The Linen Hall Library, the oldest library in Belfast, and with an unparalleled Irish and Local Studies collection, has suffered a major funding cut that will see its popular events programme severely curtailed with immediate effect.
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, despite describing the Library as 'good value for money', declined a £40,000 grant application for the 2015/16 financial year. This comes on top of an 8% drop in the Library's total income last year. It means there will be no more shows, exhibitions and events planned, and even some of this month's programme have been cancelled (see Library's News item). At least one job will be lost and others are at risk.
Programme Manager Brenda Douglas told Irish Genealogy News today that The Famine Decade, an exhibition launching on 7 September as part of the National Famine Commemoration (being held for the first time in Northern Ireland) will definitely go ahead, as planned.
This exhibition, illustrated with contemporary drawings, newspaper reports, scientific comment and agricultural advice, offers an insight to the Famine period. Unusually, the exibition will be presenting the information and commentary available to the public and decision makers at that time.
Held in the Library's Vertical Gallery at 17 Donegall Square North, admission will be free and during normal library hours.
The Linen Hall Library was founded in 1773 and remains a popular destination for families, tourists and members of the general public as much as for researchers. More than 120,000 people visited last year.
While its collections – among them a Genealogy and Heraldry Collection – are strongest in relation to its immediate hinterland of Belfast, Antrim and Down, there is much of importance to the student of Irish studies generally among its 150,000 volumes and wide ranging non-book materials. It has a specialist Theatre and Performing Arts Archive, holds unique manuscript periodicals and an excellent collection of newspapers, many held on microfilmed.
UPDATE: After an appeal by the Library, the Arts Council reinstated the grant. See News story 8 October.