Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum supporters offer to take over museum’s operation in partnership with Quinnipiac

Chatwan Mongkol, Digital News Editor

The Committee to Save Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum proposed to Quinnipiac University’s administration options to save the museum from closure, including taking over the museum’s day-to-day operations.

Turlough McConnell, the committee’s executive director, told The Chronicle that a few group members met with Provost Debra Liebowitz and Vice President for Marketing and Communications Daryl Richard on Feb. 1, for nearly an hour. McConnell said President Judy Olian later told him the administration is reviewing the proposal.

“We feel that we were able to get a lot of information across,” McConnell said. “It’s not an easy conversation to have because there’s so many complexities to it, but we’re willing to explore all the complexities because our focus is on reopening the museum.”

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum’s supporters holding Irish flags in front of the museum to protest its closure on Oct. 30, 2021. (Daniel Passapera)

The meeting happened after the group protested the university’s decision to shut the museum down due to its unsustainable finances. Quinnipiac faced opposition in forms of petitions and an ongoing investigation from the Connecticut Attorney General Office.

Although the group couldn’t reveal the specifics of the proposal, it details several options including an offer for the IGHM-saving committee group to operate the museum in partnership with the university, McConnell said.

As the six-month-old group sought nonprofit status, McConnell said “We’re confident that we will be able to fund the operation over the next five years.

“We will do the fundraising ourselves, and we will work with a broad spectrum of fundraising sources that are individuals, corporations, federal government, state government, municipal government and membership,” McConnell said.

Despite the museum’s unclear future, the group hopes to reopen the museum by St. Patrick’s Day on March 17. McConnell said it’s the 175th anniversary of Black ‘47, which he said marked the worst year of the Great Hunger.

Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan said the university has been engaged in “productive conversations with different potential partners.”

“(Quinnipiac) is making progress with respect to the IGHM collection and ensuring it remains accessible to the broad public and continues to promote the vital story and learnings of the Great Hunger,” Morgan said.

The committee also called the conversation a progress because the university agreed to explore the possibilities.

McConnell noted that the presentation they gave to the administration was dedicated to Quinnipiac students, who he said should have the right to explore what’s featured in the museum.

“This is really for the student body themselves to be part of a university that prides itself on such a social justice area, which is the area of refugees and food hunger, and rotten government policies,” McConnell said. “We’ll certainly come to the campus if we’re invited.”