Page last updated at 07:08 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

Digital museum's object lesson in NI history

Salamander
This jewelled salamander pendant was discovered on a shipwreck off the Antrim coast

What object would you choose to represent Northern Ireland in a digital archive?

The BBC has teamed up with museums across Great Britain and Northern Ireland for an ambitious multi-media history project.

A History of the World aims to collect objects with local and global resonances, with a hope of providing different perspectives on the events which shaped our world.

The centrepiece of the project is a landmark series on BBC Radio 4, A History of the World in 100 Objects, which tells the story of 100 objects from the British Museum's collection.

A website has also been set up where people can submit their choices of objects which bring to life the momentous events from the past.

The keys to Colditz Castle, a mortar from the Siege of Derry and a copy of the Good Friday Agreement are among 25 initial selections from Northern Ireland out of 700 overall.

The website is like one of those books you pick up intending to browse for moments but are then so enthralled you simply want to spend hours engrossed in it
Claire Burgoyne
BBC

Sinead McCartan of National Museums Northern Ireland said the panel of experts found it incredibly difficult to narrow their selection down to just 25 objects.

"It's now up to the public to make the website a museum like no other," she added.

The project is about finding "the extraordinary stories behind ordinary things", according to the BBC's Claire Burgoyne.

She said something as seemingly mundane as a pay slip from a DeLorean worker in the early 1980s "could tell us so much about a period in our industrial history, about desperate times and great dreams".

DeLorean car
DeLorean cars were manufactured in Belfast in the early 1980s

"Thousands of other relatively simple items can equally have the most riveting stories.

"The website is like one of those books you pick up intending to browse for moments but are then so enthralled you simply want to spend hours engrossed in it.

"It's so simple for people to photograph a favourite item and put it on the site.

"When they do, it's there forever and they'll receive an email confirming the object is now placed in the digital museum."

Programmes to be broadcast over the next year include 25 short films about the inaugural objects from Northern Ireland.

Gerry Anderson's radio show will lead the search for the public's suggestions, while Radio Ulster's Your Place and Mine will feature some of the lesser-known objects in an attempt to unearth some of the hidden stories of Northern Ireland's past.


To give you a flavour of what's in store, here are Northern Ireland's first 25 objects for A History of the World.

Keys to Colditz Castle (Somme Heritage Centre, Newtownards) - Prisoner-of-war Dick Morgan took the keys at the end of WWII as he waited in the German prison to be sent back home. When he died his widow sent the keys to his fellow PoW, former Royal Ulster rifleman Corran Purdon; More about Colditz keys

Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift (Armagh Public Library) - Dean Swift spent time in the Armagh area - this first-edition copy carries amendments in Swift's own handwriting; More about Gulliver's Travels

The Bastille Jug
The Bastille Jug commemorates the French Revolution

The Bastille jug

(Sentry Hill Historic House and Visitor Centre, Newtownabbey) - The jug belonged to the family of United Irishman John McKinney and commemorates the French Revolution; More about jug

Mortar from the siege of Derry (St Columb's Cathedral, Londonderry) - The shell was fired into the city by the Jacobite forces during the siege of 1689. It landed in the churchyard and contained a letter giving terms of surrender - the citizens' reply was "no surrender"; More about mortar

Ejector seat (Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, Cultra) - The device to eject from fighter planes was invented by James Martin, who was born in 1893 in Crossgar, County Down; More about ejector seat

Inauguration chair of the O'Neills (Ulster Museum, Belfast) - The only surviving example of its kind, the chair was owned in the 14th and 15th centuries by the Clandeboye O'Neills who along with the rest of Gaelic Ulster lost their independence in the Nine Years War and fled to continental Europe in the Flight of the Earls; More about O'Neill's chair

Shipyard worker's ticket to Titanic launch (Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra) - The Titanic was built in Belfast's Harland and Woolf shipyard, and the ticket was issued to painter David Moneypenny who had worked on the ship's first-class accommodation; More about Titanic ticket

Takabuti (Ulster Museum, Belfast) - The first Egyptian mummy to be brought to Ireland, arriving in Belfast in 1834; More about Takabuti

Civil Rights banner (The Museum of Free Derry) - Brought on several civil rights marches in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was last carried on the anti-internment march which would become known as Bloody Sunday, when 14 people were killed by the British army; More about civil rights banner

Inauguration chair of the O'Neills
The Inauguration chair of the O'Neills is the last surviving object of its kind

Jewelled salamander pendant

(Ulster Museum, Belfast) - A good luck charm recovered off the north Antrim coast from the wreckage of the Girona, a Spanish Armada ship which sank in 1588; More about salamander pendant

Copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic (Ulster Museum, Belfast) - During the 1916 Easter Rising, the document was handed to a Belfast man visiting Dublin, and he later donated it to the museum; More about proclamation

Lost Lives book (Linen Hall Library, Belfast) - An account of every death caused by the Troubles in Northern Ireland; More about Lost Lives

Paymaster General's accounts book (Schomberg House, Belfast) - A document written before and after the 1690 Battle of the Boyne by Paymaster General Thomas Coningsby which gives an insight into the mechanics and economics of warfare in 17th century Europe; More about the accounts book

DeLorean car (Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra) - The 'futuristic' car was built in Belfast in the early 1980s; More about De Lorean

Bangor Bell
The Bangor Bell was reputedly found around 1780 by gravediggers

Bangor Bell

(North Down Museum, Bangor) - Reputedly found around 1780 by gravediggers at Bangor Abbey, it is thought to have been hidden during the time of Viking attacks on Irish monasteries; More about the Bangor Bell

Stained glass fragment from Ypres Cathedral (Somme Heritage Centre, Newtownards) - The Belgian city of Ypres was devastated during WWI, and a fragment of the cathedral was brought home by a soldier; More about Ypres glass fragment

Damask napkin (Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum) - The napkin was made for a Burmese paddle steamer company - Irish damask table linen was provided as a home comfort for upper-class European passengers travelling along the Irrawaddy River; More about napkin

The Annals of the World by Ussher (Armagh Public Library) - An attempt by a 17th century clergyman to date the events in the Bible and establish the date of the Creation. James Ussher was archbishop of Armagh from 1625 to 1665 - in this first edition copy, he dates the creation to 23 October 4004 BC; More about Annals

A copy of the Good Friday Agreement (Bagenal's Castle, Newry) - The document was signed in Belfast on 10 April 1998; More about Good Friday Agreement

Ulster Appeal postcard (Bagenal's Castle, Newry) - Dating from 1912 and the unionist campaign against Home Rule; More about Ulster Appeal postcard

Conestoga wagon (Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh) - Originating in 1750, these wagons were able to cope with rough roads and would have taken early Irish immigrants out to the frontier; More about wagon

Famine relief tokens (Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh) - Given out during the potato famine in 1847; More about the famine relief tokens

Figurehead of Minnehaha (Harbour Museum, Derry) - The last great locally-owned vessel to be involved in transatlantic shipping before the advent of steam power, the Minnehaha operated from 1778, carrying passengers to New York where she was known as "the Green Yacht from Derry"; Moer about figurehead

The Promise Chalice (St Columb's Cathedral, Derry) - A silver gift chalice and paten sent in 1613 by the Honourable the Irish Society; More about chalice



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SEE ALSO
Face of Belfast mummy is revealed
16 Oct 09 |  Northern Ireland
The power brokers of 1998
19 Mar 08 |  Northern Ireland
Siege cannon back on home ground
13 May 06 |  Northern Ireland
DeLorean's dream of Belfast car empire
21 Mar 05 |  Northern Ireland

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