Quinnipiac Announces Ireland’s Great Hunger MuseumSeptember 15, 2012
An Gorta Mόr
Quinnipiac President John L. Lahey today announced Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at 3011 Whitney Avenue, near the University’s campuses in Hamden, will open and be officially dedicated at an invitation-only ceremony on Friday, Sept. 28.
Lahey made the announcement at a July 12 dinner to honor DruidMurphy’s acclaimed production for the Lincoln Center Festival of Tom Murphy’s “Famine” at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, John Jay College. Quinnipiac co-sponsored the production.
“Museam An Ghorta Mór: Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of visual art, artifacts and printed materials relating to the starvation and forced emigration that occurred throughout Ireland from 1845 to 1852,” said Lahey, who has been widely‐honored for his visionary leadership in assembling the collection, begun in 1997 when he was grand marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The Consulate General of Ireland exhibited the collection in 2010.
The collection focuses on the famine years when blight destroyed virtually all of Ireland’s potato crops for consecutive years. The crop destruction, coupled with British governmental indifference to the plight of the Irish, who at the time were part of the United Kingdom, resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Irish men, women and children and the emigration of more than two million to nations around the world. This tragedy occurred even though there was more than adequate food in the country to feed its starving populace. Exports of food and livestock from Ireland actually increased during the years of the Great Hunger.
Works by noted contemporary Irish artists will be featured at the museum, including internationally‐known sculptors John Behan (Famine Ship, the Irish national famine memorial), Eamonn O’Doherty (Westchester famine memorial) and Rowan Gillespie; as well as contemporary visual artists, Brian Maguire, Hughie O’Donoghue, Robert Ballagh and Alanna O’Kelly. Featured paintings will also include several important 19th and 20th‐century works by artists such as Jack B. Yeats, James Brenan, James Arthur O’Connor and Daniel MacDonald.
The museum will preserve, build and present its art collection in order to stimulate reflection, inspire imagination and advance awareness of Ireland’s Great Hunger and its long afterlife on both sides of the Atlantic.
Museum programs, including tours of the collection, discussions, films, plays and concerts, will educate the general public, academics, researchers, artists and students about the richness of Irish culture and the high quality of its visual arts in particular.
The museum will offer a unique opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to explore the largely unrepresented, unspoken and unresolved causes and consequences of the Great Hunger, this tragedy, as well as to appreciate the art that it continues to inspire.
A week‐long program of cultural and academic events culminating in a Dedication Day on Friday, Sept. 28 will mark the museum’s official opening.
“The building, which houses our new museum, was purchased after the success of the New York show and dates from the late 19th century when it was originally used as Hamden’s first free public library,” Dr. Lahey said. “After some significant renovation, it’s perfect for its new use, and we very much look forward to presenting it to the world.”
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