As Minister for Culture Arts and Leisure I want to commend to you this policy document that sets the framework for the development of our national and local museums over the next ten years. For many years there was an underinvestment in cultural infrastructure but Northern Ireland is now coming towards a place where we have a cultural infrastructure fit for the 21st century. It is therefore important for us to develop a museums policy that will help to provide a strong context for the work of our museums and give added focus to our cultural investment.
Of course museums have a primary role as the custodians and conservers of our heritage, they protect the fundamentals of our history in perpetuity that is tremendously important.
A recurring theme in this policy is the vision of a ‘shared and better future’ for Northern Ireland that is based around equity, diversity, interdependence and mutual respect. It is important for all of our citizens that this policy presses ahead towards that goal. Museums serve a vital role in helping us to understand our diversity, our interdependence and all of our cultural traditions and identities.
The policy also emphasises the role of museums in education. Museums play a significant role in education and learning. Museums are institutions of learning but what distinguishes them from other institutions is their capacity to connect people with their histories through engagement with the authentic object.
Museums also contribute to our understanding of who we are and where we came from. Museums are the touchstones and the gateway to the root of our cultures and identities. They help us to see the complexities and contradictions of our history; they can assist with our understanding of the great events that have shaped our world and they can also help to dispel myths and misunderstandings.
Collaborations between museums and communities provide a vital role in understanding our shared history, heritage and culture as we move forward into