Armagh Public Library has in its collection a set of fifteen original drawings by William Conor. Conor was commissioned to produce these as costume designs for a 1932 pageant which celebrated the life of St Patrick and the 1,500th of his arrival in Ireland. The drawings were presented to the Diocese of Armagh by Archbishop D’Arcy and, in 2001, the Library secured funds from the Esme Mitchell Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Armagh City and District Council to purchase the full set before they went up for auction.
Recently, essential work was carried out to the drawings by a qualified paper conservator, who recommended that the original drawings should not be put back on public display, for conservation reasons. Recognising that the Conor drawings are of local and national significance, the Library gained funding to have high quality photographic copies made, mounted and framed for public display.
The work has been carried out by local photographer Ian Maginess and by Paddy Grew from Picture Box in Armagh. As a result, the Library has been able to care for the collection responsibly by storing the original Conor drawings away from light. At the same time it still provides public access to the information about the collection, including the display of high quality photographs of the drawings, on site in the Library’s Long Room and in No 5 Vicars’ Hill, and now on the Library’s website.
The Keeper of Armagh Public Library, the Very Revd Gregory Dunstan said: “The Conor drawings are notable both as the work of a great Irish artist, and as a record of a significant event within the continuing celebration of the heritage of St Patrick. We are most grateful to the Esme Mitchell Trust and the Northern Ireland Museums Council for their support for action which both ensures the enhanced availability of their subject matter, while permitting the proper conservation of the drawings themselves. Visitors to the Library, school and adult groups, and those following the St Patrick Trail, will be able to see them in the context of Patrick’s legacy on the Hill of Armagh, and as a unique component of the City’s visitor attraction.”