The main signature project of the Bloody Sunday Trust remains the Museum of Free Derry. The Museum of Free Derry opened in 2007 in order to tell the story of what happened in the city during the period 1968 – 1972, popularly known as ‘Free Derry’, and including the civil rights era, Battle of the Bogside, Internment, Bloody Sunday and Operation Motorman.
The story is told from the point of view of those who were most involved in and affected by these events – the Free Derry community, and the Museum is situated in the heart of where these events took place, in a once-derelict housing block in Glenfada Park, in the middle of what was the Bloody Sunday killing zone. Three men were shot and wounded outside this housing block, and two more - William McKinney and Jim Wray - were murdered there. Jim Wray was already lying on the ground, wounded and paralysed by the first burst of fire, when a Para shot him twice in the back at point blank range. Poignantly, he died just in front of his grandparents home. The museum's story is told directly by people whose lives were changed by these events.
On Sunday 30 January 1972, as an anti-internment march in Derry drew to an end, British paratroopers attacked the marchers, shooting dead 13 unarmed civilians, six of them still legally children, and wounding another 18, one of whom subsequently died. This marked the end of the civil rights campaign in Northern Ireland.
As the Report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry (widely referred to as the Saville Report) acknowledged, it led directly to a massive upsurge of violence, death and destruction which did not come to an end until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Why it exists
The Museum of Free Derry exists to remember and understand the local history of the city and its contribution to the ground breaking civil rights struggle which erupted in Derry in the mid-1960s and culminated in the massacre on Bloody Sunday.
It puts the Free Derry period into a wider Irish and international context so that visitors see the events depicted not just in relation to the communal conflict in the North or the conflict between Britain and Ireland. They are invited to make comparisons with the civil rights movement in the USA as well as other massacres such as Wounded Knee, Sharpeville and Fallujah.
Our international commitment is underscored by our membership of the International Coalition of the Sites of Conscience. The Coalition is a global network of historic sites, museums, and memory initiatives connecting past struggles to today’s movements for human rights and social justice. It has over 185 members.
Our focus is not just to share our history, but to encourage those who come to the Museum to see the struggle for human and civil rights as an ongoing contemporary undertaking.
Glenfada Park was central to the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, with unarmed civilians both killed and wounded there. The housing block on the top left of the photo is the site of the Museum of Free Derry. The rubble barricade at which five young men were murdered is visible on the lower right. (Fulvio Grimaldi)
Museum of Free Derry began as a block of flats in Glenfada Park - outside which several men were murdered and maimed on 30 January 1972. The building later fell into disrepair and was saved from dereliction by the Bloody Sunday Trust. (Robin Percival)
The Trust began building work to preserve the premises in 2005, stripping away years of decay and rot. (Bloody Sunday Trust)
Phase I of Museum of Free Derry opened its doors in 2006. (Bloody Sunday Trust)
The museum currently has an archive of around 20,000 items relating to this part of the city’s history, mostly donated by local residents. We thank our donors, one and all.
Within our Galleries section is a selection from the Museum of Free Derry photo archive and extensive poster collection.
Derry is a thriving, historic city in the north west of Ireland, on the banks of the River Foyle and bordering the hills of Donegal. Museum of Free Derry is in the heart of the city’s Bogside, and with such great transport links, visitors from all over the world can easily find their way here.
The museum has possession of approximately 20,000 individual artefacts. With the reopening of the new Museum of Free Derry in February 2017 most of these items will now be transferred to a specially built archive space, and public access will become much easier. In the longer term a major digitisation project will make this archive fully accessible.