, as well as change, needs to be noted in the Ulster context.  Slide 6: Perspectives – how our contemporary narrative regards this plan of plantation and what this means for us in contemporary Northern Ireland contexts.
  • Slide 7: Wilderness Myth – Hamilton and Montgomery:  there is a process of change at the moment, with our two predominant cultures involved in a strong reimagining of the past  and imbedding  their particular political narratives into the process. Most conflict analysts will say this is one of the markers of potential escalation of conflict, when a drawing apart between two groups ise seen and there is an attempt by both sides to make their’s the dominant narrative. When we unpick narratives we can see how true they are to history and archaeological fact. For example, the Wilderness Myth propagated by the Ulster Scots movement suggests that settlers were coming  to a barren and waste land needing to be occupied and civilised. This type of myth underpins many colonial movements across the globe –  time and time it is used to justify colonialism. When we look at the archaeological evidence what we see is an area that had been heavily populated for the last two thousand years. On the other side, there is projection back of current ideas of Irish identity. There was no sense of a national Irish identity at any time in the medieval period, and a notion of a pan-Irish identity does not  come until much later.
  • Slide 8: Similar biases appear in nationalist narratives in Northern Ireland, but to return to the Wilderness narrative, the evidence shows that the idea thatof new farming methods were imported is incorrect, and that improved farming methods and agricultural practice comes much later in the century. There is clear manipulation of the historical evidence.
  • Slide 9: Map slide, Community dialogue critical series – The idea is that these historical communities existed in a state of mutual hostility, and an interpretation is that the planters arrived and hated the local Irish – and that narrative is the root of the problem.  In north-east Antrim and Down there is in fact very little evidence of conflict. At this time there were macro conflicts happening all across Europe, but they were not driven by the ordinary people living in a shared landscape.
  • Slide 10: Local man Prof John  Darby who was a leading theorist, advising political parties and crucial in ther development of conflict studies here, wrote in 2003 about how the arrival of the Planters created an association between people arriving in a society where rival ethnic groupings lived in suspicion of each other, contrasting with the official narratives disseminated amongst our political groupings. Slide 11: Gerry Kelly  said in  relation to the contentious IRA commemoration parade at Castlederg parade ‘There are dual narratives here’ – the implication is how dare anyone challenge my narrative? When we look at loyalist protests recently one of the claims is ‘our narrative is under threat’. Both of our main traditions come back to this claim.
  • Slide 12: The Scham and Yaha quotation considering the Israeli-Palestine conflict  “    “  is crucial). It is incumbent on us to respect the narratives of both sides, but now  in our society both narratives are pulling away from each other and common ground is disappearing..  Dichotomy – one of the central notions of building peace is to respect, but also to CONFRONT IDEOLOGIES – like PL mentioned in his work in Mozambique, to confront some of the ideologies and narratives that may not be correct,  to ask is there a better way of looking at these things, to highlight commonality and continuity
  • Slide 13: Findings – notion of different processes of plantation, lost Gaelic narratives, much longer sense of continuity associated with these narratives and memories than that constructed from 16th century onward. Our society had a far greater degree of stability and very little evidence of conflict in terms of the normal population; conflict was at a higher level in the hierarchies.  . We need to use the evidence to show diversity,  acceptance and begin the breaking down these barriers
  • Slide 14: Heritage places/Heritage practice – archaeology  and the process of excavation, joint recovery of narratives, Dunluce bringing community and disparate groups together, working together to recover their joint past, coming together to think about how to create dialogue with each other.
  • Slide 15:  satellite image – the landscape we inhabit has been a landscape inhabited by humans for at least ten thousand years, with continual passage and exchange of ideas and traditions, which can be embraced, but not overtly politicised.  .



Comments from the floor:

    • How do we learn to manage better our re-escalation  back into violence? Conflict is not surprising –  the question is how we manage it, find a way into and out of each other’s narratives. The Gaelic Revival narrative embraced all things from the Neolithic  up to the seventeenth century  because it showed a pre-plantation narrative.
    • PDS – two strategies ies have appeared elsewhere for dealing with this process: traditional healing and Human Rights Court, and these have  made it necessary to address the place memory has in our projections for the future.  Western cultures rely a lot on remembrance in order to justify actions or try and heal ourselves, and we assume remembering is a therapeutic act. There is another strategy of healing which is forgetting and moving on. Is traditional healing more present in African cultures? How do strategies of memory work and function in Africa
    •  PL: Mozambique in the first place wanted to be peaceful society and build a new country, but  we cannot forget the victims, we must try to do something for them.  Victims have to be addressed but also society must go on. Historical narrative is a positive thing, but there is a need to address whether  too much attachment to what has been means we do not have the space to think about the future.
  • It would be beneficial for Northern Ireland to examine how other cultures deal with memory. For example in Mozambique there are problems in trying to build a Mozambique collective memory; at first the desire was to build an African narrative but in fact Mozambique is a multi racial country, with Europeans, and other ethnic groups, and Africans with different ethnicities. So the commonalities aregrasped, and you can find national identity complex


OPENING SESSION – Remarks from the floor in a session chaired by RVR

  • Are there challenges to ‘Single identity work’? The practice encourages young people to discuss issues about culture with others of the same background, seeking  common ground,  and after In doing single identity work within a group they are helped to understand themselves before engaging with another, different group.  When working cross-community,  it is important that the same mediator does the single identity work with both groups – so that they are neutral.
  • It was asked is single identity group work always beneficial, and can the mediator ever be truly neutral?
  • The importance of stories; people taking pride in their own story before they can share that story with somebody else. When you realise the story you have to tell is yours, and if you have your own pride in that story then you are more prepared to listen to someone else’s story. Understanding why do you believe these narratives, are they just  inherited, or do you really believe them?  What the younger group believe is often something they have “taken off the shelf and run with”.
  • What happens though when the narratives you are dealing with in a contested space are  not something that you want to be proud of, i.e. narratives that include violence and criminality – how do you pull those stories out and share them? Is it still something to be discussed?
  • Difficult stories have to be shared and we need to create a space in which people can do that.
  • Can a facilitator be neutral?  Especially in a small country like Northern Ireland do we kid ourselves that even if we are actually neutral, that we will be seen as neutral? It is much better to be honest about who you are and what your prejudices are – being open is ‘part of the game’. If we pretend to be something that we are not, pretend that we don’t have opinions and prejudices, we undermine the process.
  • The need for RADICAL TRANSPARENCY – You cannot be 100% neutral and honest, and working towards that goal, asking what honesty means, is a process of reflection and  self criticism.
  • We are unreliable tellers of our own stories as we create internal  narratives..  Doing  reminiscence work in certain subjects canrequire a common base of knowledge and  familiarity.  However there are benefits to being an outsider, someone without the knowledge base who is able to ask people to explain what they mean..
  • The idea of relevance:  how a facilitator can start  to assess how they can be relevant to the process. In the case of the Ballintoy local history group, the dynamic between the professional and group worked because the group could use what she was offering.Considering failed projects:  how much can we learn from looking at the projects that don’t work? Also, when projects fail to secure funding how do we reinvigorate community workers and participants?
  • Is there such a thing as ‘single identity’? Surely identity is always evolving. For example, children today have a very different identity from their parents.
  • How do we see the uniqueness of everyone and acknowledge that the identity process is complicated? We ought to consider that identities are very diffuse and people have a way of naming themselves beyond duality.
  • Over time identity changes and people become unrecognisable from  what they were. This is a reality and it is being acknowledged as suchin many parts of the world.
  • PDS – if we consider sociomuseulogy, in a very simplistic sense it looks at museum and heritage from the focus of social impact. But museology includes wider aims, seeking to address other problems – ecological, violence, health – and heritage has a role to play in tackling these issues.

Intergenerational groups meeting through media and film,can realise the practical benefits of social community projects, including tangible health improvements.

HELEN PERRY – Introduction to the Market Yard


Delegates who had never visited Coleraine before were asked for their first impressions of the town. It was commented that is seemed empty over the shops, dull, and needed investment.


  • HP’s presentation noted how the town sometimes had difficulty in sharing its history, as what may appear a quiet and relatively prosperous middle-class town has a troubled history. Coleraine for most visitors is a shopping town where people come on the wet days. What is not apparent on first visiting the town is that it suffered a bomb in 1975, resulting in seven people losing their lives. The town was hit by another bomb in 1992 with no loss of life but major physical damage to the town. Within a year the town was restored and to some extent  has chosen to forget about this period
  • The Market Yard sits in an interface at one of the most deprived areas not just in Coleraine but across Northern Ireland. Coleraine has one of the highest rates of sectarian and hate crime,  , sitting at number two alongside Belfast and Derry
  • Four of the town’s most deprived wards converge at the Market Area, and New Market Street is known locally as Sectarian Street. It is only five minutes stroll from the central Diamond.
  • One of the objectives of the Museum Service is to explore and promote the heritage of the town and Coleraine’s place in Irish history. The Town Hall not always seen as  a safe place for everyone to explore this history, and the aim is that Coleraine’s  heritage will install community pride and provide a safe place for all communities.
  • The Market Yard project is a community based project and work has been done aimed at bringing people physically into the Market Yard, using Victorian Tours, European Heritage Open Days etc. Historically the Market Yard was a communication hub for the town and the vision of the project is that this major scheme would provide a shared space and cultural hub for the area, with the community helping to fill the content.
  •  The market would have been a permanent home for the museum collection, a perfect site from which to look at how ‘Irish history starts here…’ in Coleraine.
  • Disappointingly, the capital project is, at best, stalled and in the short to medium future has been shelved. We still need a community shared space and access to heritage that this site could provide.
  • How do we achieve these objectives with no money? How could this space to help us deal with some of the contested spaces that surround the site?


QUARTO Gemma and Brionie Reid– Interactive session: Mapping Place

  • Slide 1 (Paul Henry painting) – Place is essential to the heritage of Northern Ireland, with place being more problematic in unionist narratives. The United Kingdom lacks an image of place that everyone can identify with. Irish iconography is often rural and Gaelic. In N.I. there are contesting claims over place and how it is represented. Arguments over who has the right to a place, and attachment to place, can sometimes be articulated mainly through opposition to other groups.
  • Slide showing ‘Meetin Hoose Brae’ on Ards peninsular, a place name that claims it for Ulster Scots identity with the implication that Ulster is seen to be Protestant or unionist
  • Slide showing Armoy sign ‘East of the Plain’. The fact that there are no Irish words on the sign perhaps shows that it tries to avoid some of the political responses to the use of Irish, though the name is a translation from Gaelic..
  • Place and heritage involves where we feel safe and where we feel threatened. In my practice as a cultural geographer I have to consider nuance and complexity, action and practicing, how place is imagined and represented.
  • Slide showing the art of Sandra Johnston – ‘Broad Daylight’, in which the artist went back to a place where she was attacked and made improvised performance gestures, opening out that place for her so that instead of it becoming a violent and closed down, she re-visioned it as an open place. Those artists who took place in her project ‘Broad Daylight’ were ‘out of place’ when they were doing that, and for the people who saw her creating this work, what does that mean?
  • We ought not to favour our feelings of place over place-based practice, because we encounter place physically, emotionally, intellectually.
  • Slide showing ‘Troubling Ireland’ – addressing the histories of post -colonialism and capitalism in Ireland with socially engaged artists and curators. A lot of the discussion revolved around place, and the walks at Manorhamilton, near the border, with local historians revealed a hidden geography. We visited sites not only associated with the plantation but also the more recent history of the town in the last 30 years, and our guide had to point out buildings that once were Protestant, churches not visible now, and that hidden geography. Geography is central to discussions of colonialism, post-colonialism, and a close and critical attention to place can help to unfold and understand difficult histories.
  • Walking with a knowledgeable guide is a very important way to combine history and practice and let your body know the topography of the place. In Manorhamilton it showed how close areas were together and showed the abandoned Protestant sites had effectively disappeared or been reused.
  • Slide showing a project looking at cultural partnerships across Europe, and in a wider contest. PS Squared (working in north country Leitrim), how rural and urban contexts affected cultural practices, what was high or low cultural practice, and the issue of rural isolation, the  price of its effects, and what can be offered as a solution. We were guided by people who are familiar with the place and what was happening there.
  • Slide showing Ballykinler workshop. Controversially dominated by a large army camp, , has certain ramifications for the village, which is also economically and socially   There was no shared public space in the village, so a ‘Mobile Community Centre’ was set up.
  • Slide showing people forming the ‘Ballykinler Circle’ – the thing I found very important was that people with experiences of diverse places were brought in to help on the project, and that it considered how topography t and the wider geographical context affects how places are used, negotiated or imagined.
  • To conclude, today on our walking tours the two groups saw some subtle and some explicit ways in which areas are contested. One group saw an army base looking out over the water to the Republic of Ireland, which brings with it many issues. At St Aidan’s church the group saw the difference in what is visible in a place now, and what history is dominant.
  • There is a challenge to identify where more individual narratives that cross section can be told and mitigate the zero sum attitude towards identity.


The group took part in an interactive “Mapping Process”.  QUATRO explained that the exercise was used with groups after taking them a walking tour like the delegates had experienced earlier, and then the group would spend some time bringing photos and experiences together. One of the things examined is that when the walk is guided by someone else how much individual experience is influenced by that. This can be a useful way to explore space and a safe way to explore identity, for example  how children experience place differently. The activity involved exploring two landscapes that are very different from each other, though close in geographical terms, then making a montage or map of the walk and experience of place, from a professional and personal perspective using notes, photographs and found objects, then discussing how different these two places encountered are. This allows for a lot of narratives to be built up on one surface.




Group activity using a learning resource looking at the Home Rule movement.

  • The political movement for Home Rule became a backdrop for other types of protest and this, its local impact, and the impact of protests against Home Rule support are examined in the learning resource.
  • The Museum Service used its own collections and supplemented these with other resources to represent the range of movements taking place at the time. For example, newspaper archives were used to see the local impact of what are often seen as national events in specific  localities.
  • There are four main themes in the resource: Ulster Day and Home Rule; Votes for Women; Worker’s Strike; Up in Arms.
  • The resource examines what Home Rule meant to both the Unionist and Nationalist communities. It asks what were the hopes and fears of the movement, and what else was going on in the world at the time.
  • In examining ‘Votes for Women’ the material looks at how the local community perceived suffragettes, and the contrast of the greater vigour of   government’s response  to suffragette activity compared  to how it reacted  to illegal UVF gun-running. It also examines the local aspect of the material, for example how in 1913 workers in Limavady railway did not strike alongside other railways workers in Ireland.





Stitching and Unstitching the Troubles methodology workshop


  • The workshop enabled delegates to participate in a methodology that is used during the “Remembering the Troubles” project. with communities to draw out people’s stories  Participants made small cloth dolls which represented some element of their past experience and these were then stitched on to a large sheet together to form a ‘quilt’. The dolls represent the maker, enable people to tell a little story about themselves, or someone lost in the course of their  lives..


  •  The experience of living through the Troubles is very different for everyone in Northern Ireland. Some people lived in the midst of conflict on a family basis, for some it was personal, for some it was largely at a distance or suddenly close. So the experience was varied and how people look back or that  experience is varied as well. This methodology enabled people, who may have  wanted to forget, find a way to, talk about their memories..
  • The  process was originally used in Chile, and discussing how the process was used to tell stories about violence there  showed groups that conflict is not restricted to the troubles in Northern Ireland, but is something people from across the world have to deal with.
  • Lead by Roberta Bacik, Deborah Stockdale also worked to take community members  through the process of sitting around a  table with some cloth in their hands  and talking. People were able to discuss in a comfortable way what their memories were and created a brand new resource in terms of providing a starting point for other groups in the future. Largely it was women involved in the projects and their artwork provided a fabulous resource for further discussions in the future.
  • During the process of doing this project there were some groups which did not have the time or were not ready to do the collages.
  • MC – Initially when showing the groups the beautifully finished aesthetic final installations, many of those attending said they couldn’t create anything like that, as they were looking the surface methodology and only later did they see it was the process that I wanted them to engage with – to engage with their memories, not the finished art work. The exhibition received very positive reaction from the groups who contributed to the process by making a doll and participating in the process of sharing their memories of the troubles. When it came to the Braid groups their reaction was so positive that they wished to extend their project. Unfortunately in terms of workload we were not in the position to facilitate further participation.
  • Projects like this provide people with the open spaces should they wish to engage with their memory of the Troubles. Confronting memory cannot and should not be forced on people as we do not have the right to make people consult painful experiences. The value of this project is that it respects the gradual process inherent in recalling memory, that it is not an overnight act.
  • MC – At the second phase of the project we had people who had never crossed the door coming to attend in  a local space that they thought was not relevant to their lives. Feedback indicated that people found the display relevant to their lives.
  • Some of the people involved in the project had needlework skills, some had no needlework skills. It was not about being an expert; it was about thinking through, and representing loss in some form. It is a very low cost project with minimum investment that relies on the skills of people who had experience of drawing out narratives with people.
  • Participants in the seminar went on to make their own dolls and create two quilts which memoralise the event and the people involved.


A draft MINOM declaration was read at the close of the seminar with thanks to the organisers from PL.











[i]  The Causeway Museum Service (CMS) is a collaboration between Coleraine, Limavady and Moyle councils to deliver museum service across a wode area of north-east Northern Ireland

[ii]  MINOM is an organisation affiliated to the International Council of Museums (ICCOM) with a focus on socio-museology.