Following an observation that many Civil Defence posts and stations were decorated with drawings and paintings, the Ministry of Public Security announced in late 1942 that an exhibition of arts and crafts, produced by Civil Defence members, was to be held in the Belfast Museum and Art Gallery (now the Ulster Museum, Belfast). The Northern Ireland Civil Defence Exhibition of Arts and Crafts was then held annually, each spring, in the same venue until the end of the Second World War.
Our object of the month for July 2019 is a watercolour painting by Air Raid Warden, James D McCord who was stationed on the Cavehill Road. The Northern Ireland War Memorial holds other works by McCord, including a comic sketch of a Belfast ARP training exercise that is currently on display in our temporary display cases.
Although the area is much changed, can anyone guess what road in Belfast the watercolour depicts?
We are currently carrying out conservation work to the marble memorial wall and granite plinth in the museum.
Both the black marble memorial wall (sable de noir) and the granite plinth were made for the original War Memorial building which opened in 1963 on Waring Street. They were extracted and integrated into the museum on Talbot Street when we relocated in 2008.
In 2008 the Northern Ireland War Memorial was awarded a Royal Society of Ulster Architects award for the integration of the memorial wall and other artworks in the new museum.
The Northern Ireland War Memorial became an Accredited Museum in 2013.
RL Conservation will treat the marble wall and granite plinth in August to address a number of issues which include:
unskilled historic repairs with synthetic resins
grout residue and scratches
the high gloss finish which is distracting to viewers
handling dirt from daily use, incidental paint residue on plinth
residue from floor adhesives at base of plinth from original location in Waring Street
RL Conservation will clean the marble wall and granite plinth, address the issues above and apply a protective coating in a matte finish.
The museum will remain open while this important work takes place and we will try to keep disruption to a minimum.
Our conservator will be happy to answer any questions you have so call in and see the work in progress on Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout August.
Although the Armistice to end the fighting of the First World War was signed on 11th November 1918, the Treaty of Versailles that set out the peace terms between the Allied Powers and Germany was not signed until June 1919.
This is why some First World War memorials, such as that of the former North of Ireland Football Club (now held by NIWM) display the dates 1914-1919.
On this day, 19th July, in 1919 The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland marked the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and the formal end of the First World War with a Bank and Public Holiday known as Peace Day.
The main celebrations took place in London and these included a victory parade of nearly 15,000 troops led by the Allied Commanders, a speech from King George V and the unveiling of a temporary monument in Whitehall to those who were killed and wounded (later replaced by a permanent stone monument in 1920 that still stands today).
It took a few more weeks for towns in Ireland to organise their own events but newspapers, such as the Larne Times reported on the Peace Day celebrations across the country under headlines such as ‘London Lets Itself Go’, ‘Joyous Day in Antrim’ and ‘Armagh’s Fine Display’.
Live Well is a National Museums NI community engagement project funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and designed to connect disadvantaged older people with museums. In 2018 National Museums decided to partner with six local museums, including the NIWM, in the delivery of the project. Live Well is delivered as a six week programme, with five outreach sessions and a museum visit. The project is designed to use collections and creativity as the basis for active engagement with older audiences.
Find out all about our Learning and Outreach Assistant Michael Fryer’s experience below:
The project initially involved Michael observing the delivery of a Live Well programme in Highfield Community Centre based on the collection of the Ulster Folk Museum. Live Well was then delivered by Michael on behalf of NIWM across six weekly sessions in the Grove Day Centre on a Wednesday afternoon with a group of 12 older people.
Sessions were themed around the Home Front, the Belfast Blitz, the American presence and the experience of evacuees with objects from the NIWM’s collection being used to accompany each theme. Creative activities were also developed for the programme including notebook decoupage based on a Luftwaffe map of Belfast; copper work American stars with facilitator Tineke Kroes; and painting papier mache evacuees’ suitcases. In the penultimate week the group visited the NIWM for a tour of the museum followed by a wartime sing along event.
In May we began to mark the 75th anniversary of
the Allied landings in Normandy on 6th June 1944 through the live
tweeting of a diary from a soldier who landed on Gold Beach. (You can follow his progress and experience
on twitter via https://twitter.com/Diary1944
or under the handle @Diary1944).
Due the sheer scale and success of the landings, it is easy
to forget that Allied armies were already fighting in Europe, in Italy. After
securing Sicily, the Allies landed on the Italian ‘toe’ in September 1943 and
faced heavy German resistance who were entrenched in a series of defensive
lines. After a number of offensives, the Allied armies broke through and American
troops entered Rome on 4th June 1944.
Our Object of the Month for June 2019 is this map of Rome (NIWM.2012.1615.008),
printed in 1945 for Rome Area Allied Command. It shows the locations of various
clubs, theatres and cinemas and places of worship for Allied troops that were
based or on leave in the city. It also
shows the city’s famous landmarks such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and
the Vatican City.
7 days, 7 themes, 7 hashtags and a cause #WomenInCulture.
Follow our #MuseumWeek posts on our social media platforms:
In the meantime we will post all our #MuseumWeek hashtags onto our website, so you can keep up with all our posts throughout the week.
Day One: Monday 13th May – #WomenInCulture
Elizabeth J Dickson (14.02.1911-27.07.2003)
Many thousands of women volunteered in the Second World War in a number of roles. On display in our museum, as part of a showcase dedicated to women in the war are war medals and a Civil Defence Long Service Medal belonging to Elizabeth J Dickson. Elizabeth served throughout the Second World War including during the Belfast Blitz of 1941 with St.John’s Ambulance in Belfast.
The Civil Defence Long Service Medal would have been awarded after 15 years continuous service.
We are always interested in hearing about the various roles and experiences of women during the Second World War in Northern Ireland. If you or someone you know have any objects, photographs or stories, we would love to hear from you.
Day Two: Tuesday 14th May – #SecretsMW
Tuesday’s #MuseumWeeek themes is #SecretsMW and we’ve decided to share an item from our collection that was so secret it was ‘to be kept under lock and key’.
As a Bomb Identification Officer in the ARP, Cecil Grossman attended lectures and training in which he was privy to information that the normal public would not have known. His notebook, dated 1941, contains confidental information of ‘Objects dropped from the air’ such as message tubes and auxiliary plywood petrol tanks, alongside German high explosive and incendiary bombs. Another of the notes states that parachute mines were also dropped, just as they were during the Belfast Blitz in April and May 1941 however it was not until 1944 that the British government publicly acknowledged Germany’s use of parachute mines.
Thankfully, this information is no longer a secret and such items help us to tell the story of how Northern Ireland was affected by the Second World War.
Day Three: Wednesday 15th May 2019 – #PlayMW
For #PlayMW we took part in Northern Ireland Museums Council’s ‘Match the Mascot’ Quiz:
Day Four: Thursday 16th May 2019 – #RainbowMW
For #RainbowMW we thought we would share the most colourful item in our museum, our stained-glass window.
Designed by Stanley Murray Scott (1912-1997) the window is a memorial to those who died in the First and Second World War. The central panels record the sacrifice made by people from all walks of life during both World Wars. It bears the inscription, ‘They gave their lives that we might live. We will remember them.’ On either side of the window are two columns of flame with the badges of six services – the Royal Navy, the ARP, the Royal Air Force, the Army, the Nursing Services and the Merchant Navy.
Scott was a leading English glass designer and was chief designer in the stained-glass studios of Reed Millican in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The firm was renowned for its colourful glass of unrivalled quality, in particular the rich ruby red which can be seen in the window.
Day Five: Friday 17th May 2019 – #ExploreMW
For #ExploreMW we are excited to share our new printable learning resources with you. 🎉📝
Visit our website and go to our Learning tab http://www.niwarmemorial.org/education-outreach/ to explore a range of free printable resources that can be used in both the classroom or at home. Some of the resources available include making your own Ration Book and Identity Card, colouring in a Spitfire and deciding which wartime recipe to bake!
We really hope you enjoy using them and we would love you to share your creations with us by using the hashtag #niwarmemorial on social media ☺️
Day Six: Saturday 18th May – #PhotoMW
Here at @NIWarMemorialMuseum we love seeing your pictures and reading reviews and comments from your visits.
Just look at this fab picture from our Culture Night event in September taken by Jessica Rowland 📸
Please continue to take pictures and leave us a review on social media using the hashtag #niwarmemorial. We love seeing our museum from your point of view.
And remember to follow us on: Facebook: @NIWarMemorialMuseum Twitter: @NIWarMemorial / @Diary1944 Instagram: @niwarmemorial
Day Seven: Sunday 19th May 2019 – #FriendsMW
It’s the final day of #museumweek and today’s theme is #FriendsMW, so we just wanted to take the opportunity to thank each of you for your continued support.
We have made so many friends at NIWM and we hope to make many more! ☺️
The Blitz Memorial is a mix of planks and people. The criss-cross of planks represent the destruction caused by war, while the sharp edges symbolise chaos. The figures in outline represent those who have been killed. They include an orphan and a mother who has lost her baby. The complete figures in black are the living people who have been left behind to bring order out of chaos.
Each year around the anniversary of the 1941 air raids, we lay a wreath on this memorial to remember the lives lost in Northern Ireland during the Belfast Blitz.
Visit the museum to view the memorial and to view our other artworks that help tell the story of Northern Ireland in the Second World War.
On Tuesday 16th April 2019 at 1.00pm, the Northern Ireland War Memorial (NIWM) hosted a public event to commemorate the Belfast Blitz.
In April and May 1941 Belfast suffered four air raids, two of which were classed as major. The event on Tuesday 16th April marked the anniversary of the Easter Tuesday raid which was the first major raid and the one most people remember. Air raid warden James Doherty who helped rescue survivors aptly describes the Belfast Blitz as ‘the most disastrous event in the history of this city.’ It resulted in the death of 1,000 civilians and the destruction or damage of over half the city’s housing stock.
Invited guests, some of whom lived through the Second World War, gathered in the museum to lay a wreath in memory of the lives lost in the Belfast Blitz. Guests included Ann McNeilly (78) who was born under a kitchen table in East Belfast during the Easter Tuesday raid. In attendance were relatives of air raid warden James Doherty (1920-2008) who wrote an account of his Blitz experience in Post 381, The Memoirs of a Belfast air raid warden. James Doherty was awarded a Defence Medal which is on display at NIWM alongside other objects relating to Civil Defence and the Belfast Blitz.
Local actress Sharon Dickson performed A Belfast Story, evoking memories of the past with this monologue based on her mother’s experience of the Belfast Blitz.
Other invited guests included interviewees from NIWM’s Oral History Project, The War and Me. The War and Me aims to collect stories and war time experiences. Through its oral history programmes NIWM has interviewed 76 people so far, but would like to learn more about the Belfast Blitz, the US Forces stationed in NI, the evacuation of children to the countryside, farming and industry, the work of air raid wardens, the Ulster Home Guard and those who enlisted and served. All stories collected are added to the museum collection and made available to researchers, school groups and the media in the future.
NIWM continues to appeal to the public to take part in the oral history program as it seeks to discover how the people of Northern Ireland were affected by the Second World War.
As an accredited museum, NIWM also welcomes donations of photographs and objects relating to the Second World War in Northern Ireland.
More information about The War and Me oral history project can be found online: www.niwarmemorial.org.
NVTV filmed our Belfast Blitz Commemoration event. The feature can be viewed by following the link: https://vimeo.com/331009540 and watching from 15.00 onwards.