The fascinating story of Ulster over the last 500 years is revealed in a major new exhibition which is now open to the public at the Ulster Museum.

The ‘Modern History’ exhibition offers a unique opportunity to gain insight into the social, economic, cultural and political influences which have shaped our society within Irish, British and international contexts.

‘Modern History’ is arranged around particular events and themes and tells the story of the historic province of Ulster from 1500 to 1968. It also reflects the Decade of Centenaries, and addresses events of 100 years ago which changed the face of the island of Ireland.

The exhibition showcases almost 400 objects, some 150 of which have not previously been on display. These are complemented by a new suite of interactives and AV installations adding more information and context which will engage and challenge visitors and greatly improve the visitor experience.

The ‘Modern History’ exhibition has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (£454,800) and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (£127,000).

DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: “The Ulster Museum is helping to lead innovative and inclusive approaches to remembering our shared past. During this Decade of Centenaries, the work of museums, libraries, public records and the arts and creative industries will help people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with this key period in our modern history.

“Events over 1912-22 shaped Irish and British identities and relationships. It is important that these events are remembered today in the context of an inclusive and accepting society.”

“My Department will work with a wide range of stakeholders to promote inclusive principles and creative approaches to remembering this period and other aspects of our shared history. The Ulster Museum is a key part of a creative platform helping all of us to build a united community and deliver social change.”

Paul Mullan, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund NI commented: “Over the past twenty years HLF has invested over £32.5m in the museum infrastructure across Northern Ireland. We were delighted to award funding to the Ulster Museum’s new Modern History gallery. This fascinating new project supports the museum to take a strategic role in helping people to explore and understand our complex and often challenging history. The Decade of Centenaries has prompted many communities to look at their heritage from new and diverse perspectives and this new gallery will play a critical role in this on-going work.”

National Museums Northern Ireland’s Head of History, William Blair, who led the project said, “This exhibition which will include rare and compelling objects displayed together for the first time. They include the artillery-shattered flag of the 36th (Ulster) Division, hoisted at its base depot in France during World War 1 and the sword of Henry Joy McCracken, prominent United Irishman hanged in 1798. Many of the objects are directly connected to key events and personalities over the last 500 years – from Hugh O’Neill and Arthur Chichester, to Edward Carson and James Connolly.”

Mr Blair added, “I would like to acknowledge support of academic colleagues at Queen’s University in developing this exhibition.”

Other objects include a rare and remarkable set of 400-year old clothing recovered from a bog in Dungiven, Co Londonderry, adding insight into the lives and experiences of ordinary people often forgotten in the broad sweep of history.

Dr Jim McGreevy, Director of Collections & Interpretation at National Museums Northern Ireland said; “National Museums Northern Ireland has a central role to play in exploring our history. The Decade of Centenaries provided us with an opportunity to refresh the history galleries at the Ulster Museum and to reflect broader historical perspectives.”

Dr McGreevy added “Using a range of carefully selected objects which often demonstrate the complexity of our history, the exhibition throws light on events which have shaped our country and the many connections and interdependencies which constitute our shared past.”

The redeveloped Modern History gallery will be supported by an extensive public programme including films in partnership with QFT, lectures, gallery talks and tours and living history interpretations.