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National Museums Northern Ireland launches new Florence Nightingale exhibition digitally
Belfast Royal Hospital. Image: Wellcome Collection.

HOLYWOOD.- In the week that marked the bicentennial anniversary of Florence Nightingale, the pioneer credited as the founder of modern nursing, a new digital exhibition has been launched by National Museums NI and the Florence Nightingale Foundation to highlight the contribution that nursing and midwifery has made to life in Northern Ireland.

Florence Nightingale – Nursing and Midwifery 200 Years was originally set to open at the Ulster Museum in March before social distancing measures were introduced.

Its launch as a digital exhibition coincides with the 200th year anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth (May 12) and International Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020.

The special exhibition explores the vital work of nurses and midwives through two centuries of nursing, covering themes such as nursing in wartime, nursing during The Troubles, and nursing education and innovation in Northern Ireland. It also features an original voice recording of Florence Nightingale.

Since the lockdown began, National Museums NI has been working to digitise the exhibition and make it accessible to the public.

Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive of National Museums NI, says: “Over the past couple of months our colleagues at National Museums NI have been working hard to find new and innovative ways to make our collections engaging and to reach audiences safely.

“During these difficult times it’s important to maintain access to the arts and culture and this latest show represents our first fully digital exhibition. It demonstrates the value of our museums and cultural institutions and the vital role they play in telling the stories that connect our past with our present.”

She adds: “Its timing could not be more appropriate. When social distancing measures were first announced we were keen to ensure this exhibition and celebration of our healthcare workers was made available to the public. It pays homage to those we are indebted to and celebrate every day.”

Commenting, Health Minister Robin Swann says: “As nurses and midwives you’re playing an essential role in keeping our community safe and it is only fitting that we have this opportunity to mark your contribution.”

Thanking Northern Ireland’s healthcare workers, he adds: “I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your resilience, dedication and professionalism during this pandemic. We are grateful for everything that you're doing and for the sacrifices that I know you're making.”

Chair of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Florence Nightingale Foundation and Chief Nursing Officer Charlotte McArdle says: “Working in partnership with National Museums NI, this digital tour has been created to share highlights from the Florence Nightingale – Nursing and Midwifery 200 Years exhibition and to give an insight into the past and present work of these health professionals.

“Just as Florence Nightingale wrote to a local nurse with advice and encouragement over 100 years ago, we'd like to use this opportunity to express gratitude to our nurses, midwives, and all those who work in health and social care and to highlight depth and diversity of nursing and midwifery practice which we have all come to appreciate more and more during COVID-19. This pandemic has also highlighted how relevant Nightingale’s pioneering work in infection control is to modern day nursing.”

Florence Nightingale – Nursing and Midwifery 200 Years is available to view for free on desktop and mobile using the Smartify platform, a tool designed to support museums and other venues to make closed exhibitions available to the public.

For more information and to view the exhibition, visit

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