Old Museum Building – History
Our building was opened on College Square in 1831. It was the first museum in Ireland erected by public subscription. It was intended to be both a meeting place for the society and a home for the members’ varied collections from across the world.
The building was designed by architects Thomas Duff and Thomas Jackson in the Greek Revival style. It features a portico which is an exact copy of the octagon tower of Adronicus in Athens. The architectural features such as the cornices and capitals continue the Greek theme, with Greek fret patterns and acanthus motifs.
The collections housed in the Museum included Takabuti the mummy, (now residing in the Ulster Museum), who was presented in 1834 and unrolled in 1835 with scientific precision in the upper room. Following the removal of collections, after they were gifted to the Belfast Corporation in 1910, the Old Museum remained in the ownership of the Belfast Natural History And Philosophical Society (BNHPS) who continue to use the building for meetings and lectures today.
Alongside the BNHPS and scientific groups, previous users of the building included the Society of Architects (now RSUA), and the building became the Old Museum Arts Centre (OMAC) during the 1990s.
Following the relocation of the OMAC, the building has lain dormant, in meanwhile use. Ulster Architectural Heritage (UAH) relocated their offices into the Grade A listed building in 2017, sharing the space with BNHPS and another tenant, Kids in Control. The building is in need of a new sustainable use, and requires restoration and modernisation to make it safer, more accessible and return it to its former splendour.
It was through this need that the partnership project, Old Museum Building: Back to Life, was born.