Smithsonian 2007

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From 25 June–8 July, the Ulster Historical Foundation participated in the large Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC, which attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. There were three themes — Mekong Delta, Colonial Virginia, and Northern Ireland — and we shared a genealogy tent with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and the Centre for Migration Studies. Over the two weeks in the typically hot and humid weather, Executive Director, Fintan Mullan, handled thousands of queries and consultations.

At the same time, Operations Manager, Allan Leonard, organised a series of meetings with a variety of political leaders and valued friends and partner organisations. The Chairman, David Clement, and Mr Mullan dashed from one thankfully air-conditioned building to another on a busy itinerary.

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Our meeting with Senator Hillary Clinton, US Presidential candidate, was a very brief 60-second photo call, when Mr Leonard was able to put across key points about the Foundation’s community outreach work, through the My Roots programme. During our longer meeting — a whole of 5 minutes — with Senator James Webb (author of Born Fighting), he was equally as supportive of our work.

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Meetings with representatives from the Catholic University of America (Tim Meagher and John Shephard), the Appalachian Regional Commission (John Cartwright), the Daughters of the American Revolution (Terry Ward), Fairfax Genealogical Society (Dorothy Bishop), the US Library of Congress (James Sweany), and the National Genealogical Society (Jeanne Lund) all proved useful and worthwhile.

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Yet the most rewarding was the opportunity to meet with the Archivist of the United States at the US National Archives, Professor Allen Weinstein, who was most forthcoming and offered his offices for a number of projects. He invited us as his guests to Independence Day celebrations hosted by the National Archives, where there was a spectacular display of colonial militiamen and we heard repeated praise by Professor Weinstein of the work of many in the Northern Ireland peace process. It should be said that he was formerly President of the Centre for Democracy, an organisation that looked at promoting democracy and included Northern Ireland, a place that he is fond of.

Subsequently, we met Diane Dimkoff of the National Archives, who is responsible for numerous genealogy-related programmes, including lectures, special events, symposia, and genealogy workshops and fairs. We are delighted that Ms Dimkoff is willing to assist us, and this has been followed up by our Executive Director.

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Overall, we made the most of the opportunity of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, while enjoying the atmosphere of a truly global event. In addition to the photos shown here, you can view more on our Flickr page: www.flickr.com/photos/ancestryireland

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