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Irish Famine Memorialt at Front and Chestnut Streets, near Penn's Landing, Philadelphia Photo by: Reading Tom

International potato museum to highlight Irish Famine experience

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Irish Famine Memorialt at Front and Chestnut Streets, near Penn's Landing, Philadelphia Photo by: Reading Tom

A potato museum in Peru is to highlight the story of the Irish Famine that changed the face of the country forever.

The Irish Times
reports that the story of the Irish Famine and how it related to the potato will form a central part of a new international potato museum in the country.

Museum boss Dr Pamela Anderson will arrive in Dublin on Thursday as a guest of the Concern humanitarian organisation.

Dr Anderson is travelling to Ireland to research the famine which caused the deaths or emigration of over two million people from the country between 1845 and 1850.

Concern chief executive Tom Arnold invited Dr Anderson back to Ireland after he sat alongside her on Ireland’s Hunger Task Force in 2007.

During her tour, Dr Anderson will visit the Famine Museum in Strokestown, Co Roscommon, and hear from experts on the failure of the Irish potato crop.

Speaking to the Irish Times, Dr Anderson said the Irish Famine contained significant lessons for today, even though it happened more than 150 years ago.

She said: “I want to do a very, very good chapter in the museum on the Irish potato Famine because it’s something that everyone has heard of.

“The story has been told really well by some of your best historians and I’m hoping to meet at least one of them on this trip as well.”

Dr Anderson added: “A simplistic interpretation of the Famine was that it was caused by potato blight but we know it’s much more complex than that.

“Once you get a disease hit a crop of course there’s a problem, but there are usually all kinds of safety nets to support a population through that.

“And the safety nets in the case of the Irish potato Famine didn’t exist for the poor in Ireland at the time.”

She added: “Similar problems are being faced in many world locations blighted by hunger today. It’s not that there’s not enough food.

“There are other sets of problems that go beyond just being able to grow a crop and protect it from disease. It’s a very complex story.”

Concern chief Arnold has welcomed Dr Anderson’s visit and outlined his organisation’s support for Strokestown’s Famine Museum.

He said: “We’re very keen to promote discussion about the relevance of the Irish Famine to situations in other parts of the world that are still suffering from chronic malnutrition.

“Nearly a million people are affected and that has long-term consequences in terms of children that are stunted because they don’t get properly fed in the first couple years of life.

“The Irish Famine had a very profound effect in world terms. Obviously there were other famines where a larger number of people died, like the Chinese famine in the late 1950s.

“But in terms of having an impact on a country, the Irish Famine probably had a bigger impact than any other one in history.”

Dr Anderson also highlighted that her work in the International Potato Center centres on food and nutrition security and poverty reduction.

She said: “To help people understand the problems today, some times it’s easier to link them to a history lesson.”
 

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