(Above) Dan Harvey (left), Chair of the Board of Trustees, National Museums Northern Ireland with Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Nelson McCausland.
As major museums in London re-think their development plans following the discovery of a £100m black hole in the DCMS’ capital funding budget, government colleagues in Northern Ireland have given the green light for a bold expansion of one of the country’s most popular visitor attractions.
The Ulster American Folk Park near Omagh, which tells the story of emigration from Ulster to America in the 18th and 19th centuries, has just announced the £2.4m expansion funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL).
The development will see 30 additional acres of museum land transformed into a series of American Frontier Landscapes that will accommodate a growing collection of original Ulster settler buildings from the early American frontier.
When complete, Park bosses say the collection will be the finest anywhere in the world.
“The Ulster American Folk Park is a wonderful exploration of Ulster’s own rich history as well as the role that Ulster emigrants played in shaping American life and culture,” said Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Nelson McCausland. “The museum appeals to all ages and is an excellent example of Northern Ireland’s outstanding tourist offering.
“This investment from DCAL will further improve visitor experience at the Museum and allow the Ulster American Folk Park to expand the New World area. We are keen to continue to invest in our national museums to ensure they are of an exceptional standard with international appeal.”
Chief Executive for National Museums Northern Ireland, Tim Cooke, welcomed the funding for the outdoor museum, which currently attracts 160,000 visitors per year, saying it would “create even more for visitors to see and do at the museum.”
“There has been a steady growth in visitor numbers to the Ulster American Folk Park in recent years,” he added. “I am confident that this investment will help attract additional tourists in years to come while also extending opportunities to learn about emigration and our connections with the United States.”
The first phase of the ten-year development programme is due to be completed at the museum in 2011. The rest of the museum will not be affected during the project and will operate normally.