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  • Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Funding boost for MEA museums will see portraits secured of Raphael brothers from Cullybackey


Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been awarded grants of more than £10,000 which will enable the purchase of portraits and an upgrade to displays.


Mid Antrim Museum in Ballymena applied to the Northern Ireland Museums Council’s ‘Collecting for the Future’ fund for the purchase of two oil portraits – William and James Raphael at a cost of £1,000.


The portraits were painted in Philadelphia in the 1840s when the brothers travelled to the United States in search of a new market for the family firm’s linen tableware which was manufactured in a factory at Cullybackey Road in Ballymena.



The council’s museum collection already features a silver table centrepiece that was presented to factory owner John Raphael by the people of Ballymena although there are no portraits of the Raphael family.


Carrickfergus Museum has been awarded £9,400 from the Northern Ireland Museums Council’s Access and Inclusion Fund.


The local authority has already benefited from £125,000 from this fund during the past three years which has been used to improve access, lighting and signage.


Meanwhile, the council is intending to return 305 items on loan to its museums as part of a rationalisation programme.



A report to the Borough Growth Committee says that many artefacts have been on loan to the local authority for a “considerable period of time” including one for almost 30 years.


In addition, 72 artefacts owned by the council have been assessed as “hazardous” to staff and the public or “beyond economical repair or remedial conservation”.


Collections held by Mid and East Antrim Museums include 7,000 items of social and industrial history, at The Braid, in Ballymena, on a database, approximately 20 items, such as agricultural machinery in a store in Broughshane, 4,578 items in a store at Larne Museum and 18,000 items in a store at LEDCOM in Larne of photos, paintings, costume, metal, glass, fossils and tools.


The store at Carrickfergus Museum accommodates 300 textile items, 676 items of archaeological material, flint, bone, ceramics, wood, flint and bone as well as albums, books and maps.