Lonely Planet Writer

A new £2.4 million museum in Derry recalls years of struggle in Northern Ireland

The Museum of Free Derry has reopened after a £2.4 million refurbishment and extension, reports the BBC. The museum charts a turbulent time in Derry (Londonderry)’s history in the 1960s and ’70s and is located in the Bogside, where fighting between Catholics and the Royal Ulster Constabulary over three days in 1969 sparked the thirty-year conflict known as the Troubles.

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The museum tells the story of events including Bloody Sunday, the notorious day in January 1972 when 14 civil rights marchers were shot dead by the British Army. A number of items from the day are exhibited, including the Queen’s University Civil Rights Association banner. The flag was dropped in a derelict house as the protesting students fled gunfire, and was found by a local boy who kept it in his attic for 30 years. The front wall of the museum includes an artwork created by local artist Locky Morris called ‘We Shall Overcome’. Its shape is based on the wave form of the civil rights anthem of the same name, which the crowd sang on Bloody Sunday. 

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The museum features multi-media exhibits, photos, uniforms and newspaper reports from the time. Manager Adrian Kerr said he was happy the museum had reopened after two years in a temporary space. “We are all thrilled that the new museum is at long last ready to open,” he told the BBC. “It will allow us to do a lot more work in educating people about this very important era in our history, and will make a visit to the museum a much more rewarding and stimulating experience for all visitors, be they from the city or from across the world.”

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Bogside sits just outside Derry’s famous city walls, which date from the 17th century and give the city it’s nickname, the Maiden City, because they have never been breached. Derry was named the UK’s City of Culture in 2013 and is an artistic and cultural hub. Its redeveloped waterfront and the elegant Peace Bridge are among highlights for visitors. To the east stretches the stunning coast of County Antrim, which featured in Game of Thrones, while to the west is the Wild Atlantic Way, a popular driving route that snakes along Ireland’s west coast.
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