Orange Order Grand Master Robert Saulters, pictured with senior unionist figures at the launch of the project to build interpretive centres on Orangeism in Belfast and Loughall. From left, David McNarry, Ulster Unionist Party, Peter Robinson, DUP leader, Mr Saulters and Jim Allister, TUV Leader.
The Order is the lead partner in a £4M project which will see museums and interpretive centres at Schomberg House, Belfast, and Sloan’s House in Loughall.
“It will be an unequalled historical collection of historical material relating to Orangeism,” said Director of Services Dr. David Hume.
An application for the iconic proposal has been submitted to a European Funding Programme along with a detailed business plan.
Dr. Hume went on;
“It is a central plank of the submission that the Orange Order has a key role in society and that unless there is engagement with the Order from the wider community, there will continue to be misunderstandings leading to conflict and lack of respect for difference cultures.
“The Orange interpretive centres proposal gives the opportunity for that understanding to develop.”
Planning permissions has already been obtained for the proposed development at Schomberg House, while permission is pending for the Loughall site.
Museum consultants from London have visited both sites and produced detailed plans to enhance the outstanding collection of artefacts and documents which is held by the Orange Order.
Their suggestions include the re-creation of a one-third replica model of the sculpture of King William on Clifton Street Orange Hall in Belfast as a focal point for the display area at Schomberg House.
An early 20th century Orange Hall would also be created inside the building and would be utilised as the entrance to a new dedicated museum area as well as an educational resource for school and community visits, and a location for lodge meetings.
At Loughall, there are plans for tableaux which will recreate the signing of the first Orange Lodge warrants in 1795.
Already 100 Orange lodges across Ireland have written in support of the proposals and highlighted that they have historical materials which they would wish to place in any new interpretive centre.
Support letters from across the community have also been submitted with the application with testimonials from schools and community groups who have engaged with the Order and its community education programme.
In addition, the Cavan County and Monaghan County Museums and the Millmount Museum in Drogheda have signed up to be partners with the Loughall Centre, while the Somme Centre and the White House at Whiteabbey are partners with the Schomberg House project. This means that the various sites will be able to transfer exhibitions and literature will be on hand at each encouraging visitors to the others.
“This is without doubt one of the most significant projects ever undertaken by the Orange Order,” said Dr. Hume.
“We know there is a massive appetite from all sections of the community about our history and these interpretive centres will become the focal point for anyone who has a sense of history and tradition and wants to learn more.”
The plans were unveiled to politicians, opinion formers, historians and other interested people at an event in Schomberg House.