The Museum of Free Derry in the Bogside has become the first museum in the North to enter for accreditation status in the South’s Heritage Council and, as a result, is the first Northern Ireland museum ever to achieve its Interim status.
Adrian Kerr, Manager of Museum of Free Derry, explained the importance of this accreditation, which is through the Heritage Council’s Museums Standards Programme for Ireland.
“Anyone can set up a museum, but to be recognised as a museum properly, you have to follow certain guidelines in terms of collection control, documentation and preserving the items in your collection.
Ireland has two systems of museum accreditation. In the North, the Northern Ireland Museums Council (NIMC) are the authority on museums, while in the South museums are maintained by the Heritage Council. There are two levels, interim and full accreditation.
“We are the first museum in the north to ever enter Heritage Council’s accreditation programme and we’ve now achieved interim accreditation. It’s like an industry standard for museums and means that we are looking after the collections properly and that we’re recording and documenting everything properly. Really, it means that we are doing everything that a museum is supposed to do and now we have another two years to achieve full status.”
Mr Kerr revealed that this museum standards is a fairly new programme: “Most of the museums in the South including some of the national museums are also at this standard. We’re the first in the North to enter it and the first in the North to achieve Interim status.
“We see it as a major achievement for us considering we’ve only been opened as a museum since 2007 and we originally set up the museum as part of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign. We are not a museum organisation, a museum was simply chosen as the best way to tell the story.”
Mr Kerr said that this accolade will give people donating items added confidence that the museum is capable of looking after their items.
“We’re now accepted as being run to a proper standard, which makes it easier to apply for grants too.”
Mr Kerr also expressed his appreciation to Derry City Council for invaluable support throughout the accreditation process.
“The Council’s Heritage Museums Service have been very, very helpful to date, giving us professional help to maintain this high standard and we are really grateful to them. The work we’ve now done with the Heritage Council takes us further along the road towards accreditation with the Northern Ireland Museums Council. In the next few years, we are confident of achieving accreditation with the NIMC, which would make us the only museum to be accredited on both sides of the border,” he said.
Phase Two of the Museum of Free Derry is in the pipeline.
“We intend for this museum to be here permanently, and we have big plans for the extension. We have every intention that this museum will remain here in the Bogside as a permanent legacy of that period, particularly remembering Bloody Sunday.
“It is so important that people visiting the city get the full story of what happened here. It’s just as important for us to be here as it is for the Apprentice Boys to have their museum or for the Tower Museum to be here.”
“Although the economic climate is tough, numbers keep going up by 10% every year and we’re actually a couple of years ahead of where we expected to be in terms of numbers. We’re very pleased with that.
“People from all over the world are coming to see the museum, and what’s even more pleasing is how many schools are coming nowadays. They come from the North and South, and from both sides of the community and that continues to increase every year.”
“Things have been going very well so far, we’re very confident that we will get the money raised to pay for the new build and complete the job that we set out to do and achieving this accreditation standard is an important step along that road,” he added.