Ulster Transport Museum - Museums Association

Ulster Transport Museum

Two people work on a red car, one sitting inside and one standing outside with the door open
A case study on the Ulster Transport Museum, National Museums NI transfer of deaccessioned cars to Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre

In 2018, National Museums NI embarked upon a collections review process with its motor car collection at the Ulster Transport Museum. The collection contained 67 vehicles, and the focus of the review was the 31 vehicles not on public display, most of which had been in storage since first acquired and had proven to be of no interest to researchers.

The museum’s road transport curator conducted assessments of all the cars in storage and produced a statement of significance for each vehicle. These statements were reviewed by senior staff in line with National Museums NI’s Collections Development Policy and it was decided that there was a strong case for the disposal of a number of generic and duplicate vehicles. Approval for disposal of these was received from the board of trustees in 2020.

The museum tried to find an alternative home for the objects via direct approaches to other museums and through Find an Object, but without success they began to consider other options.

Previous conversations with Hydebank Wood, an educational centre for young male offenders aged 17-24 and a women’s prison, had made museum staff aware of their training programmes and their interest in borrowing vehicles to use for a motor vehicle engineering course. Loans had not been possible but disposal offered a new opportunity.

Discussions with the director of the Northern Ireland Prison Service confirmed interest and enthusiasm for the proposal and, despite delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the first transfer was made in September 2022 of a 1972 Triumph Dolomite with the aim of restoring it to working order. A 1972 VW Beetle was transferred in December 2022 and a 1978 Triumph Dolomite 1500 was transferred in February 2023, but as these vehicles were both in poor condition, they were to be utilised for parts.

Disassembling the latter two cars has enabled the students to gain practical experience in taking apart a vehicle and the remaining parts of these cars will be developed into seats, wall art, garden planters and even a beach buggy through the carpentry, gardening and metalwork programmes at Hydebank.

There are plans for further vehicles identified for disposal to be transferred for inmates to work on enabling them to develop new skills and achieving new qualifications in the process.