New Exhibition : A Spotlight on the Beresford Collection

Image credit: ian Maginess. Launch Beresford exhibition: Lorraine Grattan, Catherine McCullough, Robert Whan, Rena Maguire, Carol Conlin, Kathy McAlister and Elizabeth Crooke

The next temporary exhibition A Spotlight on the Beresford Collection : Rediscovering Treasures from the Prehistoric to the Medieval was launched in the Library recently. It shows a selection of objects from the Beresford collection of antiquities.

The Beresford collection is named after antiquities collector Marcus Gervais Beresford, who was also Archbishop of Armagh from 1862 to 1885. Following his death in 1885, his son, George de la Poer Beresford, bequeathed his father’s collection to the Library.

Kathy McAlister, a postgraduate Museums Studies student at Ulster University, was responsible for the research and selection of objects for A Spotlight on the Beresford Collection , during a placement at the Library.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Kathy said

I have greatly enjoyed working with the Beresford Collection.  Despite being a complete novice at the start of my placement I found myself fascinated by the artefacts, some thousands of years old, and the people who made them or used them. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be attached to Armagh Robinson Library and to work with the dedicated professionals there to produce an exhibition which rightly shines a spotlight on this unique and varied collection.  The research of course continues and no doubt there is more of interest to be discovered.

The collection is believed to be mostly Irish.  Former Curator of Armagh County Museum, Roger Weatherup, had researched the collection extensively and created an inventory for the collection. Details on the equestrian objects in the exhibition have also been provided by Dr Rena Maguire, based on her PhD research of Irish Iron Age Equestrian Equipment.

Image Credit: Ian Maginnes: Kathy McAlister who researched the exhibition, Director, Robert Whan and Professor Elizabeth Crooke, Kathy’s MA Supervisor

Professor Elizabeth Crooke, Course Director MA Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies, Ulster University, was present at the launch.  She referred to the project by saying

We are grateful to Armagh Robinson Library for offering this placement to a MA Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies student at Ulster University.  Exploring the collections, and preparing them for display, enables Kathy to put into action what she is learning through our modules on curatorship and exhibition development.  It is very special for Kathy to work on the Beresford Collection, for the unrivalled insights it gives to the antiquarian collector, as well as the joy of selecting and interpreting objects to share with visitors.

Dr Robert Whan, Director of the Library, stated,

Featuring early axes, weapons and tools, as well as equestrian and other objects, the exhibition highlights the antiquity and breadth of the Library’s holdings. It also demonstrates the mutually beneficial partnership that the Library has with local universities.

The exhibition at the Library will be on view during normal opening hours, Monday to Friday, 10.00am to 1.00pm, and 2.00pm to 4.00pm, and will run until the end of July 2022.

Further examples of the Beresford Collection, including ecclesiastical hand bells, are on display at No 5 Vicars’ Hill.