The absence of cameras in 1845 and the lack of shocking artifacts as are found in Holocaust museums could have hindered Quinnipiac University’s chances of creating a successful Irish potato famine museum.
However, a successful exhibit is what was accomplished according to a New York Times rave review by Sylviane Gold. “In the galleries of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum we come face to face with what really happened,” she writes
Gold looked closely into the power of the museum’s exhibits, many dating from that long ago period so we are looking at it several steps removed.
“This has the surprising effect of simultaneously softening and sharpening the gruesome facts,” she wrote referring to the multicultural artwork.
The Times noted that the art isn’t difficult to merely look at like a picture from a concentration camp but it’s also difficult to process. “Looking deeper into the art allows one to truly feel the emotion like tension in a small room.”
Lilian Lucy Davidson’s “Burying the child” is described as, “the central figure leaning into his shovel almost as he were still digging potatoes; but it is a straightforward picture of loss.” Davidson, Gold writes, captures the anger, sorrow and reality of the famine with a simple painting.
The Times notes that assigning blame for the famine is impossible but there are many compelling arguments that put major blame on the British Government. The Great Hunger Museum houses artwork that directly blames the British Government.
The Times describes Michael Farrell’s “Black ‘47”as, “a courtroom in which five Irish skeletons emerge from a coffin to accuse Britain, in the reviled person of Charles E. Trevelyan, who ran the government’s disastrously inadequate efforts.”
The museum, the Times notes, is able to depict the reality of the famine and debate that surrounds it.
The Irish potato famine cannot be directly seen but the gravity of the famine sure can be felt.
Great Hunger Museum is located at 3011 Whitney Avenue ,Hamden Connecticut. www.ighm.org.