Ulster American Folk Park
|Location||Castletown, Northern Ireland|
|Visitors||165,000 between April '07 and March '08|
The Ulster American Folk Park is an open-air museum just outside Omagh, in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. The museum tells the story of three centuries of Irish emigration. With over 30 exhibit buildings to explore, visitors embark on a journey that takes them from the thatched cottages of Ulster, on board a full scale emigrant sailing ship, to the log cabins of the American Frontier. With costumed guides to chat and traditional crafts to see, their historical story focuses on those who left Ulster for America in the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s. The museum is part of National Museums Northern Ireland.
Within the museum are many painstakingly-restored original exhibit buildings with connections to local families. The park was developed around the Mellon House, the birthplace of Irish-American banker and lawyer Thomas Mellon, founding father of the Mellon banking dynasty. This house and its outbuildings remain in their original location. Visitors can taste samples of traditional Irish and Pioneer American foods as they stroll around the museum including freshly baked soda bread and pumpkin pie all made on the hearths and griddles of the exhibit buildings. The museum also includes agricultural displays and an array of farm animals.
The park is open throughout the year, excluding some public holidays.
The demonstrations that take place showcase the day-to-day tasks and skills of those who lived in the era such as blacksmithing, candle-dipping, embroidery, spinning, printing, open hearth cooking and so on. The museum runs a lively programme of events and exhibitions that connect to their collections. The museum's current temporary exhibition, 'Titanic: Window on Emigration' looks at the stories of some of the Irish emigrants that travelled on Titanic and incorporates a recreation of a Third Class cabin. The museum has also hosted many international exhibitions in recent years including Fighting Irishmen from the Irish Arts Center in New York which showcased the influence of Irish emigrants in the sport of boxing, and Warriors of the Plains from the British Museum which explored the fascinating world of Native North American Inidians. Special events mark the culture of both the New World and the Old World, such as U.S. Independence Day, Halloween, Easter and of course Saint Patrick's Day. The melting pot of emigrant music is celebrated with a three day Bluegrass Music Festival every September.
The museum's Visitor Centre houses a cafe and shop as well as the permanent exhibition 'Emigrants' that introduces the story of emigration from Ireland to America before visitors embark on their journey around the outdoor museum and along the emigrant trail. Free parking is available on site.
Research and education
The entrance section includes accommodation for up to forty-six people, a restaurant, a visitors' information centre and the Centre for Migration Studies (CMS). The CMS has an attached library and offers, in conjunction with the University of Ulster and Queen's University of Belfast, postgraduate and undergraduate courses, as well as tailored and shorter courses; all of the courses concern the study of Irish migration from 1600 to the present day. The specialist research library contains some 10,000 volumes, over 50 periodicals, maps, audio-visual material, and a collection of primary source documents (the Irish Emigration Database) which is searchable on computer. The Centre is open to visitors during basic office hours, and closed during public holidays.
The Old World region includes whole streets of original houses, an original printing press, a bank, an old police barracks, the old Castletown National School, and two churches. Central to this region is the boyhood home of Thomas Mellon, judge and founder of the Pittsburgh banking dynasty.
Some of the two-up, two-down houses in one of the reconstructed streets in the Park were transported in their entirety from Sandy Row, off the Donegall Road in Belfast, and other buildings have been transported from elsewhere in the province.
Linking the Old and New World sections of the park is the Ship and Dockside gallery, which includes the Brig Union, a full-size replica of an immigrant sailing ship.
The historic atmosphere continues in the New World area, which features a recreated old American street with a tinsmith display and the original interior of a Virginia General Store. Beyond the street, the frontier journey begins with a stop at the 1720s Fulton stone house, painstakingly dismantled in Lancaster County Pennsylvania and rebuild here.Other original frontier houses that you come across in a journey through the 'America' part of the museum is an Appalachian log house from Washington county west Pennsylvania, the 1830 West Virginia home of Richard McCallister removed from Cabell county, and soon to be opened, a brick plantation house built by Francis Rogan in the early 1800s near Nashville in Tennessee.
- Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
- Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
- Ulster Museum
- Ulster Scots people
- National Museums Northern Ireland
- "Ulster American Folk Park draws biggest numbers ever". Northern Ireland Executive. 2008-04-30. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
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