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Artwork and photographic collections given a new lease of life

Joy Conkey


Thanks to our Partnership Agreement with the Ulster-Scots Agency, key items from our artwork and photographic collections have been conserved.

The Ulster-Scots Agency have funded the conservation of eight prints, three oil paintings, and around sixty photographs which were all in urgent need of treatment to preserve them for research purposes for future generations. The items conserved are all important pieces in terms of the history of Union Theological College, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and therefore the Ulster-Scots community. Among the items conserved were:

-       A print and steel engraving of Rev Prof Henry Cooke (1788-1868), a key figure in Irish Presbyterian history, Moderator of the General Synod of Ulster 1824-5, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland 1841-2 and 1862-3, Professor of Sacred Rhetoric and Catechetics, and President (Principal) of the Presbyterian College 1847-68

-       A framed steel engraving portrait of Rev Dr Samuel Hanna (1771-1852), the first Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

-       Portraits of Rev Prof James Glasgow and his wife, who were among the first missionaries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland to go to India in 1840. Rev Prof Glasgow was the main translator of the Gujarati Bible from 1850-61. He returned from India in 1864 and was appointed Professor of Oriental Languages in Assembly’s College from 1866-90

-       A portrait of Martin Luther presented to the College by Sir Ernest Herdman, of the famous Herdman family whom the Herdman Channel in Belfast Lough is named after. The family generously supported the College in the 1800s sponsoring student bursaries

-       A framed coloured lithographic print commemorating the 50th anniversary of the union of the Synod of Ulster and the Secession Synod which formed the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1840

-       Several College group photos dating from the late nineteenth century onwards. Researchers ask to see specific year groups when investigating the history of individuals who attended the College. Pictures like this have been used in publications such as congregational histories.

Before restoration

After resoration

Before restoration

After restoration

During 2023 the Ulster-Scots Agency also funded the printing of 1,050 Booklets giving a history of the Library in its 150th anniversary year. With the Agency’s support the Librarian was able to attend the London Rare Books Summer School course English Bookbindings 1450-1850: Identification and Interpretation from 26-30 June. Conservator training was provided and a range of conservation materials were purchased which enabled a group of ten volunteers to begin the urgent work of cleaning and conserving our rare books collection. A range of materials for repacking and storing the photographic collection were also funded by the Agency.    

We would like to convey our sincere thanks to the Board of the Ulster-Scots Agency, Ian Crozier (CEO), Karen Stewart (Director of Corporate Services) and Gillian Pearson (Director of Development until October 2023) for the very positive impact the Agency’s support has had. This has already proved invaluable in the preservation and conservation of our rare books, artwork and photographic collections which are of great significance to the College, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and therefore the wider Ulster-Scots community. The restoration work carried out by the Conservator Sean Madden and his team was also very much appreciated. He provided pictures of some of the items conserved. 

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