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Like many countries, Ireland has a chaotic and tumultuous past which results in challenges for national cultural institutions in presenting history to satisfy the education and expectation of both national and transnational audiences. The Easter Rising of 1916- a failed rebellion against British rule- is the pivotal event in the creation of the modern Irish state and is synonymous as a moment in the past which represents Irish history, characterizes Irish culture and amplifies national identity.
With 2016 marking 100years since the Easter Rising, my paper will explore how the recent centenary commemorations of this historic event have been a valuable opportunity for Ireland to engage with its past openly and creatively on a substantial platform.
Historically, the commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising have tended to flip flop. In 1966, the 50th commemorations were momentous and large in scale whilst in 1991 for the 75th anniversary, the commemorations were low key and with events being organised by independent committees instead of the state. Earlier this year, ambitious centenary commemorations have produced a broadening of frameworks and a reconceptualization of historical narratives and commemorative practices to affectively deal with the pluralist history of political events in Ireland. My paper will reflect on how sites such as the National Museum of Ireland and the Irish Museum of Modern Art have demonstrated their significant responsibility in facilitating collective reflection, celebration and engagement with the state’s centenary programme this year.
My paper will explore the key role that national cultural institutions play in the commemorative process, examine transformations in contemporary commemorations and identify challenges which national cultural institutions face when presenting history to satisfy the education and expectation of both national and international audiences in a measured, reflective and informed manner with a full acknowledgement of the complexity of history and its legacy.
Doyle, Siobhan (2016) '1916 and the Challenges of Commemorative Exhibitions in Ireland'. Presented at Confronting Violent Pasts and Historical (In)Justice, Historical Justice and Memory Network Annual International Conference, University of Amsterdam, 1st-3rd December 2016.