Current research projects

Our curators are continually undertaking research to inform exhibitions and our understanding of our collections but here are a few examples of collaborative research we are undertaking with key partners.

Researching Takabuti’s origins

Takabuti is arguably one of the Ulster Museum’s most iconic residents. The first mummy to be unwrapped on the island of Ireland in 1835, Takabuti now takes centre stage in our Ancient Egypt gallery.   In 2006, work started to explore who Takabuti was and what her life was like but it wasn’t until 2019 when this work neared completion. Led by researchers from the University of Manchester’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology and staff from Queen’s University Belfast’s Archaeology and Palaeoecology department, the team hope to shed light on Takabuti’s origins and lifestyle and how her body was prepared for the Afterlife. The outcomes of the work are in the process of being published. Please see the links below for ongoing updates.

All work to date has been facilitated by Kingsbridge Private Hospitals who kindly supplied an x-ray machine for the sampling undertaken as part of this project.

Book Launch

In April this year, a new book on Takabuti “The Life and Times of Takabuti in Ancient Egypt: Investigating the Belfast Mummy” was launched by Liverpool University Press. As part of the celebrations of this event, an online seminar was held that involved all the contributors to the book talking about their work on it. The sessions were all recorded and are now available via the Centre for Community Archaeology at Queen’s University, Belfast:
Takabuti Project | Centre for Community Archaeology | Queen's University Belfast (qub.ac.uk)

Publications

Research into Takabuti’s genetics

The Life and Times of Takabuti book

Documenting the social and cultural history of 19th & 20th century Ireland, through photography. 

Lucy Wray is a PhD Candidate at Queen’s University, Belfast.  Her project, funded by Northern Bridge Consortium and held in partnership with National Museums NI, focuses on the A.R. Hogg photographic collection. Hogg’s photographs date from final years of the nineteenth century to just before the outbreak of the Second World War. While locations throughout Ireland are recorded in the collection, its primary focus is Belfast. Thousands of photographs record changes in industry, technology and infrastructure occurring over the course of four decades. Although he ran his own studio, Hogg was also commissioned by official bodies, charitable institutions and businesses. In addition to providing a vivid record of street life in every corner of the city, the collection captures individuals across socio-economic and sectarian divides. Lucy’s research explores how Hogg’s photos represents every-day life in Belfast, and the relationship between the photographer and the city. In addition to her thesis, she has presented public talks and conference papers on the collection and has an upcoming publication on Hogg’s work.

Creating a Built Heritage Asset Management Information System (BMIS) to assist decision making in the Heritage Sector

In October 2020 we welcomed PhD student Jordana Maguire as she began a Queen’s University, Belfast Collaborative Studentship. The project Jordana is working on will create an innovative new toolkit and set of protocols to help heritage professionals at living museums and heritage sites to make informed decisions about climate adaptation and the future development of their sites. Concerns regarding the impact of a changing climate upon cultural heritage has grown in recent years. Heritage organisations, such as ICOMOS, Historical Environment Scotland and Historic England, are taking action to identify and mitigate threats to heritage structures. The project will create a framework and set of protocols applicable to all open air museums; however, the initial study site will be Ulster Folk Museum at Cultra. The conservation and management strategy at Cultra (and the Ulster-American Folk Park in Omagh) has been successful in maintaining these unique exhibitions for posterity, providing a bank or experience and knowledge that will be vital to the proposed toolkit. This study will use this site as a proof-of-concept to explore the wider applicability of this approach to heritage management at living museums.

Digitising the Archaeological object archive

The Ulster Museum has responsibility to keep a record of all archaeological objects found in Northern Ireland by members of the public. So, if you find an object and you think it is important our resident archaeologist will record it and assess it to determine if it is treasure. Over the years the museum has received a huge number of items, some of which have been acquired by the museum and others that have been returned to their finders. As a result, we have a huge number of files relating to archaeological finds from Northern Ireland. We hope that researchers will be able to use this information to look at trends in the occurrence of archaeological objects or use ti to explore other interesting research questions.

This is an ongoing project that will take time to complete, and we are always looking for volunteers to help us process this information.  If you would like more information about helping with this project then please get in touch with david.tosh@nmni.com

Upcoming projects

Eavesdropping on our past: Mapping the oral soundscape of Northern Irish English (NIE)

Another Northern Bridge Funded project, this collaborative PhD will begin in October 2021 and will create, from National Museum NI’s newly digitised Tape Recorded Survey of Hiberno-English Speech (TRSHES), an open access resource for discovering and digitally mapping the linguistic structures of NIE. National Museums NI along with Professor Joan Rahilly of Queen’s University, Belfast and Professor Karen Corrigan of Newcastle University will guide a programme of corpus creation, data encoding and analysis. The project will develop systematic and theoretically informed interactive resources delivering (i) academic exploitation; (ii) public engagement, (iii) sustainability and (iv) professional development tools. Using models from elsewhere in the UK for ‘promoting, preserving and future-proofing’ linguistic resources, the project will bring the TRSHES to comparable prominence.

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