Having been off work for two whole weeks, I committed myself to do one of the things that I have been intending to do for too long- visit the refurbished Ulster Museum in Belfast. It reopened in 2009 and houses various exhibitions in a contemporary space.
The history of Ireland was the highlight for me, from medieval times right through to the troubles. I enjoy learning about history but strangely I only remember learning about World War II, Vietnam War, Cold War between USA and Russia, in school. This could be terrible memory on my part or perhaps the history of our Island is too dividing or contentious but it is so interesting and important to know about our own past. It helped put a lot into context for me, in terms of understanding the troubles better. Shameful to admit but much of the exhibition was new information to me, or perhaps felt new because of it’s presentation. In timeline format, I found it fascinating to work my way through the centuries to the present day. I would seriously recommend a visit to anyone who, like me, enjoys history and is a bit sketchy on some details of Irish past.
A visiting exhibition, The Queen: Art and Image, was one that I found quite interesting too although did not like the layout of the exhibition at all. It contained various photos of the Queen since her coronation. Some photos are documentary and more informal, others are official portraits taken by Annie Leibowitz (love her!) and Cecil Beaton. There are also art pieces from Andy Warhol and Chris Levine. The content was good but the timeline through the decades wasn’t clear and chopped and changed from wall to wall- it didn’t flow well and was unclearly marked. However that aside, I enjoyed studying the photographs.
Through this exhibition and into another space, we were met with more modern art works under the title Silent Echoes. The title is taken from a recent acquisition Silent Echoes, Ohara (2008), a sound sculpture by American artist Bill Fontana made by recording the sounds echoing within a Japanese temple bell when it is ‘silent’. This piece could feel a little strange to some but I thought it was truly lovely. As you sit in darkness looking at the film of a bell- unmoving, the room is filled with sounds from within it. This drew particular emotions from me as it reminded me of someone dear who died in 2011. The sound and the apparent lack of movement- to the naked eye at least- was calming and warm.
There are many other areas of the Museum dedicated to the Living World with animal replicas and Ancient Egypt. We didn’t see everything during this visit so plan to go back again soon. The bonus is it is FREE admission- yay! Perfect for those of us on a budget and kids would also love much of the content in the exhibitions as well as us grown ups. There is a restaurant and shop, and the museum is located right beside Botanic Gardens so very easy to get to. You can usually find parking on a side street (depending on time of visit).
A thumbs up from me on the Ulster Museum! Our next stop is Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh….