Previously unseen Mitchell archive to unveil more of Londonderry’s maritime heritage

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History enthusiasts will be delighted to hear that the Tower Museum will be exploring a previously unseen photographic archive documenting the city’s maritime history, to coincide with the third talk in the popular ‘What’s in the Archives?’ series.

Highlighting two of the museum’s collections, archivists Ronan McConnell and Kirsty Osborn will be exploring the unique and detailed archive of local 19th century businessman William Mitchell, and also a vast local port and shipping photographic collection which has never been unveiled to the public until now.

The Mayor, Elisha McCallion, said the archive was an extremely valuable resource in documenting the city’s shipping history.

“The ‘What’s in the Archives?’ series has been extremely popular and presents a great opportunity for local people to find out a bit more about the museum’s collections. Derry played a strategic maritime role for centuries, something which the city should celebrate and preserve in terms of our heritage. I would really encourage people to go along and find out more about these unique collections.”

The Mitchell archive collection offers a fascinating insight into how William Mitchell, a prominent shipping trader in the late 1800s, established the famous Foyle Line. The archive paints a complete picture of how Mitchell ran his business and its impact on the port. It contains goods records, photographs, business plans and other interesting little nuggets about who he employed and how the ships were cared for and maintained on a regular basis.

Local archivist Ronan McConnell said: “Nowadays when we look at the Foyle it’s very hard to imagine large sailing ships or even NATO warships sailing up the quays as far as Ebrington is today. Our port and shipping photographic collection is very unique as it documents those times in vivid detail.

“It was donated to the museum many years ago but has until now lain in protected storage, due to its sheer volume in terms of photographs of ships that have arrived into the port from the 1930s up until the early 1980s. It’s a wonderful collection and through its contents tells the story of how the port was used and developed in the 20th century. This talk will open up our archives for public viewing and talk about how we go about digitising collections and making them accessible to the public.”

The talk is the third event in a series focusing on the city’s archive resources. So if you are interested in the history of the city, its maritime heritage, or how archivists work with their collections, come along to the Tower Museum, Thursday 31st March at 12.30pm. RSVP