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EU Funded Siege Museum is Officially Unveiled to the Public

11 March 2016

Today the Trustees of the Apprentice Boys of Derry unveiled a new interpretative centre, the ‘Siege Museum’, and newly refurbished Memorial Hall on Society Street, Londonderry.

The project has been designed to enhance the quality and breadth of all cross-community outreach activity undertaken by the Apprentice Boys of Derry. It received £2.2 million worth of funding from the European Union’s PEACE III Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

Additional funding for the project has also been supplied by Tourism Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).

Welcoming the completion of the project, Chairman of the Siege Museum Management Committee William Moore, said: “I am delighted with the new facility and the opportunity to showcase the history of the Siege of Londonderry and the culture and traditions of the Association. It is our privilege to welcome individuals and groups from all communities to the Siege Museum, where they can view and understand the rich history of the Maiden City.”

The newly built 5,000 sq ft visitors centre contains a number of important historical artefacts including a sword belonging to Adam Murray of Siege fame, cannon balls, musket shot and medals commemorating the reformation of the Apprentice Boys in 1814. The centre piece on the top floor is a statute of Reverend George Walker, Governor of the City during the Great Siege of 1689.

Finance Minister Mervyn Storey, MLA said: “This is a culturally important and historically significant museum. The tremendous new facility will create a lasting legacy, ensuring the local community and beyond will understand the invaluable contribution that the Apprentice Boys have made, and continue to make, to the historical, cultural and economic development of Londonderry. I congratulate everyone involved in completing this project, and have no doubt that it will educate and inspire for generations to come.”

Derry and Strabane District Council was the lead partner for the delivery of the project.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Elisha McCallion said she was delighted to be part of the unveiling of the new interpretative centre. “This is a major strategic project for the city and an important new facility. Derry City and Strabane District Council as lead partner in this project is excited to see works completed on this important historical and cultural project that will allow us to promote our heritage and cultural links to everyone in a shared space environment."

The facility will promote a greater understanding of the events which led up to the Siege and also provide a comprehensive insight into the history and traditions of the Apprentice Boys of Derry.

Visitors can take a tour of the refurbished Memorial Hall and its various meeting rooms used by the ‘Loyal Orders’, including the Royal Black Institution. They can also avail of the opportunity to take a guided tour of the city walls co-ordinated by museum staff.

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 Ireland.

Commenting on the new facility, Social Development Minister Lord Morrow, MLA, said: “The opening of the Siege Museum, supported by the Peace III Programme and with match-funding from the Northern Ireland Executive highlights the transformation that is taking place across Northern Ireland and the Border Region to facilitate real change within communities and society. My Department has worked successfully in partnership with the Special EU Programmes Body to deliver the PEACE III Shared Public Spaces Theme and we look forward to continued partnership to deliver PEACE IV.”

Recognising the importance of the project, Minister Alan Kelly T.D. of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government said: “This project is to be greatly welcomed as an opportunity to educate and highlight the cultural importance of the Siege of 1689. I am confident it will be used and enjoyed by all sections of the community”.

Over the next few years the project will deliver upon an ambitious set of visitor targets to include members from both the Protestant and Catholic community, on both sides of the border.

A dedicated outreach programme, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is being rolled out to help meet these targets, supported by the development of a unique set of educational resources highlighting the historical importance of the Siege and its significance within Protestant culture.

Martin McDonald, interim Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund NI Committee, said: “We awarded funding to increase awareness and understanding of the Great Siege and its impacts on Derry City and beyond.  The outreach programme will provide better access and resources for everyone, helping increase our collective knowledge and awareness of this crucial part of our history.”

The resources are applicable for both standalone project delivery in any classroom or to add a curricular and learning dimension to any school or group visiting the Siege Museum.

Welcoming the project the Chairman of Tourism Northern Ireland, Terence Brannigan, said: “Tourism NI is very pleased to have provided over £1 m of capital funding to this new and exciting heritage based visitor experience in the Walled City.  We hope that it can play its part in assisting N Ireland to become a £1 billion tourism industry by 2020”.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: “Whilst we are a Walled City our ambition to fully exploit its heritage potential should have no boundaries. I have often said there is money in our historic environment and it can be exploited to boost the economy and deliver jobs as long as we cherish and protect it. This is why my Department provided £150k for this project.

“It conserves an important listed building whilst continuing important work which my Department is undertaking with partners as part of the Walled City Signature Project. This has revitalised six strategic heritage projects developed in listed buildings near the Walls over the past ten years. This museum and indeed all of these projects will encourage thousands more visitors both locally and further afield to experience the rich culture and history Derry has to offer. I commend everyone involved in making this project a reality,” he continued.

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