A new exhibition exploring crime and punishment opens at Carrickfergus Museum this week. The exhibition looks at the experiences of ordinary people living in the mid and east Antrim areas in the 19th century and focuses on crimes that offer insights into social and moral attitudes of the time.
Featuring objects from the three collections at Carrickfergus, Mid-Antrim and Larne museums, the exhibition includes manacles, leg irons and locks and keys all from Carrickfergus gaol.
Carrickfergus Gaol, which stood on the site of the present Town Hall and Museum & Civic Centre was the County Gaol for Antrim from 1779 until 1850. When it closed the remaining prisoners were marched to the new County Antrim Gaol on the Crumlin Road.
A new booklet focusing on Carrickfergus Gaol will also be freely available. The publication was funded by the Carrickfergus Townscape Heritage Initiative and the National Lottery Heritage Fund Northern Ireland. It has been produced as result of a community research project in 2019.
Among the themes researched by participants, the sentence of Transportation was of particular interest. The poignant stories of those who received the sentence and made the arduous, and usually one-way journey, from Carrickfergus Gaol to Australia and Tasmania are revealed.
Reflecting on the longer history of attitudes to crime and punishment, the exhibition also features a scold’s bridle, on loan from Armagh Museum. This archaic form of humiliating punishment was reserved for ‘scolding’ women. Treated as a crime, the punishment for such women is even referenced in the old Carrickfergus Town Records in 1574.
A particular highlight of the exhibition is a commemorative quilt, marking the role Carrickfergus Gaol played in the lives of people in County Antrim in the 19th Century. The new piece was created during a series of public workshops at Carrickfergus Museum. Seventeen local enthusiastic participants were recruited to work with Ballymena textile artist, Lucy Craig.
‘A most proper verdict: Exploring attitudes to crime in 19th century Mid and East Antrim’ has been developed by Mid and East Antrim Museum and Heritage Service in collaboration with the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, and the McClay Library at Queen’s University Belfast. The exhibition will tour to the McClay Library later this year.
You can visit the touring exhibit at Carrickfergus Museum from 20 January – 9 April 2022
Mid-Antrim Museum from 14 April –5 June 2022
Larne Museum 4 July – 26 August 2022
For more information contact T: 028 9335 8241. E: [email protected]