Studying Margins to Question the World

In the 21st century, borders are to be found everywhere: in the shadows of the walls being built all over the world, on the fingerprints of travellers and asylum seekers, or in the everyday lives of cross-border workers. Unlike fixed demarcation lines, borders change and move within time and space, depending on political and economic events.

They emerge across diverse places and in different shapes, impacting our individual and collective lives. Designed by the Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration (French National Museum of the History of Immigration), this exhibition draws on historic, geographical, economic and human perspectives. It is an invitation to deepen our understanding of how borders are constructed and evolve, beyond the dichotomy between open or closed, nationals and foreigners, economic migrants and political refugees.

Exhibition highlights

Borders – an invention with multiple dimensions

Online Resources Become a Historian

What is a border?

Borders are human creations, artificial conventions subject to constant negotiations and adjustments. They play a dual role of protecting the inside while simultaneously pushing back the outside. As lasting as they seem, they’re constantly influenced by changes in history: they are created, displaced or erased following (geo)political events.


How it began

International borders were invented in Europe, mainly by legal practitioners and geographers who globally exported the concept through colonial conquest. Laws were used as a tool to take over territories. In 1494, for instance, as Europe “discovered” America, it promulgated the Treaty of Tordesillas, splitting the world in two.

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Crossing Borders

The state tends to differentiate between citizens and non-citizens. While a state may exercise its power over all persons present within its territory, foreigners enjoy fewer rights than nationals. Registration and identification techniques are very important in helping to distinguish between citizens and non-citizens.

Online Resources Tiny Tots


Passports determine which countries can be visited without visas. In addition to nationality, economic resources are crucial to determining a person’s ability to travel. The concept of “undesirables” highlights the differentiated access to mobility that exists across the world, as well as the perceived hierarchy of the people who move and migrate.


A Word from Our Curator

“EPIC are extremely proud to be hosting this exhibition in collaboration with the French National Museum of Immigration History. Migration as a topic is one which people can always learn more about and we hope that with this exhibition, people will be open to doing just that. Those that come to view this exhibition can look forward to immersing themselves in a factual and objective outlook on migration and leaving with a better understanding of borders around the world and how they impact our everyday lives.”

Nathan Mannion, Head of Programmes and Exhibitions at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum




In this fun educational gaming workshop exploring History and Civic, Social & Political Education, students will work together to create their own countries with their own border and migration rules, then test them out as citizens attempting to travel. 


In his documentary ‘I Must Away’, Irish filmmaker Dennis Harvey explores the differing realities of what it means to be a migrant today, delicately weaves a story that spans seven years and six countries. The film is in equal parts confessional and confrontational.