The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has opened temporary premises in east Belfast, ahead of major redevelopment works at Schomberg House.
Located at the Holywood Arches on the city’s Newtownards Road, the building will serve as the administrative hub of the Institution while a new world-class interpretative centre is developed on the Cregagh Road site.
When fully operational by early 2015, the new museum will display a wealth of items and artefacts relating to the history of the Orange tradition around the world. It will include a research facility and will act as an educational resource, with particular emphasis on schools and cross-community visits.
Other improvement works include the expansion of Sloan’s House in Loughgall - the Co Armagh building is where the first Orange warrants were signed over 200 years ago.
The REACH Project (Reaching out through Education and Cultural Heritage) is funded by the EU’s PEACE III Programme (£3.6m), which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
Commenting on the improvement plans, Grand Master Edward Stevenson said: “The move to temporary premises marks the start of an exciting new chapter in the history of Orangeism. I look forward to work commencing on the interpretative centres in Belfast and Loughgall early in the New Year.
“The REACH Project will put the Orange Institution centre stage in the community and make it more amenable than ever before to a much wider audience, as we continue our ongoing outreach.”
Grand Lodge Director of Services, Dr David Hume, added: “Our normal programmes and services both internally to the Institution and to the wider public will remain largely unaltered by the move, but there will be no facilities for research of our archives and materials until the new interpretive centre is opened.
“In the interim, our museum staff will be undertaking the important work of detailed cataloguing, indexing and referencing the large body of materials held by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. We are working closely with the museums community to ensure that we are fully prepared for the opening of what will be a major new archive resource for Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Irish Republic in early 2015.”
The phone number for the temporary headquarters remains the same as Schomberg House (028 9070 1122) and all postal deliveries are being diverted.