Letter to the Editor: Protect the Great Hunger Museum’s collection

Turlough McConnell, Ireland’s Great Hunger Bord Chair

Ten years ago in October, Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum opened its doors to the public. It was the world’s only museum dedicated to commemorating the greatest humanitarian disaster in 19th century Europe. The museum bore witness to An Gorta Mór, Ireland’s Great Hunger, which halved the population of Ireland through starvation and emigration. The country has never fully recovered.

The unjustified permanent closure of the museum has violated trust and been an act of historical erasure. Since then, Quinnipiac University has refused to provide evidence justifying the closure or to answer questions about the condition of the collection.

Reprehensively, the university has failed to protect the artworks by loaning a number to an unvetted entity that exists only on paper. Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum of Fairfield, the designated recipient has no membership, staff or building. Regardless, Quinnipiac has announced its intent to “partner” with IGHMF to find or build a new museum.

We cannot stand by when falsehoods about the collection’s fate are circulated publicly. The announcement from Quinnipiac contains wrong information.

That the Gaelic American Club of Fairfield is financially underwriting the “partnership” between QU and IGHMF is untrue. In September, GAC President Gerry Forde stated “as much as we (GAC) endorse the project, as a fraternal organization rather than a charitable corporation under the tax laws, we cannot be a party to the transaction and we therefore [sic] have no financial obligations with respect to the parties.”

Quinnipiac offers a pretense of a sound financial arrangement to avoid scrutiny and accountability. QU must act with higher standards; it must honor its public trust with transparency. Moreover, the Trustees must show evidence of due diligence in deciding to divest a unique and valuable educational and cultural resource.

We urge you to enjoin the Trustees to reopen the museum until the Attorney General finishes his inquiry and approves a transfer to a qualified entity. By reopening, the collection’s humanitarian lessons and legacy may be highlighted, at a time when hunger, migration and poor and inefficient governance persist throughout the globe.

The proper commemoration of Ireland’s Great Hunger deserves no less.