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During the first half of 2017 the Museum of Orange Heritage embarked on the significant educational initiative, funded by the Department for Communities, through the Together Building a United Community programme.
As part of the project, students explored the rich heritage and traditions of the Orange Institution and its place in the modern world. Through the use of original manuscripts, museum handling boxes and workshops, participants explored aspects of the Orange tradition. A key feature of this project was a workshop helping participants explore the important concept of identity and how this has developed and been shaped over time.
Pupils and young people participated in organised visits to both Orange museums in Belfast and Loughgall.
As many as 30 youth groups and schools – from both the controlled and maintained sectors, and primary and secondary level – across the Province, availed of the programme.
Among the schools to participate were Cookstown High, Lisbellaw Primary, City of Armagh High, Donaghadee Primary as well as St Paul’s, Bessbrook, and St Joseph’s, Crossmaglen.
David Scott, Grand Lodge services and outreach manager, was pleased with the level of take up by schools.
He said: “Given the pressures on schools’ timetables and budgets we would like to thank all those schools and youth groups who participated in this scheme.
“The Department for Communities gave us great encouragement and we hope that this project will have a positive and lasting impact on community relations in Northern Ireland.”
He added: “Creating understanding is the first step towards building acceptance.”
Last year, then education minister Peter Weir received a guided tour of the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast, and endorsed the Institution’s educational outreach.
He said: “I commend the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland on the educational outreach work that they are involved in. School groups, through their specific programmes, will gain an understanding of the history of the Orange Order, as well as historical events such as World War One and World War Two.”
Since opening in 2015, both Museums of Orange Heritage in Belfast and Co Armagh have proved popular with visitors as the Orange Institution aims to promote shared space and greater levels of reconciliation through education.