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2010s Collection Highlights

Da Vincis, Derry Girls and Dippy the Dinosaur!

UM50 2010s hero

In the space of ten years our exhibition halls hosted everything from da Vinci to Derry Girls and Dippy the dinosaur! 

Our 2012 ‘Age of the Dinosaur’ exhibition saw some of our impressive animatronic robot dinosaurs of the 1990s return to action. Then, in 2018 we hosted the Natural History Museum’s iconic 26-metre-long Diplodocus, Dippy on his first UK-wide tour!   

Dippy at Ulster Museum
Figure 1: Dippy at Ulster Museum

In 2019, the Royal Collection Trust selected our museum and 11 others to exhibit works by Leonardo da Vinci, this marked 500 years since the Renaissance master's death. Alongside these special exhibitions, the new Troubles and Beyond Gallery opened on Good Friday 2018. This exhibition was curated as part of our Collecting for The Troubles and Beyond project, which aimed to widen the collection through community engagement; ensuring that the objects can be used to support a full and inclusive narrative. 

Members of the public were encouraged to come forward to collecting events held at Ulster Museum and community venues, bringing  their own objects and memories. The exhibition does not simply focus on the violence that dominated the news agenda, but sets the Troubles in their social, cultural and economic context. 

The exhibition now includes the iconic ‘differences’ blackboard from Channel 4’s Derry Girls series.   

Figure 2: Derry Girls ‘Differences’ Blackboard
Figure 2: Derry Girls ‘Differences’ Blackboard

The blackboard nods to various ideas about cultural and religious stereotypes in Northern Ireland, and the Culture Lab project offers an opportunity to ask deeper questions about identity in Northern Ireland. The blackboard is accompanied by the Culture Lab's interactive quiz “Religious Stereotype Calculator”, a tongue-in-cheek game testing players’ preconceptions and challenging traditional stereotypes. You can still try the quiz here.    

Another highlight of the decade was the museum’s partnership with the Outburst Queer Arts festival in 2014. We held our first ever LGBTQ+ event with legendary performance artist David Hoyle, giving a “Queer Tour” of our collections.   

Queer Arts Fest cover
Figure 3: Outburst Queer Arts Festival 2014 Programme, BELUM.W2017.25.8
Figure 3: Outburst Queer Arts Festival 2014 Programme, BELUM.W2017.25.8
Figure 3: Outburst Queer Arts Festival 2014 Programme, BELUM.W2017.25.8

Throughout the 2010s, Northern Ireland became a hotspot for tourism generated by from the popular Game of Thrones series. We celebrated the show’s unique connection to Northern Ireland by welcoming the amazing Game of Thrones tapestry to our collection. The 87-metre-long tapestry tells a remarkable story of its own. Hand stitched by our own curators and a group of dedicated volunteers in collaboration with HBO and Tourism Ireland. It was first displayed in 2017 but was taken down and updated before being redisplayed with the addition of the final season.

It was inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the conquest of England by William Duke of Normandy in 1066. The two tapestries were united in September 2019 when the Game of Thrones tapestry travelled to France to be exhibited next to the Bayeux Tapestry.

Game of Thrones Tapestry
Figure 4: The Battle of the Bastards, The Game of Thrones® Tapestry

The decade also saw our Natural Sciences collections welcome a curious object. Now dubbed one of the ‘most dangerous toys of all time’, the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory was a children’s laboratory set that offered children '150 fun experiments!'. To conduct these experiments there were several vials of chemicals such as Uranium 238. The toy was manufactured in 1951, and withdrawn from sale in the same year.

This toy is now on display in our Elements exhibition.

Atomic Energy Lab
Figure 5: Dr. Mike Simms with the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab