Ulster Museum exhibition celebrates the themes of most relevance to NI youth
A PROJECT which has offered young people aged 16 to 25 the chance to develop new perspectives on museum collections has launched a new exhibition at the Ulster Museum.
Reimagine Remake Replay has opened Power to the Young People, co-curated by a group of young people from across Northern Ireland who assembled objects that represent their experiences and opinions on relevant matters.
Of the exhibition, which has taken a year to put together, Niamh Kelly, project assistant and youth ambassador for Reimagine Remake Replay, said: “It’s been a process of picking objects initially and developing themes and messages behind them.
“Seeing the young participants who worked on it coming in and interacting with the things they have created, seeing their words up, it’s brilliant.”
The Reimagine Remake Replay project is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Kick the Dust programme, which aims to connect with more than 4,000 16- to 25-year-olds, and is led by a consortium of partners including Nerve Centre, National Museums NI, Northern Ireland Museums Council and Northern Ireland Screen.
“The programme recognises that this age group is under-served within heritage and within museums, so, for us, being here is not just about the content, it’s also about changing the experience,” said Niamh.
“It’s about making it more of a space that reflects young people, where they actually can see something that not just appeals to them, but speaks to them and is something that they want to get involved in.”
Issues most relevant to young people include climate justice, LGBTQIA+ rights, and arts and wellbeing.
“We’ve got some pieces from the museum’s fashion collection,” said Niamh, regarding the climate justice and sustainability segment.
“We’ve been really lucky to work closely with Charlotte McReynolds, the fashion curator here, and we have pieces that speak a lot about fast fashion and the impact that has on climate change.
“We’ve a range of pieces that look at plastic and things becoming more disposable. Then we’ve also got pieces that are actually handmade out of other materials. They not just highlight the problem, but also show the solutions from our heritage that maybe we’ve lost touch with a bit.”
Arts and wellbeing have always been part of the project, now in its fourth year, but particularly so during the pandemic.
“I think it’s really prominent in the exhibition and how art can be good for mental health,” said Niamh.
“We’re encouraging people to engage in slow art — to look at pieces, engage with them, and then make your own and get creative.”
To highlight LGBTQIA+ rights, there’s a range of objects that showcase queer artists who have maybe not featured as prominently in previous collections.
“They’re maybe not as well known by virtue of the society they were living in and the prejudice that would have been against them,” said Niamh.
“It’s really nice for us to be able to celebrate these artists, while also highlighting the issues they faced then and advocating for further change now.”
One of the best things about the project is the ability to let young people take the reins and steer its delivery and execution, explained Niamh.
“Organically and naturally, these themes have become prevalent because they’re what our participants care about, what they want to make things and speak out about. They use the museums and the collection as platforms to do that and to connect the present issues they care about with their heritage.
“There’s a real passionate voice that comes through in the exhibition and what they’ve done.”
Getting messages across creatively may also work for those who do not react to more vocal or forceful deliveries.
“The fact that the exhibition is colourful, creative and interactive offers opportunities to get people involved, where they’re bringing their perspectives or their experience in something and really making it an active experience,” said Niamh.
“Museums can have that reputation of ‘you come in, you look, you leave’ — it’s very one-way. Whereas something more active, where people are coming in, engaging and leaving their stamp on the exhibition, as well as taking away what they’ve learned, is influential for having the conversation we want to have.”
The exhibition makes use of creative media, interactive displays and digital tech to platform the voices of young people on these themes. Visitors will be able to get involved through participative activities and event opportunities such as sticker making and using virtual reality.
Power to the Young People (free admission) is part of a wider initiative to mark 50 years since Ulster Museum opened to the public and speaks strongly to the museum’s commitment to champion diverse voices and empower new perspectives.
For more details visit nmni.com