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Free Derry Museum- a Review
derry | arts and media | feature Saturday February 10, 2007 13:51 by Paula Geraghty mspgeraghty at yahoo dot ie
No one who struggles for justice is a stranger here. No one who dies in the struggle is forgotten in Free Derry.
The Free Derry Museum is a community based museum telling the story of the people of the Bogside, Creggan and the Brandywell over a four year period ending with the events of Bloody Sunday, where 14 people were killed by the Paratroop regiment of the British army.
John Kelly was standing at the museum entrance, chatting to a woman about the 35th anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday. He welcomed us in and told us how his brother Michael was one of those killed on that day. This was a true community museum, in the heart of Free Derry. Unlike most museums, it doesn’t ‘own’ any of the items on display; rather, they are all on loan from the families and individuals involved.
The museum tells an unashamed story of how a community fought off and resisted one of the world’s largest Empires, and how the emerging Civil Rights movement drew inspiration from the Black Civil Rights movement in the U.S. Through the best museum panels that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, Derry is immediately placed within the context of 1960’s global resistance to injustice. No one could be in any doubt that this was an isolated, inward looking community, but one that sought unity and expressed solidarity with others, whoever or wherever they were.
The small museum relies heavily on panels, with a small selection of objects which illustrate the depth of deprivation, discrimination and oppression. These included a blood-stained babygrow and a bandage which had been used as first aid on Michael Kelly as he was dying. Original RUC helmets and batons were also on display. They looked worn. Empty milk bottles stuffed with cloth, without petrol, sat on a glass shelf. William McKinney was an avid amateur film maker whose footage from Bloody Sunday is looped on a large screen. He was later shot dead. Also poignantly displayed is his camera.
One of the highlights are the interactive computer screens showing slides, images and extra material not on display. One element is the complex interactive programme, taken from the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. It’s a virtual tour of Free Derry in 1972 with all the so-called ‘hotspots’ marked out on a map. When one is clicked on, there is an option of looking at the scene as a panorama, like in a computer game, with original buildings (now long gone) superimposed over images from today. Witnesses at the inquiry used this technology to assist with identifying where they actually were on the day. It cost well over £100,000 sterling to produce this package for the Inquiry. All families of victims received copies, and in turn, shared them with the museum.
John Kelly kindly gave an interview to Indymedia Tuesday morning about the museum, the events of Bloody Sunday and the stories and lives of those who suffered as a result. The interview is 9 minutes long.
The final panel in the museum goes like this:
“Bloody Sunday calls to mind, Wounded Knee, Darfur, Grozny, Gaza, Fallujah….
The Bloody Sunday families’ campaign has been an epic search for truth. We may hope that their indomitable persistence has illuminated a way forward for victims of state violence everywhere.
Rise like Lions after slumber
Free Derry is a fragment of a better world which we strive to ensure humanity will one day wake to, cleansed of all evil, oppression and violence, where the will of the people alone holds sway, and justice and law are as one.
No one who struggles for justice is a stranger here. No one who dies in the struggle is forgotten in Free Derry.”
IMC interview with John Kelly of the Free Derry Museum 4.15 Mb