Irish Studies 2010

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Ulster American Folk Park

May 29th, 2010 · No Comments · Ulster American Folk Park & Centre for Migration Studies

Today we visited the Ulster American Folk Park. We started out in an exhibit that reflected the timeline of Irish immigration to America from Ulster, Ireland. It had various stories of immigrants who were very successful in America, but the museum also touched on how some immigrants were not as successful and were forgotten over time. It told many stories of why the Irish left Ireland.  During the famine, Irish emigrants tried to escape hunger and persecution by leaving their homeland and travel over to the new world. Landlords would also ship people to America because they could not afford to take care of their tenants and land.  Another factor was that the oldest son had the rights to the land after the father had passed, so the younger children were forced to pursue opportunities in other places such as America, where they had the chance to own land and prosper. There were not many resources in Ireland and living conditions were very harsh. There was no sign of an improvement in the economy and living conditions any time soon. Eventually, 21% of Ulster’s population emigrated to America after the famine.

After the museum, which was very interesting, we went to the outdoor portion of Ulster American Folk Park that had various living exhibits. These exhibits gave us insight into what both Ulster and America were like during these times. We first saw various tenant-class Irish homes which were very small and had very few tools for both living and eating. These houses were also meant for ten-person families and sometimes larger. Conditions were very harsh for these Irish people and the exhibits and their living historians portrayed their despair quite well. We then moved on to see a typical ship that Irish people would take to emigrate to America. These ships were given the name of “coffin ships” because of their awful conditions. The trip to the new world would take anywhere from six weeks to sixteen weeks. There was no form of bathing on the ship, only one meal a day, and extremely cramped quarters. Many Irish people would perish on the way over due to these terrible conditions.

We then moved on to exhibits that showed how Irish people would live and work in America. Reaching America was not the end of the journey. These Irish people then had to find jobs and a home. Success was not guaranteed, and many Americans were resistant to help the Irish during these times. We then saw a typical house and a general store where Irish people would shop for goods and other products.

The entire Ulster American Folk Park displayed the times of 18th and 19th century Irish people extremely well. It was a very insightful visit, and everyone enjoyed the tour and were very intrigued by all of the culture that was offered. Our tour guide, Walter, also did a very good job of showing us around. He had an extensive knowledge of the time period and was quite hilarious as well. The whole experience at the Ulster American Folk Park was very insightful and one which no one on the trip will forget.

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