Wartime tales at Ulster Museum for New Lodge teenagers

wartime artefacts Chelsea Haughey shows a death penny and T.P. Ward shows a wartime photograph from the Ulster Museum as part of the National Memory: Local Stories project

Air raids, conscription, evacuation and rationing - just some of the grim realities of the First World War, far removed from the lives of today's teenagers.

However, students from the New Lodge area of north Belfast have been getting an unusual history lesson from the Ulster Museum.

Eleven young people, aged between 13 and 16, from New Lodge Arts, have taken part in a project to learn more about Belfast's military history.

National Memory: Local Stories is a UK-wide project that aims to give young people a better insight into the First World War ahead of next year's centenary commemorations.

Soldier diary

The group took part in workshops based at the Ulster Museum and New Lodge Arts, which explored personal stories and objects from the museum's war collections.

They were shown a variety of items, including the wartime diaries of a young soldier, recruitment posters, uniforms and even a German soldier's cigarette case, which still contains two-and-a-half un-smoked cigarettes.

One of the teenagers who enjoyed the workshops was Thomas Poland.

He said: "The diary of George Hackney was very interesting. The diary was so small - even my phone is bigger.

"I didn't know that much about the First World War before I did the project, but I know a lot more about it now. I find it interesting, learning what happened and why people would think of going to war. I would never think of going to war myself."

Portraits

The New Lodge group also had the opportunity to work alongside Irish artist, Ursula Burke, who took on the role of artist-in-residence during the workshops.

group photo The group of teenagers from New Lodge Arts produced personalised panels reflecting their thoughts on the First World War

Ursula set up a portraiture studio, similar to those used in the First World War, where the teenagers took a nostalgic trip back to 1914 by dressing up in wartime attire to model for a series of portraits.

The young people also created a series of digitally printed panels reflecting what they learned during the workshops.

They took photographs in the New Lodge community, drew sketches and learned about local wartime history with historian Joe Baker.

Each of them combined pictures and words to produce a personalised panel conveying their thoughts on Belfast during the First World War.

Head of learning at the Ulster Museum, Colleen Watters, praised the teenagers for their involvement in the project.

"It was a pleasure to work with the teenagers. Their enthusiasm and energy was remarkable and their superb panels reflect how much they themselves put into it. Their interest in the subject was matched by their talent and I warmly congratulate them," she said.

The panels are on display in the Belfast Room at the Ulster Museum until 17 November.

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