Museum officer for the REACH Project, William Stewart, was part of a recent delegation to London to promote new Orange interpretative centres.
Mr Stewart, Deputy District Master of City of Londonderry No 1 District, took up the role of museum officer earlier this year and is engaging with schools across the Province as part of the Institution’s extensive outreach programme.
Former speaker of the Assembly and Orangeman William Hay, attended the exhibition, staged at Westminster. Mr Hay was entering the Palace of Westminster for the first time since being elevated to the House of Lords. Opinion formers, including members of both the House of Commons and Lords, joined others in London to learn more about the REACH Project (Reaching out through Education and Cultural Heritage), which received £3.6 million from the EU’s PEACE III programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
The centres in Belfast and Loughgall, are to open in May providing a unique showcase of Orange history and culture. A wealth of historic artefacts relating to Orangeism across the world, will go on display as part of the extension of the Institution’s headquarters.
(See Sentinel website.)
The facility will incorporate a research facility and educational resource, with particular access for school and cross-community visits.
In a joint initiative to promote shared space and great levels of reconciliation, improvement works are also taking place to refurbish and extend Sloan’s House in Co Armagh.
Grand Lodge Director of Services, Dr David Hume, was joined by other Orange representatives and museum staff at the London event.
The senior Orangeman said the Westminster launch provided a “major opportunity” for the Institution to outline its “excellent outreach work” to public representatives across the UK and other key figures, ahead of the opening of both Orange museums next spring.
He said: “The REACH initiative is unprecedented in terms of the outreach which is being and will be undertaken by the Orange Institution.
“We received Peace III funding because of the commitment of the Order to outreach to the wider community, particularly the nationalist community, and to engage in presenting our tradition and culture to them. Education and mutual respect are essential in our society as we move towards the future and this project is committed to those two principles.
“The opening of two new interpretive centres next year will provide unique facilities for visitors to come and learn more about the Orange tradition in Ireland and throughout the world. The Orange Institution has an outstanding collection of artefacts and documents which tell that story and for the first time they will be displayed in museum conditions.
“The outreach which will accompany the new interpretive centres has already begun and our museum officer has visited a number of schools.”
He added: “We welcome the opportunity to bring the details of this unique project to opinion formers in London and are very grateful to MP Jeffrey Donaldson who has sponsored this exhibition in the House of Commons.”