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. It 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.
The museum has possession of approximately 20,000 individual artefacts. When the new Museum opens in late Summer 2016 most of these items will 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.