This project involved the creation of a new exhibition in the auditorium of the Discover Ulster-Scots Centre, located on the ground floor of the Corn Exchange Building in Belfast, with the design work executed by Mark Thompson. The exhibition explores the connections between Ulster and the United States and provides a narrative of the movement of Ulster-Scots families from the late seventeenth century onwards and their contribution to the shaping of America.

There is a strong focus on the role of Ulster-Scots in the period leading up to and including the American Revolution. Rev. Francis Allison from County Donegal was a hugely influential figure. Through his teaching, writings and actions, Alison helped to inspire the colonists in their disputes with the Crown.

DUSC exhibition 1 Reduced

It is reckoned that during his career, Alison taught five signatories of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the Secretary of the Continental Congress, Charles Thomson, who was born near Maghera, County Londonderry. Three of the 56 signatories of the Declaration of Independence of 1776, as well as the man who produced the first printed version John Dunlap, had been born in Ulster.

The exhibition also highlights the Ulster origins of occupants of the White House. Around 20 Presidents of the United States have roots in Ulster. Prior to the election of Barack Obama in 2008, only three first-generation Americans have been President. Remarkably, all of them were the sons of Ulster-born fathers (and, in two instances, Ulster-born mothers). They were Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan and Chester A. Arthur.

The Ulster-Scots contribution to business, banking, industry, religious life, education, philanthropy, literature, journalism, the performing arts, and the armed forces are all highlighted in the exhibition. Many lesser-known characters and stories are highlighted. For example, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, one of the best known figures in the civil rights movement, was partly of Scotch-Irish ancestry through her great-grandfather. Amelia Earhart, who in 1932 was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, landing near the city of Derry, was aware of her Ulster roots. In 1933, she was the guest of honour at the annual dinner of the Ulster-Irish Society of New York, where she revealed ‘my father’s mother’s family came from Londonderry’.

The exhibition is dedicated to Eric Montgomery (1916–2003), a pioneer of Scotch-Irish folk studies who was one of the founders of what became the Ulster Historical Foundation and was instrumental in the development of the Ulster American Folk Park. The new display was opened officially on 11 July 2018 by the out-going US Consul in Belfast, Daniel J. Lawton.

  • DUSC exhibition 1
  • DUSC exhibition 2