Facing the Past: Portraits from the Ulster Museum’s Historic Photographic Collections

One of the major strengths of historic photographs is their ability to bring the past to life so vividly. This is especially true in relation to photographs of real people in their everyday settings.

This group of intimate portraits is drawn from a range of times, places and social classes. What shines through them all is the obvious affection, interest and respect the photographers had for their subjects, and the skills which they used to create these likenesses so effectively. 

Island Man

Island Man

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Twins

Twins

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Schoolgirls

Schoolgirls

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Ballintoy fisherman

Ballintoy fisherman

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Servant for hire

Servant for hire

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Country children

Country children

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Minnie Cunningham

Minnie Cunningham

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Schoolboys

Schoolboys

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Island men and boys

Island men and boys

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Merry Widow

Merry Widow

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Italian one-man band

Italian one-man band

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Mrs Mary O'Connell

Mrs Mary O'Connell

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Image: BELUM.Y.W.14.1.05 © National Museums Northern Ireland
BELUM.Y.W.14.1.05 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Island Man, Inis Mor, County Galway

R J Welch collection, 1895

 

Image: BELUM.Y25477 © National Museums Northern Ireland
BELUM.Y25477 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Twins, E.T. Church studio portrait.

Carte-de-Visite collection, c.1875

 

Image: BELUM.Y10149 © National Museums Northern Ireland
BELUM.Y10149 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Schoolgirls, County Westmeath

F J Bigger collection, c.1895

 

Image: BELUM.Y10184 © National Museums Northern Ireland
BELUM.Y10184 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Ballintoy fisherman, County Antrim

F J Bigger collection, c.1900

 

Image: BELUM.Y10108 © National Museums Northern Ireland
BELUM.Y10108 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Servant for Hire, Gortahork, County Donegal

F J Bigger collection, 1903

 

Image: BELUM.Y10185 © National Museums Northern Ireland
BELUM.Y10185 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Country children

F. J. Bigger collection, c.1900

 

Image: BELUM.Y12755 © National Museums Northern Ireland
BELUM.Y12755 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Publicity photograph for Minnie Cunningham, music hall star appearing at the Empire Variety Theatre, Belfast

Charles and Russell Studio, lantern slide collection, Belfast c.1910

 

Image: BELUM.Y10157 © National Museums Northern Ireland
BELUM.Y10157 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Schoolboys, County Westmeath

F. J. Bigger collection, c.1895

 

Image: BELUM.Y10273 © National Museums Northern Ireland
BELUM.Y10273 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Island Men and Boys, Inismurray, County Sligo

F J Bigger collection, c.1900

 

Image: BELUM.Y10402 © National Museums Northern Ireland
BELUM.Y10402 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Merry Widow, Gortahork, County Donegal

F. J. Bigger collection, 1903

 

Image: BELUM.Y11994 © National Museums Northern Ireland
BELUM.Y11994 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Italian one-man band at Kilkee, County Clare

Anonymous lantern slide collection, c.1895

 

Image: BELUM.W2014.183 © National Museums Northern Ireland
BELUM.W2014.183 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Mrs Mary O’Connell, Cookstown, County Tyrone, the last woman in the town to fetch household water from a street pump.

UTV collection, c.1960s