On the Brink: The Politics of Conflict 1914-1916 was a three year Museum services-led community outreach project (April 2014 to March 2017).
The geography of the project covered three partner Borough Council areas of Mid and East Antrim (MEA), Antrim & Newtownabbey; Causeway Coast and Glens. MEA and Causeway Coast & Glens Councils were partners in the project’s delivery, with MEA the lead partner.
On the Brink sought to explain what, why and how we commemorate, in the aftermath of major outbreaks of war and revolution, and to question what we have forgotten and why? The project aimed to challenge one-sided interpretations of 1916 events, for the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, that still cause division and conflict in communities today.
The project was underpinned by the Decade of Centenaries Principles of Engagement developed by the Community Relations Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2011.
The project harnessed museum collections and local sites linked to war and revolution in the 1914-16 period, in all partner Council areas. A major purpose was to highlight key events, histories and multiple perspectives from the 1914-16 era, set within a local, national and international context.
Two major touring exhibitions were delivered, accompanied by facilitated curriculum-linked schools workshops. A cross-border aspect to the project was present in a partnership with Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin. Volunteers from both MEA and Causeway Coast and Glens Council areas were very important in sourcing material objects and stories of people, and in delivering 22 Mini-Tours to their local communities, of outdoor, landscape based on 1914-16 sites of remembrance.
A legacy of the project was that 9 volunteers achieved professional Tour Guide awards. A learning resource for adults and school children was produced.
What worked well and what, if anything, didn't?
Targets for public engagement with both touring exhibitions were well exceeded, confirming that a strong public demand existed, for access to accurate, well-presented locally relevant historical information linked to local people caught up in 1914 -16 events.
Combined target for both exhibitions = 8000
Total achieved = 18,413
Targets for facilitated schools workshops were also exceeded, with twenty-six workshops delivered over the entire project. At the start of the project eight workshops per Museum area in MEA and Causeway, or 16 in total was agreed.
Presenting the histories of 1916 such as the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, side by side in workshops and exhibitions, enabled visitors to see them as interconnected responses to a complex national and international situation. These events of war and revolution still form the basis of separate and conflicting community identity today.
Combining workshop sessions with an On the Brink exhibition visit produced better learning experiences for school children, than a workshop on it’s own, as judged by self-completed evaluation reports. Possibly, the visual experience of seeing pictures and Museum objects of local people involved in 1914-16 events, was something they related to well and so developed participant’s understanding following a workshop session.
Nine volunteers gained OCN Level 2 Tour Guiding awards. The volunteer strand exceeded all it’s targets, as detailed in the 'On the Brink Volunteer Strand Evaluation' document, produced by external evaluator, Blue Print Development in 2017. An important factor was the high level of support given to Volunteers, by Museum staff.
Outdoor, landscape based Volunteer-led Mini-Tours were much more successful in meeting the project’s aims to engage with local communities, compared to lecture-style workshops. The active outdoor Mini-Tours led by Volunteers from participant’s own communities, and focusing on local heritage of 1914-16 people, can most probably explain this.
Donald Bell, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Helen Perry, email@example.com
Please see : http://www.thebraid.com/on-the-brink/