An update from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum of Fairfield (IGHMF), the group in charge of securing a new home for Quinnipiac University’s Ireland's Great Hunger Museum, says progress is being made on confirming a location in Fairfield, and that the contents of the museum are currently being stored in a climate-controlled facility monitored by Quinnipiac.
The joint statement from IGHMF President John Foley and Quinnipiac Provost Debra Liebowitz, issued last Friday, October 7, said that IGHMF is cooperating with the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General William Tong, which conducted an investigation into Quinnipiac’s decision to permanently close the museum opened 10 years ago by then university president John Lahey.
The statement also said that IGHMF is working collaboratively with Fairfield’s Gaelic American Club (GAC), which was announced by Quinnipiac last March as the group that would be in charge of the museum’s contents and finding a new building in Fairfield for the collection. IGHMF was founded by leaders of the GAC and is certified as a public charity by the IRS.
Friday’s statement said in part, “GAC President Gerry Forde noted in a recent communication to the club’s members: ‘The GAC is very excited about the art collection coming to Fairfield as the mission is consistent with our mission of preserving Irish history and culture, and educating present and future generations of the terrible trauma inflicted on the Irish nation.
"'We wish the IGHMF and its president John Foley every success, and recommend that organization to our members for their individual support.’”
As far as interactions with Tong’s office, the statement assured that they have been productive.
“Both IGHMF and Quinnipiac continue to keep the AG’s office updated on progress with transfer of the collection. The equitable deviation action noted in the AG’s August 16 letter is a review process used for donated charitable assets and applies to a small portion of the collection (approximately two dozen pieces) that were donated by individuals or purchased using a combination of university funds and funds from a donor restricted for the acquisition of art. Those pieces will go through the equitable deviation process; all other pieces in the collection of more than 170 pieces were purchased by QU or IGHM using university funds and are not subject to this action,” the statement said.
“Finally, IGHMF continues to have productive discussions with the owners of the Old Post Road building about our interest in the facility. Its current tenant is in active conversations with both town and state leaders on securing a new home. Their current facility is the ideal location for the new museum, placing it in a more central location that’s accessible to a broader public next to both the GAC and Fairfield Museum and History Center.
“IGHMF has been working with an NYC-based designer on initial designs for the new museum to be ready to move forward quickly once the building is available. In the meantime, the collection remains stored in a proper climate-controlled facility that is actively monitored and managed by Quinnipiac, as has been done since the museum opened 10 years ago.”
The statement also noted support from local Connecticut Irish organizations and the national board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Some of the museum’s artwork is currently on display at the Fairfield Museum and History Center and will remain there until October 16.
“Quinnipiac has produced similar traveling exhibits in the past, and based on requests from both members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation as well as the AG’s office, which asked in its August 16 letter that ‘the university find opportunities to loan out portions of the collection for exhibits,’ the pieces are currently being showcased in a central gallery of the Fairfield Museum,” the statement said.
*This column first appeared in the October 12 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.