Our Museums

Art Collections

Collections Online
Under the Cherry Tree by Lavery
National Museums NI’s art collections include fine and applied art of national and international significance.
We hold more than 15,000 historical and contemporary artworks. This includes painting, sculpture, works on paper, glass, ceramics, silver and metalwork, jewellery, furniture, costume, and textiles.

Collection Highlights

Costume and Textiles

National Museums NI holds Ireland’s largest public collection of costume and textiles. 
The objects date from the early 18th century to present day and they tell stories of daily life in Ireland, from high fashion to hobby needlework, industry to artistry. The costume collections includes dress from international designers and the high street, the result of a focussed collecting policy over the last 40 years to build a significant archive of contemporary fashion. Historic fashion is well represented with costumes illustrating both social history and aspects of fashionable dress over three centuries.
A highlight of the eighteenth century collection is the suit of cut velvet and metal thread worn by the ‘Black Rod’ of the Irish Houses of Parliament in 1751. The collections of textiles celebrate Ulster’s prominence as a manufacturer of linen fabric and highly ornamented and embroidered domestic furnishings. Collections of Irish lace, embroidery and patchwork explore aspects of needlework education in Ireland, domestic economy, and artistic achievement.


Our art collection has some of the finest Irish art found anywhere in the world. It includes scenes by Jack Butler Yeats, William Conor’s depictions of working class life in Belfast, and the vibrant and precise canvases of John Luke. Sir John Lavery’s grand, yet intimate, paintings were a significant gift to collection by the artist in 1929. Works by contemporary artists continue to be collected such as Rita Duffy and Willie Doherty.

Glass and Ceramics

The glass collection consists of mainly two areas: Historic glass collection and Contemporary glass collection. The historic collection is made up of mainly English and Irish 18th and 19th century glass. Highlights of the collection include drinking glasses showing their development since the end of the 17th century, and a comprehensive collection of decanters which includes many rare marked Irish pieces.
The main strengths of the ceramics collection lie in British and European historic ceramics, Irish ceramics, Oriental and the contemporary. The Irish collection, is representative of all the major potteries in Ireland, including excavated material from the Downshire pottery, Belfast, and First Period and Second Period Belleek porcelain (as well as pieces from the contemporary Belleek ‘Living’ range).