The Great Hunger Museum deserves to be preserved

To the President of Quinnipiac University, Judy D. Olian:

It is with great concern and dismay that the Charitable Irish Society of Boston has learned of the closure of the Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University. We strongly recommend that you reconsider your decision and work with goodwill American Irish to find a way to keep this treasured collection of paintings and sculptures in its beautiful, well-designed building.

As the oldest Irish society in the Americas, to our members and other Irish Americans, the museum and its unique content connect us directly to the memory, legacy and lessons of the 19th century’s worst humanitarian disaster, when Ireland’s population has been reduced by more than two million people in just one decade. The Irish Famine is to us what the Holocaust is to the Jewish Diaspora – a central marker of our identity and an experience that has shaped our individual and community commitments to work for social and economic justice for all in our time.

Shortly after the museum opened, our society and the Eire Society of Boston organized a special trip to visit the museum and were impressed with the experience. Many members returned to the museum to review the exhibit or to attend the various fascinating lectures and lectures held there on the Irish famine over the following years. Some of us have purchased the innovative series of famine leaflets written by leading famine scholars and appropriately launched at the museum.

The museum collection is the only valuable art collection in the world dedicated to documenting and remembering the calamitous events that reduced the Irish population by 25% in 1861. Even today, the Irish population remains in below its 1841 level, so devastating have the long-term impacts been. An Gorta Mor.

The lessons of the Irish Famine, linked to political ideology, bad governance and ethno-religious discrimination, remain very relevant as our contemporary world continues to face issues of famine, malnutrition, extreme poverty and poor governance that result in massive migrations of people fleeing their home countries to the United States and Europe in order to survive. The museum’s collection goes beyond statistics to convey the deep human trauma that famine and its consequences bring to hundreds of thousands of people today. Thus, the collection serves as a catalyst for its viewers to convert their empathy into action that will help their fellow human beings today. The museum’s potential to educate contemporary students and society at large on these global issues that affect the health and safety of all is immense. By keeping the museum open and expanding its program to link the Irish Famine to the mentioned global challenges, Quinnipiac University would make a valuable contribution to social and economic justice.

We strongly urge you to work in consultation with the Irish American community and all others concerned to explore avenues for a serious national fundraising campaign that will allow the museum to reopen and continue its important work in the future. Our company and its members stand ready to help in such an effort.

John D. Warner Jr. is President of the Charitable Irish Society.

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