250th | Armagh Robinson Library – 250 Years

In this online Zoom lecture, organised as part of Armagh Robinson Library’s 250th anniversary, the Library’s Director Dr Robert Whan provides an overview of the Library’s history and an insight into some of its collections.

The following topics are covered in the lecture:

– The Library’s Founder: Armagh Robinson Library (known as Armagh Public Library until 2017) was founded by Richard Robinson (1708-1794), the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, being the first of a series of public buildings he erected in Armagh

– The Foundation of the Library: The Library was founded in 1771 and continues to be governed by an Act of the Irish Parliament dating from 1773 ‘for settling and preserving a Publick Library in the City of Armagh for ever’. It is an independent institution governed by a board of trustees known as ‘Governors and Guardians’.

– The Building: The original building was designed by the English-born architect Thomas Cooley, whose drawings are still held in the Library. In order to accommodate the growing collections, the Library was extended in the mid-1840s when the architect was Robert Law Monsarrat.

– The Collections: The founding collections provided by Archbishop Robinson (8,000 books, along with prints, gems, coins and medals) have been added to during the years through the donation and purchase of books, manuscripts, antiquities, newspapers and other items. Various examples of these are shown during the lecture.

– Use of the Library and its collections: The earliest borrowers’ registers date from 1796 but the Library was also from the beginning used by those who came just to consult books in the Library itself. Extracts from surviving annual Keepers’ Reports and other minute books are provided to give a flavour of how the Library has been used over the last two and a half centuries.

The film concludes by referring to the Library’s current Endowment Appeal, needed to safeguard and sustain this unique institution which houses books and other objects spanning several millennia of human history.