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COVID-19 Update

Due to the latest guidance from the NI Executive, our museums will remain closed until further notice. We look forward to welcoming visitors back to our museums when it is safe to do so and we would like to thank the public for their continued support and patience.

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Find out how we use research at National Museums NI and how you can access our collections.

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Research into the collections forms the foundations for everything we do at National Museums NI. Whether involving our curators or collaborative partners (e.g. universities), research increases our knowledge and understanding of the specimens in our care.  We aim to use the outcomes of our research to inspire and engage audiences through exhibition content and outreach but also to inform how the museum’s collections develop over time.

Research is also recognised as a vital tool for museums to move beyond being traditional repositories of “things” and to modernise their outlook and approach.  We believe research using our collections, often in partnership with others, can improve how our museums contribute to debates about contemporary society. 

Whilst research has always been important, we believe that integrating research outcomes into what National Museums NI does will provide a better experience for our visitors.

If you are interested in accessing our collections to undertake research then please contact our research co-ordinator Dr David Tosh Tel: +44(0) 28 9039 5169 or email

Accessing collections for research

If you would like to access our collections to undertake research then please send an initial query to our research co-ordinator. This should detail the following information:

  • Who you are and what institution (if applicable) you are associated with;
  • What part of the collection you wish to access;
  • What you would like to do with the collections;
  • The reasons for your research (e.g. undergraduate research, for a book);
  • When you would like to access the collections.

If you provide the above information, David will consult with the appropriate curator and advise whether your request can be accommodated.

If we can accommodate your request we will require the researcher to provide further detail and enter into an agreement to share research outcomes.

Please also consider the information below when contacting us:

Our collection databases

As with most museums, digitising our collections is an ongoing process. At present, a small proportion of our collections are available online. We encourage you to search our databases before contacting us. However, if you can’t find what you are looking for then please contact our research co-ordinator to see if we have material relevant to your study.

Timing of visits to access collections

Any researcher wishing to access our collections should aim to contact David a minimum of 4 weeks before the date of a desired visit. This will increase the chances of curatorial staff, and space within our stores, being available. Any request made with a shorter lead in time may lead to National Museums being unable to accommodate your visit.


All researchers accessing our collections will do so in the knowledge that they will work under National Museums NI policy. We encourage all researchers wishing to engage with our collections to be aware of National Museum's policies relating to research.  Please see our Collections policies and procedures for further information.

Destructive sampling

If destructive sampling is required then further details will be requested from the researcher and internal consultation with curatorial and conservation staff will take place before permissions will be given.

Funding applications

We will consider all requests to utilise our collections as part of funding applications. However, if you wish to include our collections in an application we will need to be consulted at least 4 weeks before any funding deadline. Failure to do this will likely mean National Museums NI will not be able to participate in your proposed application. Please contact the research co-ordinator with all participatory funding related queries.