Library and Document Archives

Library and Document Archives

Library

The museum has an excellent library and archive, designed to enable research by both museum staff and others. Members of the public are welcome to use these facilities on a reference basis. Access is by appointment only.

The library, which is situated in the Museum's Administration Building, contains about 25,000 books and many periodicals, covering a wide range of topics from cookery to local history, from costume to early motor cars. The archives have an equally wide scope, containing reminiscences, linguistic and folklore material, transport material, maps, plans and much more.

You can see a sample of one of the Folk tales in the library: Robert Connolly of Ballybogey, Couny Antrim

Staff contact: Roger Dixon, Librarian

Ulster Dialects (1964)

Ulster Dialects (1964) was the very first publication of the Ulster Folk Museum. The volume represented a cornerstone of the museum’s past, present and future curation of our intangible heritage. Its prehistory was as the culmination of a decade and more of research by the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club and the Ulster Dialect Archive at Cultra from 1960, even before the vernacular buildings were installed there. In the immediate sense, it also comprised the research papers of leading phonologists and dialectologists on how people in the eleven northernmost counties of Ireland spoke, as delivered at a symposium at Cultra in 1961. Above all, however, it served as a founding charter of the museum’s study of spoken language and dialect in all their complexity, studying and celebrating them as essential and overlapping strands of history and culture that were on the verge of being lost. As the museum’s Director, George Thompson, identified in his written Introduction:

‘Thus, the characteristic voice of our community, which is becoming more and more faint among the standardized sounds of mass communication media, will be preserved for future generations to hear.’

These founding principles informed the work of the book’s editor, G. B. Adams, as Curator of the Ulster Dialect Archive from 1964 to 1981; and they will underpin the research and activity of National Museums NI’s ‘Languages of Ulster’ programme in the time ahead.

Download a PDF copy here.

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Dialect Archive

The Ulster Dialect Archive contains published and unpublished wordlists and glossaries that document the distinctive speech of the people of the area that comprises the old nine-county Ulster. Within that area, three principal dialect areas are generally distinguished. 

  • The first is Ulster-Scots (sometimes called ‘Scotch-Irish’). 
  • The second is Mid-Ulster English (also described as ‘Northern Hiberno-English’ or ‘Ulster Anglo-Irish’). 
  • The third is the speech of those areas where Irish Gaelic is either still in use or has died out relatively recently. 

Most of the material in the archive is in the form of the written or printed word. However, a significant proportion is found within the museum’s Sound Archive. The paper-based dialect archive contains several manuscript collections, notably the Sir John Byers glossary (c. 1910), the Montgomery manuscript (County Antrim dialect, 1961), and the Huddleston manuscript (Ulster-Scots poetry and prose]   

Published collections include the donated Ulster-Scots library of Professor Robert J Gregg (1912-1998) and many now rare and out-of-print works.

Finally, much of the material in the collections has been electronically captured on a dictionary database. PDF copies of this dictionary are available for download either as a whole or by alphabetic letter.

Finally, much of the material in the collections has been electronically captured on a dictionary database. PDF copies of this dictionary are available for download either as a whole or by alphabetic letter.

The Academic Study of Ulster-Scots

Professor Robert J Gregg (1912-1998) was the pioneer of the academic study of Ulster-Scots language as a subject in its own right.  In the course of work on his PhD thesis, he undertook the only fully researched mapping of Ulster-Scots that has ever been done.After his death, in line with the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum’s long record of involvement with Ulster dialect, museum personnel, together with Professor Michael Montgomery of South Carolina, commenced work on a book of essays as a tribute to Professor Gregg and in order to introduce his writings to a new generation of students and researchers.  This book, entitled The Academic Study of Ulster-Scots:  Essays for and by Robert J. Gregg, was published in print form in 2006.  However, as publisher, National Museums Northern Ireland was keen to make this significant work accessible to as wide a readership as possible.  Consequently, it is now re-publishing the book in electronic form. 

View The Academic Study of Ulster-Scots by Professor Robert J Gregg on Library Ireland.

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