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1980s Collection Highlights

Lough Neagh's Woolly Mammoths, Irish Impressionists on tour and Belfast says Yeoo!

Ulster Museum 50, 1980s

The signing of the Anglo-Irish agreement in 1985, against a background of continuing violence, offered hope to some. Unionist protests were summed up by the slogan ‘Ulster says No’. A sense of humour has always been part of the local character and artist James Ashe came up with this cheery response, which hung outside the Ulster Sports Club in Belfast. Both are now in the Ulster Museum’s collection.

Looking outward, our curators worked with the Smithsonian on a travelling exhibition, Dreams and Traditions, which showcased 300 years of Irish painting. It toured major museums and galleries in the United States, reminding people of our significant artistic heritage.

One of the works by an Irish artist acquired at this time was Dermod O’Brien’s The Fine Art Academy. O’Brien studied in Antwerp and brought a new spirit of naturalism to Irish painting.

​ Edit media Image  Dermod O’Brien, The Fine Art Academy (1890) BELUM.U2643  ​
Dermod O’Brien, The Fine Art Academy (1890)

The Made in Belfast gallery opened in 1989 celebrating the industrial achievements of generations of Belfast’s workers, who had manufactured ships, planes, ropes, tobacco, glass, soft drinks, linen and more. This 1904 car was one of the popular exhibits.

Chambers Brothers Downshire car (1904)
Chambers Brothers Downshire Car (1904)

Our collections have benefited from the generosity and expertise of local people. In 1987 geologist Noel Brown, a teacher at Ballyclare High School, discovered a large fossil tooth in a quarry on the shores of Lough Neagh.

Aghnadarragh: east shore, 23 October 1987.
Ulster Museum Geology slide 31/888.

He brought it to curator Phil Doughty, who was impressed enough to set up an excavation of the site complete with mobile laboratory. Over two months the excavation team recovered woolly mammoth teeth, tusk and bone fragments from a layer of muddy gravel that was up to five metres thick.

Mammoth Tusk
Aghnadarragh: substantial tusk fragment, 3 November 1987. Ulster Museum Geology slide 31/925

One young volunteer, Jill Kerr, meticulously excavated one of the finest specimens:  the lower jaw of a baby mammoth complete with teeth. Jill later became our Natural Sciences Conservator and for more than 20 years has been helping preserve our collections for posterity.

Baby Mammoth Jaw
Baby Mammoth Jaw