Events | IMA Event

National Museums: Narrating the Nation

29 October | 10:00 - 05 November | 18:30

National Museum of Ireland and NCAD (National College of Art & Design)

This conference will provide a forum for discussion of historic and current museum practices and debates in different national settings including New Zealand, Russia, Pakistan, Canada, Benin and Ireland. Our motivation in bringing together this wide range of experts is to learn how ideas of the nation have been materialised, collected, visualised, manufactured, articulated, displayed and performed in national museums in the past and in the present day.

A further aim is to speculate about the future role and strategies national museums might utilise in relation to contemporary debates about material heritage. 


Programme (all times Irish Standard Time / UTC +1)


Friday 29 October 2021


  • 10.00 Welcome by Lynn Scarff, Director of the National Museum of Ireland and Professor Sarah Glennie, Director of the National College of Art and Design (NCAD)
  • 10.15-12.30: Panel 1 – National Museum of Ireland: Past, Present and Future chaired by Brenda Malone, National Museum of Ireland (NMI)

Dr Rachel Hand, Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Cambridge

Folklore Collectors and Ethnologists: Material Culture and the Work of the Irish Folklore Commission Dr Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, National Irish Folklore Archive

Past Actions, Present Opportunities: The Natural History Museum in the Nineteenth Century Dr Sherra Murphy, Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology

  • 14.00-15.30: Panel 2 – Museums and Politics Today chaired by David Crowley, NCAD

Crushing Culture, Dismantling Defiance: the Politics of Mesopotamian Museology Isra Samara Saymour, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

Russia—My History: A Participatory Museum or a Disciplinary Institution? Alina Parker (Ryabovolova), University of Massachusetts Amherst

Holy Heritage, Secular Symbol: Hagia Sophia and Narratives of National Identity in the Republic of Turkey Dr Gregory Goalwin, Assistant Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois, USA

  • 16.00-17.30: Panel 3 – Museums After Conflict chaired by Dr Audrey Whitty, NMI

For the Museum Yet-to-Come: Preserving Non-National Memory in Lebanon Dr Renée Ragin Randall, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

The (National) Key Problem of Sarajevo’s Lock-Down of Cultural Institutions from 2011 Sandra Bradvić, art historian, curator and art critic

Sites of Contested National Identity and History: Peace Museums Dr. Joyce Apsel, Clinical Professor, Liberal Studies, College of Arts & Sciences, New York University

  • 18.00-19.30: Keynote lecture from Dr Michèle Gates Moresi, Curator of Collections, National Museum of African American History and Culture Programme


Friday 5 November 2021


  • 9.00-10.00: Arapata Hakiwai, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, in conversation with Brian Crowley, OPW Kilmainham Gaol
  • 10.00-12.00: Panel 4 - Museums in Ireland – Communities and Difference chaired by Gina O’Kelly, Irish Museums Association

On the Irish Traveller Community and Museums Rosa Meehan, curator at the National Museum of Country Life and Oein DeBhairduin, researcher and community activist

Making the Future: Creative Approaches to Dealing with the Legacy of the Past William Blair, Director of Collections at National Museums NI, and Hannah Crowdy, Head of Curatorial at National Museums NIA

Subversive Shrine: Alternative histories in Kilmainham Gaol Brian Crowley, curator at OPW Kilmainham Gaol

  • 12.30-13.30: Rethinking Rural Life: Materiality and The Question of Racial Capitalism in the Museum Keynote lecture from Professor Wayne Modest, Director of Content National Museum of World Cultures, Wereldmuseum Rotterdam and Head of the Research Centre for Material Culture
  • 14.30-16.30: Panel 5 - Museums in Post-Colonial Societies chaired by Dr Lisa Godson, NCAD (National College of Art & Design)

‘World Cultures’ in the North: histories of representation in National Museums NI Dr Briony Widdis, ESRC-funded Postdoctoral Fellow, Queen’s University Belfast

Nation Building and Lahore Museum (1947-2000) Komal Afzaal, History Department, Government College University Lahore

The National Gallery of Canada- Settler-Colonial Myth-making and Decolonization Dr Anne Dymond, Associate Professor of Art History/Museum Studies, The University of Lethbridge, and Dr Devon Smither. Associate Professor of Art History/Museum Studies at The University of Lethbridge

Politics and Pride: The Historic Museum of Abomey (Benin) Dr Lynne Ellsworth Larsen, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

  • 17.00-18.30: Counter-Conduct in The Museum or the Practice of Academic Iconoclasm Keynote lecture from Professor Clémentine Deliss


This conference is one outcome of a strategic partnership between the National Museum of Ireland and the National College of Art and Design, a collaborative project that has enriched both institutions through student projects, research initiatives and joint public events. The conference is convened by colleagues across both institutions: David Crowley, Head of Visual Culture (NCAD), Lisa Godson, Programme Leader of MA Design History and Material Culture (NCAD), Brenda Malone, Curator of Military History, Arms and Armour, Flags, Banners and Transport (NMI) and Audrey Whitty, Deputy Director/Head of Collections and Learning (NMI)