Exhibit explores Troubled Images (The Heights)

Exhibit explores Troubled Images
Tom Barletta (The Heights)
17 March 2003

Writing for The Heights (“The Independent School Newspaper of Boston College”), Tom Barletta writes, “Exhibit explores ‘Troubled Images'”:

A retrospective of political and terrorist propaganda posters, created and distributed during the conflict in Northern Ireland, opened for viewing in the John J. Burns Library. The display consists of more than 70 posters depicting the experience of great conflict in Northern Ireland ranging from racial peace pleas to boycott collaborations. The exhibit is the first of its kind in the United States.

“Troubled Images” will be open to the public until April 15. Some of the titles include “The Pat Funicane Inquiry” and “Our Murdered Colleagues.” The exhibit provides a realistic view of the conflict with posters from all sides of the conflict, ranging from loyalist paramilitary posters to those related to hunger strikes and the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, among others. According to the exhibit’s press release, these posters were literally removed from walls, lampposts, and other public displays.

Boston College is the first site for the exhibition in its international tour. Prior to arriving at the Burns Library, the collection was on display for a year at the Linen Hall Library. Established in 1788, Linen Hall is the oldest library in Belfast, Ireland and is home to the Northern Ireland Political Collection.

“We are delighted to be the inaugural site for this Northern American tour,” said Robert O’Neill, Burns librarian. “This exhibition brings home to people, in the starkest manner possible, what has been going on in Northern Ireland for the past 30 years.”

The next site for “Troubled Images” is Washington, DC, followed by a number of stops in the United States and abroad.

“Troubled Images” complements the exhibit at the McMullen Museum of Art, “Éire/Land,” which depicts the struggles of the Irish in desperate times.

A larger-scale “Troubled Images” venture parents the BC exhibition. The poster exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated book, that is the first major published exploration of the Northern Ireland posters, and a CD-Rom that includes images of 3,500 posters and relics from the Northern Ireland Political Collection, as well as insight with a collection of essays, interviews, and prison letters.

“Whether we are speaking of exhibition, book, or CD-ROM, our first intention is to open doors to understanding, and in an accessible way, for our own community. After all, they produced the material,” said John Gray, a Linen Hall librarian.

The Burns Library will conduct an invitation-only panel discussion this Thursday, March 20, to discuss the artifacts and the exhibit. Guests from Ireland, Linen Hall Librarians Yvonne Murphy and Gray, are expected to be present to discuss the conflict. The panel discussion will also include BC filmmaker John J. Michalczyk, who has produced a number of documentaries about the conflict, and Ed Maloney, author of “A Secret History of the IRA.”

According to David E. Horn, head of Archives and Manuscripts, artifacts that were supposed to arrive on March 3 are expected to be on display by the time the panel discussion takes place.

In addition to being the first stop on the exhibit’s tour, while at BC the exhibit will also feature some 100 related artifacts, such as plastic bullets used to contain protests to sectarian memorabilia. They will not accompany the posters to future sites, because the items have future destinations in Canada, South Africa, Paris, and London. They were sent to BC in recognition of the formal relationship that exists between Linen Hall Library and BC.

“The artifacts, in combination with the posters, will give visitors a unique glimpse at one of the longest and most bitterly contested internal conflicts in modern European history,” said O’Neill.

Horn feels that the exhibit will provide the publicity that the Burns Library needs and wants. “We want people to come to the Burns Library, especially students, and this is a good way to do it.”