1990s Collection Highlights
Robotic Dinosaurs, Huge Glass Bowls and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement
Political progress was finally achieved with the signing of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in 1998. Many of those involved signed this contemporary memorandum which is on display in our Troubles and Beyond gallery.
As political dinosaurs faded into the background, real, or at least animatronic dinosaurs, became a huge draw. Dinosaurs Alive brought scarily convincing robotic dinosaurs and big crowds to the Ulster Museum in 1992.
Yet there is little more exciting than the real thing, particularly when it relates to places we know well. In 1991, a schoolgirl, Emma McIlroy, came to the museum with a fossil she had found on the Antrim coast near Glenarm. The curator of palaeontology Andrew Jeram recognised it immediately as part of the skull of an ichthyosaur, a long extinct marine reptile. More extraordinarily he could see that Emma’s fossil was the missing link between several other pieces of ichthyosaur skull that had been found in the same place by another collector George Barker.
The skull went on display in our old dinosaur gallery, crediting Emma and George with this important find. It has been christened the Minnis monster, after Minnis North where it was found. It is now a valuable part of our collections. The photograph shows Emma, reunited with her discovery, and our science curator Mike Simms.
One of the pleasures of the Ulster Museum is the variety of its collections. In 1996 curator Kim Mawhinney acquired one on the largest pieces of Irish glass in existence. Dating from 1790 it was made in either Cork or Dublin. Known as the Marquess of Bute Bowl and Stand after a previous owner, it is 50 cms tall and beautifully decorated with the Irish flat cutting that was typical of the time. We have one of the best collections of Irish glass, and you’ll find it sparkling on the top floor of the Ulster Museum.