Alumni engagement and philanthropy

Dr George Thompson, BSc, MSc, DSSc (died 2 August 2021, aged 95)

Obituary taken from the Belfast Telegraph

The family of the first director of County Down’s Ulster Folk and Transport Museum said the institution was “very close to his heart” after he passed away yesterday.

Dr George Barton Thompson OBE (95) is survived by his wife Renee, daughter Susan Iveston and grandchildren Kerry and Michael. He was predeceased by his son Stephen.

After leaving Larne Grammar School, Dr Thompson graduated as Bachelor of Science from Queen’s University Belfast in 1948 before joining Stranmillis’ Belfast Museum and Art Gallery.

He then studied with American museums for six months after graduating as a Fulbright scholar at Chicago University in 1953.

It was in April 1959 that Dr Thompson was appointed as director of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra — five years before it was first opened to the public.

Dr Thompson was awarded an OBE in 1976 for his services to the museum and in his retirement he was also granted honorary doctorates from both Queen’s University and the University of Ulster, as well as being made a life member of the Royal Dublin Society.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, his daughter Ms Iveston, said her father helped establish other museums in Northern Ireland throughout his career.

“People would have come to him for help and support and he helped with the Ulster American Folk Park,” she explained.

“The president and vice-president of Macy’s department store in America came over to the museum in the late1960s.

“They were looking for an Ulster-American link to American presidents so dad chatted away with them and got an architect who made models of presidents’ homesteads here in Ulster.

“They were taken to America for a display there and he went over to Macy’s department store for the opening. He would have always shown any dignitaries around the museum personally.”

Ms Iveston added that her overriding memory of her father was how welcoming he was to those who visited the museum, as well as his staff.

“He loved to chat, he loved to talk to people and he loved to find out their history,” she said.

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