Tue, 25 Jan 2022

HAMDEN, Connecticut: Quinnipiac University, which has closed Ireland's Great Hunger Museum due to a lack of public support, has announced that it will not sell its collection but, rather, seek a new home for the museum.

Led by John L. Lahey, retired president of Quinnipiac College, the museum opened in 2012 in the university's former public library building near the school's campus.

However, after Lahey retired in 2018 the university board chose to close the museum because of a lack of public support, as fewer than 20 people per day visited the site.

In August, when the decision was made, the university said, "The lack of support at its current location has created an unsustainable operation requiring millions in university funds to be spent on keeping the museum open."

Responding to the decision, Lahey said, "The announcement was sad and disappointing and perplexing to me," as quoted by the New York Times.

"To close a museum dedicated to educating people about the evils of discrimination and bigotry - in this case anti-Catholic and anti-Irish bigotry - at a time when the world is so concerned with these issues doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

The museum is described, on the university website as "the world's largest collection of Great Hunger-related art." It includes works by sculptors Rowan Gillespie and John Behan, and older works by artists William Henry Powell and Daniel Macdonald, who painted images of the famine as it was happening.

In a letter to Quinnipiac's president, Judy Olian, the Committee to Save Ireland's Great Hunger Museum wrote in September, "Our deepest concern is what will happen to the collection and its power to communicate this global tragedy."

In response to the letter, the university has said it would not sell the collection and is working to find another institution with an interest in displaying it.

"We are committed to finding a solution for continued display of the collection that will ensure it remains publicly accessible, advances the museum's original mission, and preserves the story of the Great Hunger," the university said in a statement. "The university is in active conversations with potential partners who are interested in displaying the museum's collection; Quinnipiac is not selling the museum's collection."

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