In 2023, The Linen Hall explored the meanings and realities of borders and boundaries in Northern Ireland throughout the last century with an exhibition and an event series, funded by the Reconciliation Fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Over the last century, borders and boundaries have shaped the lives of people in Northern Ireland in many ways. They may be physical structures, like peace walls or customs posts, or they may be more psychological or intangible boundaries, like avoiding certain areas due to fear or intimidation. Borders and boundaries can engender conflict and division, but they can also provide opportunities for co-operation through things such as trade, culture, and activism.
Using postcards, t-shirts, coins, posters, maps, and other ephemera drawn from a range of our collections, we curated an exhibition which surveyed the changing cultural, political, and economic implications of borders and boundaries in Northern Ireland. The exhibition was divided into three themes: creation, conflict, and co-operation. We are delighted to share some of the exhibition in digital form below, alongside a virtual tour of the physical exhibition which was on display in The Linen Hall’s Vertical Gallery from 8 November until 22 December 2023.
The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (formerly the Irish Free State) was created in the early 1920s, at a time when a lot of national borders were being drawn and redrawn after World War I. The border in Ireland emerged out of a long-standing conflict between nationalists who sought varying levels of independence from Britain, and unionists who wanted Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.
Our series of events brought together athletes, academics, activists, politicians, and writers to reflect on their experiences of borders and boundaries. Some participants spoke of how borders and boundaries had defined their identities, particularly in times of conflict and unrest, while others discussed how their experiences in sport, the arts, and activist campaigns blurred divisions. The events series is available to watch back on The Linen Hall’s YouTube channel.