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Art of the Troubles

JComms was tasked with creating and managing the PR for the Art of the Troubles exhibition at the Ulster Museum. Opening in April 2014, it ran for six months and featured various artists’ responses to the Troubles. This was no ordinary exhibition. Sensitive in nature - it explored themes of violence, destruction, suffering and loss during a profoundly painful period in Northern Ireland’s past.

It was essential, therefore, that the PR campaign was sensitively handled. As well as all media relations, JComms was also tasked with social media management and content creation for the exhibition.
Art of the Troubles

Art of the Troubles

Our ultimate aim was to create an interest in the exhibition, that Art of the Troubles would be something people would want to see for themselves. Our objectives were:

  • Encourage visitors – the target was 10,000 visitors in the first 6 weeks of opening
  • Achieve prominent media coverage about the exhibition
  • Gain understanding from our key constituencies (victims, learning/community groups, politicians and media influencers) for the approach taken to exhibition development
  • Raise awareness of the exhibition, its content and approach amongst key constituencies
  • Minimise the possibility of adverse reaction to the exhibition

Stakeholder engagement was a key aspect of the project and discussions and briefings took place with key groups and individuals including victims groups, community groups, learning partners, politicians and key influencers.

The exhibition opened to the public on Friday 11th April so we held a press preview the day before to give media an opportunity to walk-through the exhibition and talk to various artists featured. The preview was well attended by various media including arts and general news correspondents.

Digital content included the production of a series of video interviews with artists about their work.

The exhibition generated extensive, positive coverage across NI media as well as ROI and UK titles.

  • In total, there were 34 media hits, overwhelmingly positive and extensive
  • Broadcast coverage including RTE News, BBC Newsline, RTE Arena,  BBC Two The Art Show, BBC Blas and BBC Arts Extra
  • RTE One Arts Tonight programme ran a one-hour special on the exhibition and conflict art
  • A double-page spread in the Sunday Times Culture magazine positively critiquing the exhibition
  • BBC News online ran a gallery detailing the exhibition
  • The reviews were varied but largely praised the Ulster Museum for the exhibition. Fionola Meredith’s article said the exhibition was “a thoughtful, thorough overview of the period”.

Social media:

  • There was a sharp rise in Twitter engagement due to the launch of the exhibition
  • There have been over 5,000 views of the digital videos posted to social media
  • In the first week of social media activity for Art of the Troubles, engagement on the museum's Facebook page increased 60.5%, new likes by 26.1% and post reach by 103.1%
  • NMNI did its first ever Twitter Q&A with Head of Art Kim Mawhinney (#askUlsterMuseum)
  • A wide range of influencers were engaged about the exhibition on social media

There was extensive endorsement from key influencers and the exhibition is one of the most visited in the Ulster Museum’s history.

Significantly for the Ulster Museum, this exhibition has received the most feedback/ evaluation forms ever received from any exhibition. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with visitors making a real connection with the exhibition.

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