An historic dwelling in County Armagh – recognised as the birthplace of the Orange Institution – has officially opened as a new state-of-the-art museum and interpretative centre.
The Museum of Orange Heritage at Sloan’s House, Loughgall, is part of the REACH Project (Reaching out through Education and Cultural Heritage), which received £3.6 million from the EU’s PEACE III programme, and is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
The refurbishment of Sloan’s House – where the first Orange warrants were signed over 200 years ago – includes a major extension to cater for additional museum exhibition areas and provision of detailed information relating to the early history of the Orange Order. The expansion incorporates a display of the original Sloan’s Parlour, illustrated in a similar way it would have looked when the Institution was first formed in 1795.
The modern development in the quaint village also contains office space, ancillary accommodation and a coffee shop.
The Loughgall facility aims to promote shared space and greater levels of reconciliation through education, and is part of a joint outreach project with the Institution’s refurbished headquarters in Belfast, which officially opened last week.
County Grand Master of County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge, Denis Watson hailed the official opening of the Museum of Orange Heritage in Loughgall as “unprecedented”.
We are delighted to showcase our cultural heritage with a wider audience through the provision of a modern museumDenis Watson
He said: “We are immensely proud that the roots of Orangeism, and its worldwide presence of today, emanated from within the confines of Sloan’s House following the Battle of the Diamond. It is fitting that such a living history can be shared.
“We are delighted to showcase our cultural heritage with a wider audience through the provision of a modern museum. Our new centre will tell the story of the formation of the Orange Order and its evolution through graphics, audio visual technologies and the display of key artefacts.
“By enabling a greater understanding of the well-established Orange tradition in County Armagh, we believe this facility will be a positive influence for community relations in the area. We also have confidence its presence will be hugely beneficial to the local economy, as well as the tourism sector.”
He added: “Outreach is a major part of this initiative and we look forward to engaging with schools and community groups in the local area as well as the border counties of the Irish Republic.”
Welcoming the completion of the new facility, Lorraine McCourt, Director with the SEUPB said: “This project hopes to facilitate a greater understanding of what Orange culture means, what it has to offer and its importance within our shared history.
“We are very pleased to have been able to provide EU PEACE III support to the facility as it will reach out to audiences that would never have engaged with Orange culture before.”
Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, in the Republic of Ireland.
Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey, MLA, in expressing his support for the initiative said: “This project is seeking to break down barriers, dispel myths and embrace people from all communities.
“In promoting and explaining its history and heritage in an open and welcoming way, and inviting in schools and community groups, the Orange Order is seeking to encourage the positive relationships which will form the basis of a shared future.”
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly, TD said: “I am delighted that this project has now completed and is available for all to enjoy. I think we need to understand and respect the traditions of the Orange Order and I am confident of the beneficial impact of this project for all, now and into the future.”
The Loughgall museum will be open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, with evening opening as required.
Admission for adults will be £3, children £2, and those under 10 will avail of free access. Special group rates will also be available. Bookings can be made directly by calling 028 3889 2048.