Advocates try to save the future of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

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HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH)– A lot of museums closed last year due to COVID-19. Most of them have not re-opened. Ireland’s Gret Hunger Museum in Hamden has not, and it looks like it won’t.

“The loss of this resource would be absolutely devasting,” said Bonnie Weir of the committee to Save the IGHM.

The IGHM opened in 2012 with the world’s largest collection of art, artifacts, and literature about the Great Hunger. That happened in the mid-19 century when a combination of ruined potato crops and British politics killed a million Irish people and forced many to move to other countries.

“It’s not just a museum. It’s also a historical record, it’s a place of memory, it’s a place of narrative,” Weir said.

It is also a place entirely owned by Quinnipiac University. The university says the museum is not raising enough money to keep it open. Quinnipiac’s Associate Vice President for Public Relations, John Morgan, released a statement that reads, in part: “Unfortunately, outside support for the museum has not grown to the level needed and only generate enough funds to cover nearly one-quarter of its operating budget. Additionally, IGHM averaged fewer than 20 visitors a day in the year before closing because of COVID.”

“The University’s claim about the 20 persons per day football, our understanding is that is not accurate,” said Weir.

Quinnipiac University says it is trying to find a new home for the collection where it might get more foot traffic. Weir and the committee are worried Quinnipiac will sell the collection. Morgan says Quinnipiac has no plans to do that.

As climate change now forces many in other countries to leave their homes or face starvation, the lessons of the Great Hunger may be more relevant than ever. The committee is lobbying local and Irish politicians for help and using for the Attorney General to investigate the museum’s finances.

“We’re very hopeful that, between U.S. political leaders, Irish political leaders, Irish American organizations, and concerned citizens in general, that this is a resource we can save,” said Weir.

They are holding a Day of Action on Saturday, Oct. 30, to celebrate the collection, and try to save the museum.

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