The Braid: Ballymena Town Hall, Museum and Arts Centre
Ballymena, Northern Ireland
The Braid is a museum, town hall, and arts center for Northern Ireland. Named after the river that runs through Ballymena—and as tribute to the local flax-linen industry—the Braid weaves local history, arts, and culture into contemporary conference and civic facilities. Set within a landmarked town hall, the Braid’s mission is to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of Ballymena, placing County Antrim’s events within the wider scope of UK and European history.
RAA was asked to create exhibitions that look at the region from prehistory to modern times and deal with the themes of settlement and change, commerce and industry, living off the land, and politics and conflict. For this last theme, the historical-political conflict is told from multiple perspectives, balancing Nationalist and Unionist voices.
Within the 14-meter-high, light-filled atrium, RAA created two installations that provided a singular identity for the Braid. “Faces of Change” includes images of local people and place names within a steel cable weave, representing the “mesh” of the community and reflecting the town’s industrial heritage. The “Collections Wall” features a selection of artifacts; touch-screen interactive terminals invite visitors to explore the stories behind them.
Another key feature is the Distant Past display, which reflects early human settlement and features prehistoric artifacts. The History Gallery explores themes of identity, people, and place, with collections supported by interactives. A 24-meter historical timeline puts key local, national, and international events in context.
A key outcome of RAA’s work was its community-building effect. We consulted with residents of the region, who recounted their memories of local, national, and international history. RAA then integrated these memories, using archival media, into multi-screen video installations.
Size 5,382 square feet