Page content

Ireland’s museums have long since been places of participation, exploration, cultural diversity and education. With Brexit ahead, a new report from Ulster University and the Irish Museums Association asks how the sector will continue to thrive and contribute both economically and culturally.

Through decades of cross border collaboration, museums in Ireland have explored the shared and diverse histories and cultures on this island. As Brexit approaches the museum sector is taking steps to ensure it not only survives but thrives in this shifting landscape.

The report, Brexit and the Museum Sector in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is part of a research project between Ulster University and the Irish Museums Association. The report builds upon a workshop Bridge over Brexit held in October 2017. With support by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the Cooperation with Northern Ireland scheme, the workshop brought together stakeholders from both sides of the border to discuss the effect of Brexit on the museum sector.

The key recommendation of the report is that individual museums and related cultural organisations undertake a Brexit Audit for the Museum Sector to ensure they are prepared for the changes to come. The authors recommend that the audit should consider funding, policy, planning and practice, workforce, training and new partnerships.

Elizabeth Crooke, Professor of Heritage and Museum Studies Ulster University said:

“The museum sector plays a vital role in our community, interpreting and showcasing our history and heritage. In generations to come Brexit will undoubtedly feature in the stories our museums will tell. Ulster University is committed to supporting the museum sector through our innovative learning programmes and equipping the future workforce with the relevant skills to ensure the sector continues to thrive.”

“For decades, museums in the north and south have been working together on partnerships and projects and sharing best practice. As Brexit approaches we must build upon these connections and continue to nurture our museums and cultural institutions as vital places at times of change.”

William Blair, Chair of the Irish Museums Association said:

“The challenge for the museum and wider cultural sector is to not allow Brexit disrupt the strong and effective cultural partnerships that currently exist and are being evidenced throughout the Decade of Centenaries.”

“Culture, education and research links can (and often do) outpace government or political links but these need to be nurtured.”

The report urges the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland to make funding available to the sector to undertake a Brexit Audit, via Northern Ireland Museums Council. The same should be undertaken for museums in the Republic of Ireland, with support from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht by way of the Heritage Council or Irish Museums Association.

Gina O’Kelly, Director, Irish Museums Association said:

“We must not place in jeopardy the unique cultural gateway provided by museums and their exemplary cross-border practice. In an already under-resourced sector, supporting and providing the tools to prepare for the changes ahead is key to how successfully our museums will navigate these unchartered waters.”

The ongoing research project between Ulster University and Irish Museums Association (2017-2019) aims to assess existing cross-border relationships and initiatives within the museum sector; explore the potential implications and lines of communication to prepare for the changes ahead; and advocate the role of the museum and the broader cultural sector in fostering relationships between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland during this period of change.