Learning about Conflict: The Role of Community Museums in Educating on Difficult Heritage in a Divided Society

Magdalena Weiglhofer, Alan McCully, Jessica Bates

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Community museums can be contested sites for learning as they often communicate clear, subjective narratives that challenge mainstream ideas of the past by introducing knowledge that they know to be uncomfortable, rather than displaying multiple perspectives on a violent past. For that reason, educators of history in a divided society may be cautious to expose their students to such information, as their school curricula aim to create both greater social cohesion and criticality in their students that the emotion-laden museum environment could distort. This paper scrutinises the role that two community museums, each located in one of Northern Ireland’s two major identity traditions, play in educating on difficult heritage and, particularly, how conscious each is of developing young people’s critical thinking. Thereby, the underlying values and observed approach to emotions of museums are considered, alongside staff cooperation with teachers, to find out which concept of learning, if any, the museums follow. Key findings reflect a passionate but restricted view of education which lacks a defined concept of what education should be, and how exactly people learn.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Heritage Studies
Issue number5
Early online date12 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 12 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
©, Magdalena Weiglhofer, Alan McCully and Jessica Bates.


  • Community museums
  • Education
  • Conflict
  • informal education
  • difficult heritage
  • Northern Ireland
  • history education


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