*Originally published on March 3. Updated on March 4.
Quinnipiac University has decided to award the contents of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum to the Gaelic American Club (GAC) based in Fairfield, Connecticut, multiple sources have told the Irish Voice newspaper and IrishCentral.
The decision was made in recent days by Quinnipiac after several meetings with GAC, which boasts 6,000 members.
GAC has plans to showcase the contents of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, which Quinnipiac will donate, in a building not far from where the GAC is located.
An official statement from Quinnipiac is expected within the next several hours.
Turlough McConnell, leader of the Save Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum group which had been hoping to keep the museum in its current home in Hamden, Connecticut, just off the Quinnipiac campus, said on Thursday afternoon that he hadn’t heard from Quinnipiac officials or from State Attorney General William Tong’s office which is investigating Quinnipiac’s decision to close the museum for good.
The day after the news broke that Ireland's Great Hunger Museum would be moving, John Foley, the GAC vice-president leading efforts to save the museum, told the Connecticut Insider that the museum needs to be back in front of the Irish community.
"It’s a tremendous responsibility. I’m so grateful that we have the opportunity," Foley said. "It has to be brought back. It needs to be in front of the Irish community and that’s what we’re doing."
The GAC is looking to raise funds from its 6,000 members to open a space dedicated to the museum within walking distance of the club's building in the Fairfield Business District.
Foley said he wants the collection of Famine-era artifacts to "tell the story of where we were", adding that the art "blew him away".
"You cannot understand how it connects with an Irishman," Foley said.
"Do you think that after 170 years we could start treating people with respect? The lessons from the Great Hunger haven’t been learned. I want this building, I want the artwork, to tell the story of where we were."
Although there is no timetable for the reopening of Ireland's Great Hunger Museum at the GAC, Foley has vowed to oversee its construction.
"I can handle the construction, I can handle the design, I can put all these pieces together. The truth needs to be told."
Judy Olian, the Quinnipiac University President who came under fire for the decision to close down the museum, told the Connecticut Insider that the university always intended to keep the collection intact,
She said the museum would have remained open at the university if it was highly trafficked and received philanthropic support and added that the university wanted to make sure that whoever took custody of the collection would be able to keep it on permanent display.
"We’re not just trying to give it to someone who’s going to fold in a year and not be successful," she said. "They have the kind of long-range thinking about the importance of this collection and how to manage it."
This is a developing story. Check back with IrishCentral for updates.