Heritage as a weapon against polarisation: how the (Northern) Irish museum sector engages with the consequences of Brexit

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In this study the engagement of the (Northern) Irish museum sector with Brexit is analysed by centralizing the notion of heritage and taking Cavan County Museum in Ireland as a case study. The research question that will be explored in this thesis is: In what ways does the (Northern) Irish museum sector, as exemplified by The Cavan County Museum, employ heritage to engage with and reflect on the consequences of Brexit for the Irish border region? The answer to the research question will be explored by placing the (Northern) Irish museum sector in a British as well as European context. The study consists of an analysis of previously conducted research and three interviews held with two staff members of The Cavan County Museum as well as one registrar from the Dutch Kröller-Müller museum. From the analysis it has become evident that heritage is a cultural process that can change over time and in the context of different societies and communities. The way heritage is portrayed thus differs per border region community in (Northern) Ireland. Due to the long-lasting conflict regarding the border, polarising views from different communities are still noticeable today. The Cavan County Museum therefore employed heritage through the Connecting People, Places and Heritage project which allowed children and adults from both sides of the border to interact through workshops, booklets, guest speakers, heritage trails and a commemoration programme. The goal of The Cavan County Museum was to bring communities from different sides of the border together, to create a sense of respect and understanding for each community. The Cavan County Museum intends to keep on employing heritage in such a way especially in the wake of Brexit, even though issues regarding funding from the European Union may make it more difficult for the museum to develop projects the same way as they did before Brexit. Keywords: The Cavan County Museum, (Northern) Irish border region, heritage, Brexit, polarisation, othering, museum sector, social inclusion, cross-border.
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