PRONI - a visitor's view

'Go there at once!' It’s November now and the new PRONI buildingin Belfast has had many wonderful ‘opening reviews’ in its first fewmonths of operation. I expected to see a good, built-for-purpose facility,with the right storage, well-appointed reading room and search area. PRONIhas all that. What I didn’t expect was to come away stunned by the publicart within the building. Two large artworks stand out. At the heart ofthe entrance hall a massive cabinet appears to hold pieces of parchmentand vellum; in fact each piece is porcelain. As an artwork for an archive,it’s beautiful in every sense. But for me, the words have it... As youenter,  a John Hewitt poem, which explores the lyrical place names ofNorthern Ireland, is transcribed onto a massive, soaring piece of cortensteel. ‘The names of a land show the heart of the race – they moveon the tongue like the lilt of a song’. To paraphrase Bill Bryson: 'Ifyou have never been to [PRONI], go there at once. Take my car. It'swonderful!'  

'Go there at once!'


It’s November now and the new PRONI building in Belfast has had many wonderful ‘opening reviews’ in its first few months of operation. I expected to see a good, built-for-purpose facility, with the right storage, well-appointed reading room and search area. PRONI has all that. What I didn’t expect was to come away stunned by the public art within the building.

Two large artworks stand out. At the heart of the entrance hall a massive cabinet appears to hold pieces of parchment and vellum; in fact each piece is porcelain. As an artwork for an archive, it’s beautiful in every sense. But for me, the words have it... As you enter,  a John Hewitt poem, which explores the lyrical place names of Northern Ireland, is transcribed onto a massive, soaring piece of corten steel. ‘The names of a land show the heart of the race – they move on the tongue like the lilt of a song’.

To paraphrase Bill Bryson: 'If you have never been to [PRONI], go there at once. Take my car. It's wonderful!'