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Case Studies - Collecting for the Future Grants



In 2019, the NI Museums Council secured £15,000 over three years for Collecting for the Future (£5k per year).  This fund is supported by the Esmé Mitchell Trust and enables accredited museums to apply for up to £1,000 towards the purchase of cultural and artistic objects in partnership with museum users and communities.  In this case study we highlight some of the grant recipients from this programme.

Year 1 commenced in October 2019 and ended in March 2020 with 4 museums being allocated grants.

Year 2 commenced in April 2020 and ended in March 2021 with 5 museums being allocated grants.

Year 3 commenced in April 2021 and so far, this year 2 museums have been allocated grants. 



 Armagh Public Library medal, 1771


Image courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb.

Description of the Object

 The medal, by John Kirk (after Isaac Gosset), features a side profile of Richard Robinson, Archbishop of Armagh, 1st Baron Rokeby, who founded Armagh Public Library in 1771. He has a full wig and robes. The other side shows the front elevation of the Library as it was originally built, with three bays. It carries the Greek inscription, ‘TO THΣ ψYHΣ IATPEION’ – the Library’s motto, which translated reads ‘The Healing Place of the Soul’.

How it represents the cultural and artistic achievements of this place

 Armagh Robinson Library, formerly Armagh Public Library, is the oldest public library in Northern Ireland and among the most significant heritage libraries on the island of Ireland, along with Trinity College Library and Marsh’s Library in Dublin. It was founded by Archbishop Richard Robinson in 1771. Robinson was responsible for transforming the city of Armagh, Ireland’s ecclesiastical capital, by undertaking a 20-year public building project that started with the building of the Library in 1771 and ended with the establishment of the Observatory in 1789, and also included the Gaol, Royal School, Infirmary and other buildings of significance. Whilst extended in the 1840s (by the addition of two extra bays) to accommodate the growing collection of books, the Library has remained within its original (Grade A listed) building since its foundation. The medal depicts the original three-bay façade of the building, thus capturing part of its architectural history. It also connects with the history of Armagh as a seat of learning.

 Why it was important to have it in your collection and how it is planned to be utilised.

 This item represents something that is not currently within the Library’s collection but which relates very much to its history and foundation. A timely acquisition, it will be a great feature artefact in the Library’s 250th anniversary celebrations in 2021. It can also be referred to during education workshops for school pupils and lifelong learners.




Name of Object

Ireland’s Totem, 2001/2003 by Mavis Thomson

Driftwood construction made from beach elements, rope, float and bung. Partially painted with lettering

Image credit: Driftwood Construction Ireland’s Totem Crown of Conciliation Circle of Hope FCM.2020.284

 Description of the Object

 A driftwood construction made by artist Mavis Thomson. This piece is made from beach elements, rope, float and bung yielded from the sea.  Partially painted in oil with lettering. The words, made on the re-forming of Stormont power-sharing Assembly, which ultimately failed. Reflects on thirteen politicians sitting around a table to talk.

 How it represents the cultural and artistic achievements of this place

The driftwood construction, with accompanying meaningful words, concentrates on the re-forming of the Stormont power-sharing Assembly, in multi-party talks.

 It reflects on the history of Northern Ireland’s politics at the start of the twenty-first century. It highlights thirteen individual politician names who were all instrumental in the peace process of Northern Ireland and involved in the important political decisions of the Stormont power-sharing executive.  It is representative of all political persuasions and cultures, standing as a generic piece illustrating a volatile time in the history of Northern Ireland

 Artist Mavis Thomson strives for simplicity, truthfulness, and a spiritual quality in her approach, whether in her paintings or in the sculptural pieces in wood. The artist interpretation is colourful yet historical and factual. The uniqueness of the piece is captivating in terms of its construct and innovative way of looking at the national political situation through the medium of art. It is an accessible piece, intellectually, in that it is relatively easy to interpret.

 Why it was important to have it in the collection and how it has been utilised

Totem provides much inspiration for examining the peace process in Northern Ireland and the coming together of divergent opinions around the one table; all brought together in a single piece of sculpture. 

 This acquisition was used in an on-line Workshop ‘The Process of Peace-Making through the eyes of an Artist Ireland’s Totem, Crown of Conciliation – Circle of Hope’ took place on Tuesday 15th September 2020 (10.00 am – 11.30 am) – during Good Relations Week (14-21 September 2020).

The theme of Good Relations week was ‘Celebrating Our Journey, Embracing Our Future’.


 Name of Object

Two framed collages:

‘Unit 16’, collage and acrylic on board, 43 x 58cm

‘Cat Bang Boxer’ 2009, collage on shirt box, 61 x 56cm

Both by Eddie Rafferty

Collage of boxer


Photo credit: Cat Bang Boxer Eddie Rafferty 2009 -Armagh County Museum. 

Photo credit: Unit 16 Eddie Rafferty 2017 -Armagh County Museum. 

We're delighted that our Collecting for the Future- Esme Mitchell Trust grant funding supported Armagh County Museum in the acquisition of two collages by local artist Eddie Rafferty. 

Sean Barden of Armagh County Museum said 'I am delighted to be able to add these works ‘Unit 16’ and ‘Cat Bang Boxer’ by Eddie Rafferty to Armagh County Museum’s collection. Eddie’s work is represented in several national and international collections so it is satisfying to know that NIMC funding has allowed us to acquire these collages. It is important that Eddie’s talent is now represented in county Armagh close to where he lives and works'. 

NIMC were especially keen to support this acquisition due to the pieces' close connection to the museum. The collages are made on recycled cardboard grocery boxes. They were formerly used in Armagh County Museum as storage boxes and were disposed of to the artist in 2009 when they were upgrading their storage containers. In 2017 the artist transformed some of the boxes into works of art. The artist has retained and reinterpreted some of the original museum markings. Eddie Rafferty has worked in Ireland and South Africa and his works are reflections of the people and stories he has encountered. The subject matter is poignant and points to his work in mental hospitals in Africa showing us situations that transcend geographic and cultural boundaries. The pieces will go on display in the museum in the coming months.

The Collecting for the Future Grant programme remains open, find the application and guidance documents here.