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New exhibition to explore story of Derry's urban development

16 September 2021

A new exhibition at the Tower Museum will chart the path of Derry's transformation from the 1960s to the 1980s as the focus here shifted to urban regeneration. The temporary exhibition, which opens on Culture Night on September 17th, is titled 'Historical Urbanism: Planning the City of the Future' and has been developed by Dr Adrian Grant and Dr Pete Hodson from Ulster University, working alongside Council Archivist Bernadette Walsh. It's part of a wider research project being carried out by the university supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The exhibition focuses on the city's regeneration during these two decades when parts of the old city were demolished and replaced by modern housing developments. It also considers how this transformation brought with it both positive and negative consequences for the people living here. Speaking ahead of the launch, Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Alderman Graham Warke, said he was looking forward to learning more about the city's growth and development. "We are blessed to be living in such a beautiful city in terms of both our natural surroundings and our built heritage. But the period of the 1960s-1980s was a time of great poverty and there was much demand for housing leading to the creation of new housing developments which completely changed the urban landscape. "I'm looking forward to learning more about the impact of these changes and what can be taken from them in terms of how we grow and develop our expanding urban areas to benefit future generations." Archivist with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Bernadette Walsh, said: "This research seeks to understand if a greater knowledge of the history of how cities changed over time can inform the design, planning and building of better urban places in the future. "We are really interested in hearing from visitors to the exhibition about their own thoughts on what makes a great urban place and to see some of the new ideas proposed." The exhibition focuses on a variety of collections from oral history interviews, archive photographs and architectural drawings, and the Londonderry Development Commission minute books. It also reveals some artists' sketches of what a future Derry might have looked like if a set of plans from 1968 were fully carried through. The exhibition features interactive elements for smartphone interaction and a video game. Dr Adrian Grant, a lecturer in politics at Ulster University who leads the Historical Urbanism research, said he was excited to see the exhibition take place, especially after the difficulties of carrying out such a people-focused research project during a pandemic: “We wanted to put the voices of the people who lived through urban regeneration in the city front and centre of our research and this exhibition,” he explained. “That became a really difficult thing to do when we were prevented from meeting and interacting with people in person during 2020. Luckily, we managed to use digital technology to our advantage and the exhibition now includes a digital recreation of the 1960s city through a video game. Visitors will also be able to listen to the actual voices of the local people we spoke to, and give their own opinions, by using smartphones during and after their visits.” 'Historical Urbanism: Planning the City of the Future' will open on September 17th and will remain onsite until January 2022. Further information on the project can be found here https://historicalurbanism.space