Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Stepping stones to past times: Belfast Naturalists' Field Club's 150-year history is in focus

Belfast Naturalists' Field Club members on The Honeycomb at the Giants Causeway, Co. Antrim, in June 1868 by photographic artist, Mr Mack, of Coleraine'. Courtesy of BNFC Archives
Belfast Naturalists' Field Club members on The Honeycomb at the Giants Causeway, Co. Antrim, in June 1868 by photographic artist, Mr Mack, of Coleraine'. Courtesy of BNFC Archives
Belfast Naturalists' Field Club members on The Honeycomb at the Giants Causeway, Co. Antrim, in June 1868 by photographic artist, Mr Mack, of Coleraine'. Courtesy of BNFC Archives
Belfast Naturalists' Field Club members on The Honeycomb at the Giants Causeway, Co. Antrim, in June 1868 by photographic artist, Mr Mack, of Coleraine'. Courtesy of BNFC Archives

You might be forgiven for thinking this image is the result of an elaborate Photoshop makeover.

The distinguished-looking men in bowler hats and three-piece suits are leaning on walking canes, while the women in full, starched skirts sit as straight as ramrods.

And they're all, bizarrely, perched atop the rocky columns of the Giant's Causeway.

It's certainly not a sight you're likely to see these days, but this grainy black-and-white photograph shows a unique slice of Ulster life 150 years ago.

The picture is part of a new exhibition at the Ulster Museum that captures members of a Belfast naturalist society on one of their regular field trips. The Belfast Naturalists' Field Club was founded in 1863. Its members went on excursions to conduct research and study of natural history.

Photos, artefacts and documents from the club's archive will be on display from Friday for the first time in its 150-year history.

Club archivist Peter Crowther said: "This exhibition takes a look at the activity of the club through the decades.

"Even if you're not interested in natural sciences, the photographs and artefacts from the time speak for themselves as fascinating pieces. Our aim is to celebrate one of Belfast's oldest-running societies and its members – some of whom made important contributions to archaeological research."

Mr Crowther said the Giant's Causeway image from 1868 is one of many unique photos on display.

"We have managed to get a group photo for nearly all the decades that the club has been running," he said.

"It's a wonderful piece of social history – you can see how the fashions change and what they took with them on their excursions."

The exhibition is open to the public until Sunday, June 2 and is located in the Belfast Room at the Ulster Museum.

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