PhD Study : Reimaging, remaking and the curation/collecting of the fine art print

Apply and key information  


This PhD research project focuses on the largely undocumented but rare and culturally and historically important print collection amassed by Richard Robinson, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh (1765-1794) and 1st Baron Rokeby. Known as the ‘Rokeby Collection’, it comprises 4,430 prints spanning the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. It is held at Armagh Robinson Library, Northern Ireland’s oldest public library, which was founded by Archbishop Robinson in 1771 to make his collection of books and fine art publicly accessible. The collection represents the best of the medium across early modern Europe. It has many strengths, including French portraiture of the seventeenth century, British and Irish landscape engravings of the eighteenth century and reproductive printmaking, making available the best of the continental collections of painting and sculpture for the citizens of Ireland.

The PhD project will investigate how and why the Rokeby Collection was put together, the techniques and technologies employed by the artists and craftspeople represented, and the significance of the collection and its subject matter within and beyond the island of Ireland. In this context, it will situate it within the history of eighteenth-century collecting. Robinson moved within artistic and literary circles across the British Isles.

The collection’s themes also indicate a deep interest in classical architecture. Taken as a whole, the collection offers an insight into the fashion and tastes of the late eighteenth century and the connoisseurship of the individual who brought them together. Printmaking was at its height during this period, being the main source of an easily reproducible visual image prior to the advent of photography from the 1820s onwards. It will also be possible, therefore, through the collection, for the PhD researcher to trace the various techniques and processes involved in printmaking and place them within their social, historical, art historical and technological contexts.

The project will involve investigative and comparative research, utilising the material and visual evidence that the prints provide. This will be compared with the connoisseurship of contemporaries (e.g. the work of Alistair Laing, Arthur MacGregor and Toby Barnard on Archbishop Cobbe of Dublin) and insights gleaned from practically recreating the techniques used to produce the prints. Together the PhD researcher’s thesis and accompanying practical outputs will help raise the profile of one of the country’s most significant, but currently under-utilised, artistic treasures. In the process, they will have the opportunity to develop curatorial skills, gain experience of cataloguing and interpretation, alongside insights into collections care, and the opportunity to create new work.

The University has a comprehensive research training suite of modules and courses, some mandatory, and others tailored to the specific requirements of each discipline - and in that regard the researcher will be well-supported in that they can access cross-disciplinary training support. They also have full access to the excellent printmaking studio and related facilities on the Belfast campus. The project will be undertaken across two main sites (Belfast and Armagh) and the student will be required to visit other significant (and related) collections, e.g. in London and Oxford.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Research proposal of 2000 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • For VCRS Awards, Masters at 75%
  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project

Equal Opportunities

The University is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applicants from all sections of the community, particularly from those with disabilities.

Appointment will be made on merit.

Funding and eligibility

The University offers the following levels of support:

Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

The following scholarship options are available to applicants worldwide:

  • Full Award: (full-time tuition fees + £19,000 (tbc))
  • Part Award: (full-time tuition fees + £9,500)
  • Fees Only Award: (full-time tuition fees)

These scholarships will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance) and will provide a £900 per annum research training support grant (RTSG) to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Please note: you will automatically be entered into the competition for the Full Award, unless you state otherwise in your application.

Department for the Economy (DFE)

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £19,237 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance).

This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

  • Candidates with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, who also satisfy a three year residency requirement in the UK prior to the start of the course for which a Studentship is held MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance.
  • Republic of Ireland (ROI) nationals who satisfy three years’ residency in the UK prior to the start of the course MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance (ROI nationals don’t need to have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify).
  • Other non-ROI EU applicants are ‘International’ are not eligible for this source of funding.
  • Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Due consideration should be given to financing your studies. Further information on cost of living

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 28 February 2022

Interview Date
week commencing 11 April 2022

Preferred student start date
mid September 2022


Apply Online  

Contact supervisor

Professor Ian Montgomery

Other supervisors