A unique exhibition celebrating 35 years of integrated education in Northern Ireland has been launched at an event in the Ulster Museum. Entitled ‘The Big Small Stories Exhibition’ and hosted by The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE), the two-day event features displays, stories and performances from the 65 Integrated schools across Northern Ireland. It is a key part of an overall heritage project designed to tell the relatively unknown story of the development of Integrated Education in Northern Ireland and its contribution to peace building and reconciliation here.
With support and funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund Northern Ireland (HLF NI), engagement with the Integrated schools across Northern Ireland as well as the founders and supporters of integrated education, ‘The Big Small Stories’ project aims to capture, record and archive the memories and experiences of the people behind the foundation and development of integrated schools across Northern Ireland.
Through oral history interviews and the collection of images and other heritage material, the overarching project brings together teachers, pupils, parents, principals, governors and the whole school community as they embark on an exciting journey to explore and uncover the full history of integrated education.
Speaking at the exhibition launch, Roisin Marshall, CEO NICIE, commented:
“We are delighted to use this exhibition to showcase the fascinating and important story of Integrated Education in Northern Ireland as part of the overall ‘Big Small Stories’ project. The 65 schools who have participated have all been working hard to tell their individual stories and to help us celebrate 35 years of integrated education here through both displays and artistic performances. The whole ‘Big Small Stories’ project captures the important role that integrated education has had in in promoting peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and helps celebrate the efforts of so many people who have worked hard to build a more cohesive and integrated society across the region. We are confident that the archive we have been building with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund will be an important legacy to leave for future generations.”
Sheila McClelland, Member of Heritage Lottery Fund’s NI Committee added:
“We were pleased to fund this project which set out to record and share the stories of the development of integrated education in Northern Ireland. This is a really important part of the heritage of Northern Ireland but there was virtually no record of how the grassroots movement flourished to produce the current integrated education system. We know the project team have been working hard supporting the schools and others to gather all the material and create this exhibition and a comprehensive archive. We are eager to see the exhibition and hear all about the heritage collected. It is thanks to National Lottery players that we can fund projects such as this one.”
After the exhibition the next stage of the project will be working with schools in the production of an educational app about the history and legacy of integrated education. A number of oral history interviews with founding parents and principals of integrated schools, as well as former pupils, teachers, and other staff will be conducted to leave a vivid record of the memories and experiences of the ordinary people behind the foundation and development of integrated education. Finally, this project also aims to produce a digital and hard copy publication based on some of the oral history interviews and images collected by the school community and by NICIE. The publication represents the long lasting outcome of the Big Small Stories Project.