Ulster Museum to reopen after £17m revamp

Wed, Oct 21, 2009, 01:00

THE ULSTER Museum is to reopen in Belfast tomorrow after a three-year £17.2 million (€18.9 million) upgrade.

The project has been funded by Stormont’s Department of Culture Arts and Leisure, which donated £11.2 million; the Heritage Lottery Fund which provided £4.7 million; and a further £1.3 million which came from trusts, foundations and private donations.

The reopening will coincide with the 80th anniversary of the opening of the museum in 1929, when it was known as the Belfast Municipal Museum and Art Gallery.

A key addition to the building will be a new three-storey Window on Our World exhibition area.

Dr Jim McGreevy, director of collections and interpretation at the museum, said: “The redevelopment has entirely transformed the museum and allowed us to create much more engaging galleries and exhibitions, as well as introduce new, state-of-the-art interactive and learning facilities.”

The revamped museum will now have its most famous exhibits returned. These include Takabuti the Egyptian mummy, Peter the polar bear and a 6m- (20ft) long edmontasaurus dinosaur skeleton.

The edmontasaurus, the most complete dinosaur fossil on display in Ireland, is thought to have lived in what is now north America about 70 million years ago. It is a contemporary of the better known triceratops and tyrannosaurus and its remains were purchased for the museum in 1984. A tyrannosaurus skull will also be displayed in the new display area.

The Egyptian mummy, an enduring local favourite known as Takabuti, returned to the museum last summer where it is the focal point of a detailed display that relates to life and death in ancient Egypt.

The subject of a special BBC Northern Ireland investigation broadcast this week, the mummy has been given a computer generated image showing how she may have looked in life.

The mummy was shipped to Belfast in 1834 and unwrapped by Edward Hincks, a leading Egyptologist from Cork, the following year.

Peter the polar bear was a former resident at Belfast zoo since 1972 until his death, which coincided with the worst of the Troubles.

His removal across the city from the zoo to the taxidermist’s was hampered at the time when he was detained by security forces at a vehicle checkpoint.

The museum reopens to the public after tomorrow’s official ceremony and, as always, will be free.