Raising Collections Awareness and Preserving History in Armagh


From left: Mr Barrie Elkin, Score Environment; Ms Thirza Mulder, Archivist, Armagh Public Library; Armagh Deputy
Lord Mayor, Councillor Sylvia McRoberts; Ms Carol Conlin, Assistant Keeper, Armagh Public Library; Mr Jim Graham,
Director of EB Scotland Ltd, t/a Score Environment; Dean Gregory Dunstan, Keeper, Armagh Public Library; and
Professor Gerry Doyle, Research Astronomer, Armagh Observatory.
Image credit, Ian Maginess

Armagh Public Library and Armagh Observatory have begun a joint project for the conservation of part of their heritage. The two institutions, founded by Archbishop Richard Robinson in 1771 and 1789 respectively, have obtained funding from the Landfill Communities Fund to raise interest in and awareness of their nationally significant museum collections, dating back more than 200 years. The project will also help to preserve the collections and make them more easily and widely accessible.

The collections awareness project, which is supported in part by the Observatory through core funding from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, and by an additional contribution from the Armagh City and District Council, has two main objectives. The first involves cleaning, cataloguing and re-packing part of the Library’s collection of 1,500 prints dating from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries; the second involves a comprehensive programme of conservation, cleaning and cataloguing of the Observatory’s specialist astronomical museum collection which includes around 600 historic scientific instruments.

The Keeper of the Library, the Very Revd Gregory Dunstan, said: “We are delighted to have gained this funding, which amounts in total to £21,583. We are most grateful for the support of Armagh City and District Council, and Score Environment for securing these funds. We believe that this project will strengthen Armagh’s specialist museum and library facilities, and improve access to these nationally significant collections, making them available both to local visitors and tourists. We are also very glad, through this generous grant, to be able to make the expertise of our archivist available to the Observatory.”

The Observatory’s Director, Professor Mark Bailey, said: “Both these historic institutions hold valuable museum collections in addition to their specialist libraries and archives. They include objects such as prints, astronomical drawings, photographs, and historic scientific instruments. Taken together, these objects illustrate important developments in the arts and in sciences such as astronomy and meteorology over more than 200 years. This project will preserve, catalogue and make these items more easily accessible to visiting researchers and the general public, both for personal research and for wider education, learning and public understanding of science. It provides another very important example of effective collaborative work between these two 'Robinson' institutions in the City of Armagh.”

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carol Conlin at the Armagh Public Library Tel.: 028-3752-3142; Website: armaghpubliclibrary.arm.ac.uk and John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3751-2962; 028-3752-2928; jmfat signarm.ac.uk; Website: star.arm.ac.uk.

Observatory Collections On-line

Notes for Editors:

1. The Armagh Observatory is a modern astronomical research institute with a rich heritage. Founded in 1789 by Archbishop Richard Robinson, the Observatory is one of the UK and Ireland's leading astronomical research establishments. Around 30 astronomers are actively studying Stellar Astrophysics, the Sun, Solar System astronomy, and the Earth's climate.

The Observatory is funded by major grants from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure for Northern Ireland and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council. Our aim is to advance the knowledge and understanding of astronomy and related sciences through the execution, promotion and dissemination of astronomical research nationally and internationally in order to enrich the intellectual, economic, social and cultural life of the community. website

2. The Armagh Public Library is a reference library and a museum, open to visitors and researchers, individuals and groups. The oldest library in Northern Ireland, it was founded in 1771 by Archbishop Richard Robinson as part of his plans to establish a university and to improve Armagh City. The 1773 "Act for settling and preserving the Publick Library in Armagh for ever" established the Library and its name.

The Library is an independent body with charitable status. It relies heavily on external funding and has received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the Northern Ireland Museums Council, the Pilgrim Trust, the Esme Mitchell Trust and Armagh City and District Council. website

3. The Landfill Communities Fund allows Landfill Site Operators to contribute a proportion of their Landfill Tax to Environmental Bodies such as Score for the purpose of funding projects such as this, which create or enhance public amenities. website

Last Revised: 2012 November 12th