Here we are being Backyard tourists again.
This time the Ulster Museum – another place high on things to do in Belfast. We walk past it almost every day, but aside from the odd lunch in its rather lovely cafe, it’s been years since we had a good look around.
It’s light and bright and filled with a wide range of artefacts, from dinosaurs to dragons, from Irish art to mummys. And it’s all been redone in the last few years meaning that the stuffy old displays are on their way out. Not completely gone yet though, as the display on Ireland’s recent history still feels text heavy, and a large interactive wheel looks like it’s witnessed a few too many school trips, but it’s all moving in the right direction (forgive me, I love a good interactive museum, so tend to judge them all by how much I get to play with).
The top floor is dedicated to Irish art, and it’s a light, large space that does justice to modern art and an extensive collection of John Lavery portraits. Though seeing a blob on a giant canvas did make me question just how seriously I should take art…
On the same floor is a travelling exhibition called A Viking’s Guide to Deadly Dragons, which the crowds of school kids going in seemed to approve of (it’s a paid for exhibit, and as none of the dotes were present, I chose not to enter the dragon’s lair. Pity cause Bear loves a good Viking).
Full disclosure, I skipped the natural history stuff too. Well I did walk through it, but apart from being lured into a dark corner to stare at some luminescent rocks, it wasn’t for me. That said there was a young family, running around having a great time answering questions the museum guide leaflets had provided. Oh and there was a giant moose skeleton. Because why not?
The recent addition of the Elements exhibit adds again to the interactive fun of the museum. Find out about the periodic table, watch videos, answer questions, it’s a fun room.
The bulk of the bottom two floors are dedicated to Ireland, from the stone age to the present, where artefacts come together to build a story of Northern Ireland that is much bigger than the last 50 years. My favourite room in the museum (even before it was renovated) has always been the Armada room. It’s a little space but it feels like it connects our tiny part of the world to a bigger part of history and sparks my imagination. And there’s gold and cannons. What’s not to like?
All in I spent a happy hour wondering, and felt alternately peaceful and interested. Not every room caught my attention, but the museum covers lots of areas of history and art in a relatively small space, so keeping everyone interested all the time is a hard ask.
Dotes are well catered for at the Ulster Museum, with kid’s maps and discovery zones where they can get their hands dirty with some arts and crafts, but it’s also a genuinely nice space to be, with Botanic Gardens just outside and did I mention the excellent cafe?
We could get used to this tourist thing!