In 2023 The Linen Hall’s Origins and Legacies: The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement project marked the 25th anniversary of the Agreement with a series of events, an exhibition, and an oral history project. With the intention of showcasing the myriad of perspectives which shaped the period before, during, and since the signing of the historic accord, it was very rewarding to experience the engagement from visitors, audiences, and participants with this innovative and insightful project, which added to the knowledge and understanding of this momentous period of recent history.
Using the vast collections of artefacts and ephemera from the Northern Ireland Political Collection of The Linen Hall, as well as testimonies captured in oral histories, the curated exhibition charted the significant events of the peace process, the detail of the Agreement and its referendums, and captured what the Agreement has meant to people during the last 25 years.
About The Linen Hall
Founded in 1788, The Linen Hall is the oldest library in Belfast. Today, The Linen Hall is much more than a library. We are an accredited museum and a living archive. We hold world-renowned collections, like the Irish and Local Studies Collection, to the 350,000 items in the Northern Ireland Political Collection, the definitive archive of the recent ‘Troubles’.
Explore the Northern Ireland Political Collection >
Northern Ireland Political Collection
The Linen Hall’s Northern Ireland Political Collection contains thousands of artefacts which document multiple perspectives around politics and identity in Northern Ireland. Using cartoons, badges, posters, and other artefacts reflecting the lead up to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, this exhibition highlights key events and talks which paved the way for an agreement as well as the political and societal outcomes of the accord.
The project’s series of events saw negotiators, advocates, and opponents of the Agreement come together to share their insights and experiences of the talks in the 1990s, as well as politicians who grew up during the implementation of the Agreement to discuss their perspectives of what it has meant for younger generations. The programme also explored the cultural and literary impact of the Agreement, and how public attitudes have changed over the last 25 years. All events from the project are available to watch back on the Linen Hall’s YouTube channel.
One of the highlights of the project was members of the public reflecting and sharing their thoughts and opinions on the meanings and legacies of the Agreement through oral histories and the exhibition question board. The project also generated many donations of artefacts relating to the Agreement, all of which add new perspectives and voices to our collections. These insights help us ask new questions and develop further understanding of the past, the present, and the future. As this project ends, we hope that everyone who engaged with Origins and Legacies will continue to join with The Linen Hall in our mission to promote knowledge, facilitate difficult conversations, and preserve heritage.
During 2023, as part of the Origins and Legacies: The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement project, oral history interviews were undertaken at The Linen Hall which documented people’s experiences of and attitudes towards the Agreement in 1998, and 25 years on. We are grateful to everyone who shared their insights, and a selection of the oral histories are available to listen to via each section of this digital exhibition.
The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement was the culmination of years of talks and negotiations between individuals and groups locally, nationally, and internationally which aimed to stop the violence which had been ongoing since the late 1960s and create a consensus for the future political framework of Northern Ireland.
After negotiations, walk-outs, and suspensions, an agreement was reached in Belfast on 10 April 1998, which was Good Friday. Before the Agreement could be ratified, the electorate in Northern Ireland had to accept its terms, while voters in the Republic of Ireland had to approve proposed amendments to the Irish Constitution.
By the end of May 1998, the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement was signed and endorsed. The challenge then was to implement its terms, beginning with elections to the first Northern Ireland Assembly. 25 years on, Northern Ireland is a more peaceful place but some divisions have endured, and violence has occurred at times.
Origins & Legacies: The Belfast/ Good Friday Agreement is a project developed by The Linen Hall
and has been supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.