Spatio-temporal graffiti in Belfast

Published: 31 October 2023| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/w4ttp6d7pb.1


To capture the multidimensional aspects of Belfast’s evolving muralscape we created an original dataset of graffiti images organised by the ‘site’ (general spatial area in which data collection was bound) in which they were collected and the ‘set’ (the entire range of temporal data collected in relation to a precise spatial location) to which they belong. We collated a total of 147 graffiti sets, spanning six predefined data collection sites within the database. Each set contains anywhere from two to 24 pieces of visual data, with a total of 680 individual pieces collected. The dataset is organised along axis of space and time to generate a visual record. Each mural set is geotagged by its Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates. To construct the dataset, we defined temporal and spatial bounds. We limited the data collection to the years 1998 to 2022. These temporal bounds were set in line with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, which marked a significant will to alter attitudes and ideologies for the sake of peace. We stopped recording new pieces in November 2022. The six sites are: the divided estates surrounding the Unionist Shankill and Nationalist Falls Roads, the interface area between them, a shared area surrounding the Royal Victoria hospital, an area along the Newtownards Road referred to as ‘Freedom Corner’ in East Belfast, and in predominantly Nationalist West Belfast we chose the area in the Gaeltacht Quarter where the Glenalina and Whiterock Roads intersect. The dataset allows for analysis on the temporal and spatial dimensions of murals in Belfast, creating understandings of changes in the way that the new messaging and imagery is thought through and painted for the public, offering a useful lens into local understanding of self and other. In concentrating on when and where graffiti is painted local political and social understandings can be deepened by understanding the way that murals change, or remain the same, across time. While the dataset is relatively small, building it has enabled us to tailor it to our project and research questions and set the spatial and temporal boundaries exactly as required. It allowed us unique insights into Belfast’s muralscape since the Good Friday Agreement. Given the novelty of the dataset, we invite other researchers to use it for further research or expand it further. While the geographical focus of this particular dataset is on Belfast, it also serves as a model that can be replicated for similar analysis in other geographical areas. Note: we consulted the following online and open access data sources to build our data set: the Extramural Activity interactive mural map, the Peter Moloney Collection (itself partly embedded within the Extramural Activity map), the Claremont College Collection, and Google Street View. Please use original attribution for any images used.



Art, Conflict Analysis, Belfast, Peace Study, Nationalism