Browse Exhibits (12 total)

'Surviving the city': Poverty and Public Health in Belfast, 1888-1914

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The exhibition highlights, through images and text from primary sources, the experience of poverty and poor health in the period of Belfast’s most rapid population and economic expansion, between the granting of city status in 1888 and the outbreak of the First World War. We explore the underside of ‘booming Belfast’ through a number of sections on ‘The emerging city’, ‘Growing pains’, ‘Work’, 'Public Health', 'Welfare' and 'Charity'.


'Poverty and public health in Belfast, providing an historical perspective on welfare and public health in Belfast the region' (

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Children's Literature and Education in 19th Century Ireland and Australia

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Scottish-born Australian writer, Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910), believed that at the heart of a good education is 'the enjoyment of a good story'. Reading, she argued in 1905, is the 'key to the universe'.

For the first time, this exhibition bring together materials from libraries and museums across Ireland and Australia to illustrate the connections between childhood reading and education in these two countries. These materials provide a fascinating insight into the circulation of texts and ideas that underpinned children's literature and education in the British colonies in the nineteenth century. They also demonstrate the centrality of women writers to educational thinking in this time period, as well as the significance of children's literature in the processes of nation building. 

Materials for this exhibition have been borrowed from key primary and manuscript collections - the Thyne Reid Trust Collection of Children's Books held at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia; the Nesbitt School Textbook Collection in the Special Collections Library at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland; and the Irish National Readers Collection at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra, Northern Ireland. 

This exhibition significantly brings together these three important collections and extends existing knowledge of the historical interconnections between Ireland and Australia. 


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Ireland and the Colonies

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The Library and Special Collections at Queen's University Belfast are proud to present this collection of unique artefacts curated by Dr Kath Stevenson in cooperation with Dr Daniel Roberts, Dr Matthew Reznicek and Dr Jonathan Wright. This very special exhibition is presented in conjunction with the conference: Ireland and the Colonies, 1775‐1947: Friendships, Alliances, Resistances.

As ‘England’s oldest colony’, and, from the 1800 Act of Union, a constituent of the United Kingdom, Ireland was uniquely regarded as both a subject nation, and as a significant partner in Britain’s imperial enterprise. While Ireland acquired global connections during the colonial period, its conflicted status enabled both oppositional and collaborative atitudes to emerge significantly in Irish culture. This interdisciplinary project will seek to examine the ways in which Irish colonial agents interacted with peoples of other colonies forming relationships that implicated personal considerations with larger issues of historical, political, and cultural significance.

Framed by two key events of world history, the American Revolutionary War, and Indian Independence, the project spans the gamut of British colonial history, seeking to draw out the significance of Irish involvement in the global politics of empire. Researchers will interrogate historical and cultural developments from the perspective of transnational and transcultural relationships: from personal and literary connections, to familial and institutional alliances, and the creation of new forms of political and social solidarity and resistance.

The project was inaugurated with a symposium between 3‐5 June 2014 at Queen’s University Belfast examining the contribution of Irish and international agents in major historical processes such as the war of American independence, the Irish rebellion, the abolition of slavery, the Indian ‘mutiny’, nationalist movements, the emergence of the Irish Free State and independence, partiton of territories. Ireland and the Colonies, 1775‐1947, will seek to interrogate current models of colonial and postcolonial scholarship within the disciplinary boundaries of the academy and the historiographical traditions dictated by modern nation states. The symposium aims to inaugurate a major new international research network to lead and disseminate future research in this field.

This digital exhibition features specific topics:

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Moore's Irish Melodies in Europe

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This exhibit, drawn from the collection 'Moore's Irish Melodies: Texts and Illustrations', traces the publication of collected editions of the lyrics across space (Europe) and time (between 1808-1880) by presenting their title page and a selected lyric. Prefatory material or a sample of the binding (through display of the cover) will sometimes feature as well.

'Moore's Irish Melodies in Europe' and its associated collection concentrate on editions dedicated to Moore's Irish Melodies, or sigificant collections of Moore's poetical works.

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Music to Moore's Irish Melodies in Dublin and London

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This exhibition tells the story of Moore's Irish Melodies through the circulation of the original series - as well as edited or newly-composed versions of the project - in Dublin and London before 1881. These were the two main centres for the publication of Moore's music.

Two songs in particular are chosen to demonstrate this circulation: "Fly not yet" from the first number, and 'The Fortune Telller' ("Down in the valley") from the eighth number

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Samuel Simms collection of medical texts

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Special Collections and Archives at Queen's University Belfast holds a wide array of early medical works and medical history. Many of these are nestled within the Samuel Simms Collection. These works were collected by Dr. Samuel Simms (1896-1967), medical doctor, bibliophile, and local historian.

Through this unique collection one can examine the science of medicine and come to understand Gawande's conception of medicine and medical discovery as disorderly, untidy, sometimes unknowable, esoteric, often in flux, and constantly challenging old ideas, assumptions and treatments:  

“We look for medicine to be an orderly field of knowledge and procedure. But it is not. It is an imperfect science, an enterprise of constantly changing knowledge, uncertain information, fallible individuals, and ... lives on the line. There is science in what we do, yes, but also habit, intuition, and sometimes plain old guessing. The gap between what we know and what we aim for persists. And this gap complicates everything we do." Atul Gawande, Complications: A surgeon's notes on an imperfect science (London, Profile, 2002) p.7.

For the first time, this digital exhibition brings together material from the Simms collection across different fields of learning within the wider umbrella of medicine e.g. surgery, anatomy, physiology, pharmacy, gynaecology, toxicology and psychiatry, to name but a few. 

This exhibition will be of interest to a range of researchers, including those investigating medicine and history, as well as though with a keen interest in book history and lovers of book collections. It is the hope that this exhibition will bring the distinctive Simms collection of medical publications to wider audience and to publicise this unique and impressive resource. 


All text, web development, and design for this exhibition by Dr. Michael O'Connor.

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Sir Robert Hart 1835 - 1911

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This is a substantial collection of personal and official papers, comprising a range of interesting and insightful material relating to Hart’s official duties and experiences in Peking during his long career in charge of the Chinese Customs Service. Significant in this regard is the long series of 77 personal journals which Hart kept during this time. Running from 1854 when he first entered the Chinese administration, the diaries record many personal anecdotes and reminiscences about his life and work in China. The collection also contains a significant series of correspondence amounting to some 7000 letters dating from 1899 to 1911. Although the majority relate to personal matters, corresponding with family members, other relatives and friends, many have a bearing on customs affairs. Other items of interest include a set of notes and papers detailing Hart’s experiences and analysis of the Boxer disturbances in Peking, 1900; numerous photographs and glass-slides. This collection provides an important insight into the life and career of Sir Robert Hart.

Somerville & Ross: A Lasting Legacy


"It was in October, 1887, that we began what was soon to be known to us as 'The Shocker,' and 'The Shaughraun,' to our family generally as 'that nonsense of the girls,' and subsequently, to the general public as 'An Irish Cousin'.

Given that 'every man's hand was against' them in their desire to 'commence author', E. OE. Somerville (1858-1949) and Martin Ross's (1862-1915) manuscript papers at Queen's not only represent the stunning and rarely divulged multiplicity, professionalism, and inexhaustible literary output of the two Irish 'shockers', but also survive as a potent symbol of female determination in the face of nineteenth-century social and family gender conventions.

An important and unique collection reflecting the lives, interests and work of the two authors, The Somerville and Ross archive at Queen's consists largely of  literary papers, personal correspondence, diaries, and Somerville's pen and wash book illustrations and pencil sketches.

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The dissemination of Thomas Moore's National Airs in nineteenth-century Europe

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This exhibition brings together early printed music sources from Special Collections & Archives, Queen's University Belfast and the British Library Music Collections. Focusing on the period 1811-1839, it documents the publication of Thomas Moore's (1779-1852) National Airs together with national airs by European composers Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Carl Czerny (1791-1857) and Edward Jones (1752-1824). The exhibition includes digitised copies of title pages, illustrations and musical works from nineteenth-century printed editions of national airs by Thomas Moore, Beethoven, Czerny and Jones.

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